Claims Port City complied with all legal and environmental obligations
By Kelum Bandara
China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), the Fortune 500 Company that has invested in the Colombo Port City project, is looking forward to invest in the setting up of an industrial park in Hambantota, where a new port is now in operation, officials said.
The company has submitted a proposal for setting up an investment zone adjacent to the China-financed new port.
“The company has submitted a proposal in this regard. It is now awaiting the response of the government of Sri Lanka,” a top Chinese official said.
CHEC has been in operation in Sri Lanka for nearly 20 years, and invested heavily in the infrastructure development including the construction of the Mattala International Airport and the southern Expressway.
In the meantime, the company currently remains concerned over the suspension of the port city project.
Its Vice Chairman Tang Qiaoliang told a team of Sri Lankan journalists in Beijing last week that the company complied with all legal and environmental obligations stipulated by the government of Sri Lanka before executing construction work of the project.
He said the legal experts hired by the company ascertained the legality of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project, done by the then government of Sri Lanka.
Accordingly, he stressed that the environmental clearance was secured through the legal channel and therefore all the licenses and certificates issued in this regard were legally binding.
“We have hired some of the best lawyers in Sri Lanka. One has experience in working at the Justice Ministry. Another is a university professor of law. We consulted them before the execution of this project, regarding the legal aspects. We have complied with the legal requirements as a result. All these are legally binding,” he stressed.
Port project to resume after problems “sorted”:China
REUTERS: China said yesterday that Sri Lanka’s visiting president had promised work would resume on a controversial Chinese-backed port development in Colombo that his administration had earlier suspended.
Citing a lack of government approvals, Sri Lanka halted the US $1.4 billion port city project, straining ties with its biggest investor. China defends the project, saying it is in line with local laws and any cancellation would deter foreign investors.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told Chinese President Xi Jinping that work would resume after problems are “sorted out”, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official told reporters on the sidelines of visit.
“He (Sirisena) stressed that what happened around the port city in Colombo is rather temporary, and he said the problem does not lie with the Chinese side and hopes to continue with the project after things are sorted out,” said Liu Jianchao, assistant minister of foreign affairs.
China has poured millions of dollars into infrastructure in Sri Lanka since the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009, when Colombo was largely shunned by Western investors because of its human rights record.
Sirisena has vowed to reconsider deals between China and his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, saying they were not transparent enough.
China’s ties with Sri Lanka, as well as its growing influence in the Indian Ocean, have elicited alarm from India, which has traditionally held sway with Colombo.
Sirisena’s government also aims to renegotiate terms of about $5 billion in Chinese loans. China has said in the past that the terms of the loans are reasonable and in line with other countries.
Liu said the two presidents had not “gone that far” in discussing any potential renegotiation of interest rates on the loans.
He added that China hopes to strengthen defence ties between the two countries, saying the presidents discussed cooperation in training military personnel and providing “military equipment”.
India voiced concern in November when Rajapaksa’s government allowed a Chinese submarine and warship to dock in Colombo, seven weeks after another submarine called at the same port.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in February he did not anticipate any more visits by Chinese submarines, leading analysts to suggest Sirisena’s administration is approaching military ties with Beijing more warily than his predecessor.
Liu added that it is possible that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is expected to start operations by the end of the year and has drawn a growing list of countries, could be a source of funding for Sri Lankan infrastructure projects, but that the matter would have to be discussed with other members of the bank once it is established.