Govt. under pressure not to give into China’s demand

Proposed entertainment zone at H’tota Port

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Politicians and academics warn the government against circumventing the country’s laws and regulations in the face of China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) Ltd.’s demand for permission to set up an artificial entertainment zone on reclaimed land in the Hambantota Port.

The CMPort has withheld the last tranche of US$ 585 million to Sri Lanka over this issue.

Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe of Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Anti Corruption Front said: "It is wrong for China to ask the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to allow it to build an entertainment zone in the Hambantota Port. The SLPA has leased this port and some reclaimed islands to China for marine and port related activities and not for entertainment or tourism purposes. The government must not give in to these demands because we need foreign currency."

Prof. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Director General, Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) said that the dispute was the outcome of inadequate public and expert consultation with regards to mega agreements and projects with foreign powers. He added that the general public had a very vague idea of the Hambantota Port deal and the fact that the deal included reclaimed islands was news to many."The artificial entertainment zone is news to the entire public; they were not aware of this and now there is a dispute with the SLPA. "Plans to build artificial zones should be carefully studied and national security clearance obtained.

Former Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, Lalithasiri Gunaruwan said that they had insisted that the agreement to lease Hambantota Port for 99 years was bad for the country. "Things were done at an unnatural hurry. There was no debate even in Parliament and now there are nasty surprises," he said.

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