President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are reported to have had a showdown at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting over the proposal to develop the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port as an Indian investment.
At the meeting, Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe submitted a Cabinet memorandum on developing the terminal by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
However, the Prime Minister, backed by Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama, insisted that it should be on the basis of an Indian investment.
Apparently incensed by the Prime Minister’s remarks, the President was reported to have said that it was vital to keep the sea port within the ambit of the Sri Lankan Government and that as a country Sri Lanka would lose its sovereignty in the event of alienating sea ports to external parties.
The President is also reported to have been critical of the leasing of the Hambantota Port to a Chinese Company and said he had discussed the development of the Colombo Port with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he met him on the sidelines of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
“Indian Prime Minister is not opposed to the development of the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port by Sri Lanka,” he said.
However, the Prime Minister had persisted in saying that a bulk of container traffic for the Colombo Port originated from India and therefore, it was all the more important to develop it with India.
Sources said the President and the Prime Minister had continued hurling arguments at each other. (Kelum Bandara)