The UPFA which is one of the main coalition partners of the Unity Government yesterday vowed not to allow the government to sign the Hambantota Port agreement with China Merchant Ports Holdings because in its present form it was extremely harmful to our national interests.
United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) General Secretary and Minister, Mahinda Amaraweera said Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga had already highlighted the controversial clauses in a letter to the Government's Privatization Chairman Minister Sarath Amunugama and as such it was necessary for the Cabinet to re-review the agreement and delete the clauses which were not in the best interests of the country.
“President Maithripala Sirisena, the SLFP and the UPFA are of the view that the Hambantota Port agreement should be beneficial to the country and to the economy and must not compromise national security or the sovereignty. We have reservations on some of the clauses in the draft agreement and therefore we need to review the agreement and remove whatever was harmful,” the minister said yesterday.
He said neither the SLFP nor the President would agree to the 80% equity swap as proposed in the draft agreement
Minister Ranatunga in his letter has pointed out that the draft agreement gives the authority to a separate company to operate the Hambantota Port with the sole power to decide on port fees and carry out development work within a 50-kilometer radius of the port.
"The proposed private company will hold 80% equity of the Hambantota Port Development project with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority having the balance 20%. As such, the agreement between the China Merchants Ports Holdings Company and the SLPA cannot be signed without amending the previous Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement and the SLPA Act," he said.
The minister has proposed that the SLAPA equity be increased to 35% and reduce the 99-year lease period and voiced his concern on the failure to include a clause relating to port security.
He has called for a review of the US$1.4 billion as agreed by the two partners as the cost of the Hambantota port pointing out that the Hambantota Port was worth much more. (Sandun A Jayasekera)