Ranil queries plans to set up aircraft maintenance base with Chinese


By Saman Indrajith

External Affairs Minister Prof G. L. Peiris told Parliament yesterday that Lanka would never do anything that would jeopardise the security interests of India.

The minister responding to a series of questions raised by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who alleged that Chinese had been permitted to construct an Aircraft Maintenance Centre in Trincomalee and that it would be detrimental to India’s Security interests.

Prof. Peiris said Sri Lanka would not permit any construction that would harm India’s national security interests.

"No decision has been made to construct an Aircraft Maintenance Centre in Trincomalee.

Constructing such a facility is compulsory for any country to prevent the drain of foreign exchange to maintain aircraft abroad. The government has considered the setting up of an Aircraft Maintenance Centre, and available options. Trincomalee is only one of the locations suggested. The project of establishing an Aircraft Maintenance Base would move forward but no decision had been made to set it up in Trincomalee. We consider locations where jets could land for services. Jets could be landed at Katunayake, Mattala and Trincomalee. The government would select the optimum location. This has not become an issue between India and Sri Lanka. Indian External Affairs Minister Shrimati Sushma Swaraj had asked details of this project."

Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe making a special statement said that a Sunday newspaper recently reported that China National Aero-Technology Import-Export Corporation (CATIC) had been permitted to establish an Aircraft Maintenance Base in Trincomalee at a cost of over Rs. 5 billion (US$ 40 million).

"It is also reported that this proposed Maintenance Centre is to service all Chinese made aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air Force.

"The Government of Sri Lanka has not denied these reports to date.

The media has also reported this matter was taken up for discussion when the External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris met the External Affairs Minister of India Shrimati Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi. 

The exchange of letters between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka in July 1987, which was a part of the Indo-Lanka Accord made provision not to allow our respective territories to be used for activities prejudicial to each other’s unity, integrity and security.  This included not allowing Trincomalee to be used in a prejudicial manner to India. Succeeding Governments have confirmed this arrangement.

"Therefore, will the Minister of External Affairs make a full statement to this House, in respect of the above mentioned agreement with CATIC, whether consultations were had with India prior to reaching the above mentioned agreement and whether this matter was raised at the meeting between the External Affairs Ministers of the two countries."

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