By Yohan Perera
The previous government had talks with India and Japan with regard to developing the Eastern Terminal and to set up a company to manage the Eastern Terminal in which Sri Lanka Ports Authority was going to own a 51 percent stake, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said during the weekend.
Mr. Wickremesinghe revealed details of this arrangement at a meeting with a group of youth in Colombo on Sunday.
“India wanted the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port. Our government informed India that Sri Lanka cannot do it. Then there was a proposal to set up a company to administer the Eastern Port. Sri Lanka Ports Authority was going to own a 51 percent stake on it while other parties were going to divide the remaining stake among themselves. Phase two of the Eastern Terminal development had not yet begun at that time. Then Japan offered a loan for $ 650 million at 0.1 percent interest rate. Sri Lanka was to settle it in 40 years. A 12-year grace period was agreed upon. We laid a condition that India should treat the Kerala and Colombo Port equally without giving preference to the former. This is because the port in Kerala has the ability to cater to all of India as it was possible to unload goods from Kerala and send them to other parts of India by trains. This situation was not favourable towards Sri Lanka. There was room for new conditions as well,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
“The elections had to be held while the discussions were going on and we informed India to negotiate with the new government. The present Sri Lankan Government campaigned against this move and told the people that we were going to sell the Eastern Terminal. The present Government therefore had found itself entangled in a web because of its election pledge. I cannot do anything about it now,” he added.
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