Last tranche for Hambantota Port withheld by Chinese firm

by Staff Writer 10-06-2018 | 10:25 PM

COLOMBO (News 1st) - The Sunday Times reported today that the Chinese company involved in the Hambantota Port project has put on hold the last tranche of US$ 585 million to Sri Lanka over a dispute involving infrastructure facilities.

The China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) Ltd is insisting that in accordance with the existing Concession Agreement, an artificial entertainment zone on reclaimed land is among the issues it wants to be resolved.

The Paper reports that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Chairman Parakrama Dissanayake said the port area had been gazetted and would only be used for marine and port-related activities. No land would be used for entertainment or tourism purposes, he said. However, none of the officials including the Minister were available for a comment.

When News 1st contacted the Secretary to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping L. P. Jayampathy he said that the matter should be raised with the chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. He too was unavailable for a comment.

Speaking of the value of the countries reserves, Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy said recently that Sri Lanka will end 2018 with gross official reserves of 9.5 billion US Dollars. One of the inflows was the lease rental of US $585 million for the Hambantota port.

When the Hambantota Port lease deal was struck with China Merchant Port or CMPort, the government hailed it as a major victory. Are these Sri Lanka's victories today? Striking deals to sell off the country piecemeal while being completely ignorant of the conditions of the deal?

Is this simply a result of backdoor deal-making?

Is this not equal to being blackmailed by China?

It is no secret that in global geopolitics, nations look out for their own interests and it would be foolish to fault China for looking out for their interests, but is it not justifiable to ask the question, who's looking out for Sri Lanka's interests?

Is Sri Lanka possibly staring down at financial ruin, simply because of the ignorance and arrogance of ministers and officials? For Sri Lanka's part, it is imperative for every citizen of this country to ask the question - Whose interests were served through the deal to sell the Hambantota port?

As politicos and officials pass the buck on taking responsibility, the citizenry must wonder whether we are selling off national infrastructure simply because we are incapable of administering it? Citizens must also reflect on the prudence of allowing un-elected ministers with no public mandate, to strike deals on their behalf.

Today we discovered that the Sri Lanka Police had carried out a major operation across the island, apprehending more than 3,000 wanted suspects - meanwhile, to us and the nation, it seems that the true criminals are living large at our expense and so we are left to wonder, when will they be locked up?