Lankan PM Contradicts Cabinet Spokesman on Chinese Funded Port City Project
Contradicting cabinet spokesman Dr.Rajitha Senaratne, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament here on Friday, that the controversial US$ 1. 4 billion Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project had not been cleared, and that it is being reviewed.
“There are many issues regarding the port city project. Therefore when this government came to power, I got down all the files relating to this project. When I inspected them, I found that all the required reports are not there. There is a deficiency in the EIA. Therefore, to inquire into this, we have appointed a separate committee. In addition to that, under my chairmanship we have appointed a cabinet subcommittee. After getting reports, we will take a decision. We will inquire and then take that committee’s report into consideration and take a decision. And at that stage we will inform this House,” Wickremesinghe said.
The Prime Minister’s clarification came a day after cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told the media that the Port City project had been found to be basically sound, and that only one environmental aspect remained to be studied. He had also said that the Prime Minister had felt that the project should be allowed to go through for the sake of good relations with China. The China Communication Construction Company, which is executing the project, is a Chinese government owned enterprise.
However, in reality Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has stuck to President Maithripala Sirisena policy of reviewing all Chinese funded and executed projects. These projects faced allegations of over invoicing and corruption. Sirisena had promised such reviews when he was standing for the Presidential election held last month.
China Ready for Review
Meanwhile, China’s Special Envoy and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Liu Jianchao, told the Lankan media here on Friday, that China is ready to submit all its projects for review, and that these projects will proceed further only upon getting clearance from the Lankan government.
Liu Jianchao, who is here on a two day visit, heading a 10-member delegation, said that he is confident that Sino-Lankan relations will continue to be strong.
In the context of China’s strong support for the earlier Rajapaka regime, Liu Jianchao was asked if China cares for good governance. The Special Envoy said that China believes in good governance but it also gives importance to “independence”. Independence from foreign interference in domestic matters is essential for economic development, he stated.
Entry of Submarines
Asked to comment on the controversial visits of Chinese nuclear submarines to Lanka, which had irked India, the Chinese Special Envoy said that the visits had adhered to Sri Lankan laws. And, at any rate, other countries had also sent their warships to Lanka on visits, he pointed out.
Lankan Foreign Minister Samaraweera is scheduled to visit China in the latter part of this month at the invitation of the Chinese government. President Sirisena is to undertake a State Visit to China in March.