Why did Sri Lanka rush into a Memorandum of Corporation with India and Japan for the Colombo Port?

Why did Sri Lanka rush into a Memorandum of Corporation with India and Japan for the Colombo Port?

Written by Staff Writer

28 May, 2019 | 10:29 pm

Colomb0 (News 1st): Although the religious leaders of the country and other concerned parties point out the need to protect important strategic assets of the country it does not seem like the leaders of this country are heeding their advice. Foreign powers have been eyeing these key strategic locations in the country for some time now.

There are many countries waiting to spread their influence at key locations in places like Trincomalee, Galle, Hambantota, Colombo or the Colombo Port. It is because of this very reason that News 1st reported on the Eastern Terminal at the Colombo port facing a threat of falling into the hands of foreign countries.

Yesterday (May 27) News 1st highlighted the fact that the SLPA had issued a media release confirming the existence of such an agreement, and the allocation of shares of the terminal. It is only today that the cabinet paper on this matter was presented, and when it was presented according to sources the president has directed for the cabinet paper to be presented again in two weeks after the agreement is finalized and presented to the Cabinet.

But despite all of this the Ministry of Ports and Shipping issuing a media release stated that a memorandum of cooperation was signed between Sri Lanka, India and Japan. Although the cabinet paper was postponed for two weeks the ministry signs a memorandum of cooperation with India and Japan!

The release states that the manner in which shares and other powers relating to the terminal will be discussed and finalized in the future.

But the question that lingers on everyone’s mind is why the massive hurry?

What is the real reason behind this rush?

Instead of preparing this agreement, presenting it to the cabinet and the people and then going ahead with the signing, Why was the entire process rushed?

In 2013 when the CICT terminal of the Colombo port was being constructed again by China, the trade unions that objected to this were given a written promise by the port authorities that the development of the Eastern terminal of the Colombo port will not be given to any foreign country.

They were promised that any development activities will be a 100% Sri Lanka project. With this move to sign a memorandum of cooperation with India and Japan, has violated this agreement. Also, a loan has been obtained from the Asian Development Bank for the development of the Colombo port.

The agreement with the ADB for the loan clearly states that the Ports Authority agrees that if the two terminals are being developed “the projects shall be chosen through an open competitive bidding process.”

Have any tenders been called from India and Japan, or have they simply been called up over the phone and offered the deal; with the current turn of events, this is a serious issue?

Also, remember there is a statement made by the president regarding handing over these assets to foreign countries. The president made this statement at the premises of the ports itself, which adds even more significance to the statement.

“I assure you that not even a small portion of land will be given to any foreign nation or organization. That is my policy. I will not give away the Eastern terminal of this beautiful port that we are in now to anyone”President Maithripala Sirisena

The President also in one instance said that India and Japan will not be given the Eastern terminal for development but they could be given the construction of a proposed Western Terminal. But however, these countries continuously insist that they be given the Eastern Terminal which is 400m in length to be developed.

This terminal was already constructed when the government of good governance came into power, cranes could have been fixed and the terminal made operational during the past 4 years. However, these measures were stalled as the first tender process was annulled as it was found to be corrupt and no tenders were called for the development of this terminal thereafter.

For a moment now think as to how much of loans have been granted from state banks for undesirable or unpopular ventures and companies. Massive loans in the billions were granted to companies like MTD Walkers, and companies like Perpetual Treasuries were simply allowed to loot the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, through the intervention of state banks.

Against such a backdrop if the Ports Authority really didn’t have the funds to complete this terminal could they have not been given the required funds from a state bank?

Why can’t Sri Lanka be the sole owner of this terminal?

According to sources, the Eastern terminal is the only possible terminal for the largest ships which are the post Panamax ships to dock, once fully developed. If that is the case we are clearly trying to give away a truly valuable asset.

Minister Daya Gamage was questioned on this matter today and this is was his response.

Journalist: Minister now, President Maithripala Sirisena in 2017, very vehemently opposed the fact of India taking part in the construction of the Eastern Terminal. Now two years have gone by, now wasn’t it decided back then that 51% will be owned by us. Was that the reason he denied?

Minister Daya Gamage: You just imagine the country’s situation today. Do you know that 80% of our tourism has gone down. More than 300 flights are cancelled. We expected a turnover of 5.5 billion dollars from tourism. So its gone. So do you want to bankrupt our country, or do you want to go forward. We have to think differently, without sinking. We have to think differently.

This is what MP Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena had to say in response to Minister Daya Gamage’s statement;

“Minister Daya Gamage says that our country’s performance has collapsed in every way. He says that the tourism industry and the economy of our country has plummeted. In order to save the country from such disaster, the best step is for the leaders of this country to accept their inabilities and inefficiencies. They were in power for approximately four years, and if they failed to stabilize the country from all aspects, If they failed to stabilize the country in terms of national security, and economic stability and created chaos among the general public, this government or the respective cabinet minister must accept the responsibility in this regard; the government must resign.”

Even yesterday News 1st highlighted the countless number of times that state officials had to pay for the sins of politicians. The best example is Lalith Weeratunga. Even today it was reported in court that certain state officials who acted under the direction of Minister Lakshman Kirella are suffering for the sins of politicians.

Defamatory remarks case

Three suspects who were arrested for attempting to post 600 letters containing defamatory remarks against the president and in a manner that jeopardizes public security were handed over to the Colombo Crimes division today. The suspects were produced for an inspection today before Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake.

The suspects were previously placed in the custody of the Colombo Crimes Division for 90 days under detention orders. The Colombo Crimes Division informed the court that investigations are underway into the incident under emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The Defence Counsel requested for the suspects to be placed in remand custody. However, the Magistrate declined this request. The 3 suspects were arrested along with documents containing defamatory remarks against the state at the Central Mail exchange on May 2nd.

It was revealed that the suspects had attempted to propagate false information regarding 04/21 attacks and those responsible for it. It was also revealed that the suspects were employees of the media division of the Ministry of Enterprise Development.

The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Kavan Ratnayake to date has a clean record. Therefore it would be wise for him to conduct himself in accordance with the accepted rules and regulations if he does not want to suffer the same fate of Minister Lakshman Kirella’s employees.

The statement made by Daya Gamage makes it all clear, that the country is sinking. And you the government have failed the country.

So as the people of this country have time and time again said if you can’t do it please leave and hand it over to someone who could. The country cannot be developed by selling off bits and pieces of our assets to foreign countries.

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