AsiaPorts and Logistics

Sri Lankan PM vows to solve Chinese port riddle

Colombo: The new Sri Lankan government has tried to make China’s port construction plans more clear. Following last month’s elections, China’s bid to build a new port in the capital has come under scrutiny.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday in Parliament tried to set the record straight yet again with regard to the biggest-ever foreign-funded project – the $ 1.5bn Port City – saying no go-ahead as yet had been given but two separate committees were studying it.

Seeking parliament’s support and patience, the prime minister said: “I have appointed a committee to investigate the Colombo Port City project from all possible angles including every tiny detail… Their report will be further examined by a Cabinet Sub-committee headed by me, making it easy to take necessary action.

Wickremesinghe told parliament yesterday that all the relevant activities related to the Port City project were not conducted in a transparent manner. “Several lawful methods were not adhered to. The agreement with regards to the project was signed without Cabinet approval. In addition to that there was no proper response to the allegation that the proper Environmental Impact Assessment was not obtained,” he said.

“After coming into power, we started looking at all these aspects. On the face of it, it seems that there is serious suspicion regarding this transaction. It became clear that the previous Government had hidden from this House all the facts and reports pertaining to the Colombo Port City project. Additionally, many false facts had been placed before this House,” Wickremesinghe alleged.

Wickremesinghe said that the government would not let goodwill and friendship between China and Sri Lanka be jeopardised because of fraud and corruption.

“Either in China or Sri Lanka, we will not protect fraudsters. Not only Sri Lanka but China also takes a strong stand against fraud and corruption,” the Prime Minister added.

The Port City is planned on 233 ha of reclaimed land in Colombo.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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