While rejecting claims that either Sri Lanka have sold the Hambantota Port to China Merchant Port or that China coming and taking the Hambantota Port to achieve their geo-political objectives, Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe said that it was not China who asked for the Hambantota Port but Sri Lanka who offered it.
“It was not China who asked for the Hambantota Port, but it was us,” the minister said addressing the 69th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China held at the BMICH last Friday. The event was organized by the Sri Lanka-China Journalist Forum.
Addressing the event further the minister also said, “Our Prime Minister, who was in China met the Chinese President and Prime Minister there and appealed from Chinese leadership to help us to make the debt obligation that had resulted in this huge amount of money that was lent to us by China to build the two phases of the Hambantota Port.”
He also said that when the Sri Lankan Prime Minister suggested that the loan should be rescheduled or delayed because Sri Lanka were finding it difficult to pay back the loan, the China told Premier “if you do it for Sri Lanka you have to do it for other countries therefore it is difficult us to consider this moment, but had said that they would find an investor.”
From that investment money, it can be used to repay the debt, that had accumulated and that we were finding difficult to pay back, he said.
“I think this should go on record, because there are some who take rhetorical positions, that we have either sold the Hambantota Port to China Merchant Port or that China coming and taking the Hambantota port to achieve geo-political objectives. This was never at any time ever discussed on the agenda and when the concession agreement was negotiated Chinese side always said, we abide by the constitution of Sri Lanka we respect to your laws of the country, we will operate within the framework of the laws of the country,” Minister Samarasinghe said.
“There were no other objectives other than a purely commercial transaction, which took place. It brought in 1.12 billion USD, the highest foreign direct investment ever to be brought to Sri Lanka,” he said.
“The company who invested this money alone with the Sri Lanka Ports authority looking at going at third phase beginning next year, within the next three years 600 million USD will be invested, for the development of infrastructure etc, so that Hambantota ports could be fully operational and it’s a win win situation,” he added.
Minister Gayantha Karunathilake, Ambassador of China in Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan, MP Ven. Rathana Thera, MP Udaya Gammanpila, President of the Sri Lanka-China Journalist Forum (SLCJF) Nalin Aponso and several others participated in the event.