Ajith Nivard Cabraal
- Dismisses claims of CPC is becoming a Chinese colony
- Says only authorised offshore entities will invest in CPC, which mitigates risks of money laundering
- Says whole purpose of draft legislature is to provide convenience to investors set up their operations
- Notes CPC is part of Sri Lanka and Parliament oversight wouldn’t be undermined
By Nishel Fernando
While dismissing claims on Colombo Port City (CPC) is on the verge of becoming a Chinese colony and concerns on potential money laundering activities, Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal defended the Colombo Port City Commission Bill, stressing that it is in line with the country’s Constitution and it will attract foreign investments to CPC to become an international business hub.
“The whole purpose of this Act is to provide convenience, efficiency and ensure businesses are not harassed. When a global company comes to set up their regional office here, they should be able to do conduct their operations without any hindrance.
That’s the assurance given under this Act. That’s why we want to release them from normal aspects of these activities, so they are not harassed. Even to get an electricity connection, it takes lot of time. We want to release them from such inconveniences and make it easy for them to conduct business,” Cabraal told reporters in Colombo, yesterday.
The Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, aimed at setting up a special economic zone in CPC built by China, was presented to Parliament recently.
The bill, which has proposed sweeping powers to the commission, has been drawing intense criticism from the opposition, civil society groups as well as some allies of the government.
Cabraal acknowledged that over 20 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the bill.
However, he stressed that claims such as CPC is becoming a ‘Chinese colony’ is being loosely said without studying the content of the bill, while noting that CPC is already gazetted as part of Sri Lanka in 2019.
In defending the bill, he pointed out that the bill would facilitate the proposed commission to act as single window in granting approval for all investments within CPC as well as an overall regulator instead of several entities being responsible. However, he stressed that the investment facilitation, monitoring and regulations would be in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
He pointed out that certain activities such as establishment and operation of a stock, precious metal or commodity exchange would still require the approval of Parliament.Further, he said procedures of granting of registrations and licences to offshore entities also need to be debated and approved in Parliament within three months of the issuance of relevant gazette notifications. Therefore, he argued that Parliament oversight wouldn’t be undermined.
Commenting on the concerns on potential money laundering activities, Cabraal assured that the only authorised offshore entities would be eligible to conduct business in CPC.
Further, he noted that the government is keen to avoid any incident involving money laundering activities.
Speaking on the appointments of the proposed commission members, Cabraal said that the President would appoint a reputed person to head the commission.
If there’s any irregularity in conducting activities of the proposed commission, he noted that President is empowered by the bill to remove any member or members of the commission at any given time.
Although many investors have expressed interest in investing in CPC, he pointed out that they are waiting for the legal framework being setup for CPC.
So far, the project company and a local business entity have committed investments in CPC.
Therefore, Cabraal insisted that the proposed bill is required for CPC to attract envisaged investments and to become an international business hub.