- As far as our Chinese-Sri Lankan relationship is concerned there was nothing beneficial for Sri Lanka and everything was for China’s benefit.
- All loans are provided at commercial rates and whenever they give a loan there is a hidden agenda for them to get something from Sri Lanka
- The Attorney General has already aired his opinion that this is a matter involving local land, our territory
- There is a huge protest and they are dead against Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan rulers doing this. The Europe, India, Japan and the United States of America--all four forces are together.
- Over 65,000 lives were lost and we did not want to give Prabhakaran a separate area for his ruling. But here without any war or killing we are just giving it away for Yuan.
- Once it is sold, what is the use of having the Commission?
Colombo District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is in the news over his strong opposition over the proposed Port City Bill and the conduct of the Government; which he is a party to. While facing criticism from him own party members and some Cabinet ministers, Dr. Rajapakshe, who is also a leading Constitutional Lawyer, says that the Bill is completely unconstitutional and if it is allowed it would be an act worse than Prabhakaran’s war staged to win a separate land within Sri Lanka. President’s Counsel Rajapakshe says that national interest is far more important than loyalty to his party. Following are excepts of an an interview Dr. Rajapakshe did with the Daily Mirror:
QYou being a party to this Government are criticising the key decisions taken by it. How do you respond?
This is a matter of national interest. You cannot take this lightly and say it is a matter related to a political party. The political party is there for representatives to enter parliament. But for us to get involved in politics and do party politics the country has to be safe. The basic idea is to safeguard the nation. We are doing politics not for our personal benefit. We are doing politics to safeguard the interest of the country. The basic principle is that we have taken oaths to safeguard the Constitution. In the Constitution the basic principle is the Sovereignty and the independence of the state.
QYou have strongly opposed the proposed Port City Bill and complained that it has drastic consequences for the present and future Sri Lanka. Your comments?
Now with this bill, if it is passed, the sovereignty is completely lost. And there will be two laws and two countries. With this bill the land area in the Port City with 1115 acres would be excluded from all the essential normal laws of the country. There will be so many benefits like tax concessions. Therefore it is a violation of both the Constitution and the sovereignty of the country. Again it is a violation of so many articles of the Constitution. Then there will be inequality because the people within the Port City, traders and the residents in that zone will be treated with many more privileges than other citizens of the country. The people who are doing businesses there are treated as belonging to a specially privileged group compared to other people. Anyway there are so many legal arguments that have to be raised. This is totally against the Constitution. The Attorney General has already aired his opinion that this is a matter involving local land, our territory. During Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government, Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena brought a resolution to the Parliament in 2019 and the land in the Port City area was added as a part of the Colombo Administrative district. Then after that just to separate it from the Colombo administrative unit and to introduce a separate system of law to this particular area is illegal. The Attorney General has already given an opinion when there was another discussion as to whether this is to be controlled by the Urban Development Authority. The AG has given his opinion in writing. Without the sanction of the Provincial Council of the Western Province you cannot present it to the Parliament. In the absence of the Provincial Council how can they bring a law to Parliament? This is a matter concerning land.
Q What are the other consequences you see regarding this Bill?
Now when they start this area as a Chinese operating zone, the next to that is the Colombo South Jetty, that is also a Chinese harbour. In the south in Habantota also a harbour is overseen by the Chinese. Definitely when they start their businesses all the goods would be cheaper. Chinese goods are sold at a lesser price all over the world and then there would be a speedy banking system when international banks start operations there. Then the business of all our traders, including the pavement traders, will be affected in the Fort and Pettah areas. All our hotels will lose business. Except Shangrila all other hotels will have to be closed. That danger is present.
The AG has given his opinion in writing. Without the sanction of the Provincial Council of the Western Province you cannot present it to the Parliament. In the absence of the Provincial Council how can they bring a law to Parliament? This is a matter concerning land.
QYou have warned that this would be a reason for geopolitical conflicts here?
The United States and India are together. There is a huge protest and they are dead against Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan rulers doing this. The Europe, India, Japan and the United States of America--all four forces are together. They are following one agenda. I think they would never allow us to come up either in the way of economy or through any other activity. They will cripple the country. As far as our Chinese-Sri Lankan relationship is concerned there was nothing beneficial for Sri Lanka and everything was for China’s benefit. All loans are provided at commercial rates and whenever they give a loan there is a hidden agenda for them to get something from Sri Lanka. They purposely put Sri Lanka into a debt trap by offering unnecessary loans for unnecessary projects. We are paying Rs.500 billion interest component for the Lotus Tower. What is the use of the Lotus Tower the conference Hall in Hambantota and the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium. What are the benefits that we have got? Because they know that those are not viable projects, but still they prompted to give the loans because they wanted to have full control over this country and our economy. And they know that this is the only country which has the weakest leaders who will give part of the country to them. They would not be able to get an inch of the land from any other country in Asia.
The other danger is that Ranil gave Hambantota by way of an agreement. Because of that if you want you can cancel it. I have filed a case and that case is pending. In that case I have taken up the position that under article 157 it must be taken back. If there is a security reason of course the Government has the power to take it back. Now because of that they have started to fear and they have forced this Government to give them the Port City by way of statutes. Then you can’t cancel it.
Q Does this power come from the proposed Port City Commission Bill?
There will be a puppet Commission which will be appointed according to the whims and fancies of the President. Obviously they will also get some puppets. You know once it is given you can sell the whole thing to them. Once it is sold, what is the use of having the Commission? Owners will control the land according to their requirements.
QWhatever said and done this is only a lease agreement for 99 years isn’t it?
No no. That is not mentioned here. Earlier the agreement was that part of that land will be given exclusively to them outright and the other on lease. However according to this bill now you can sell and there is no limitation. The limitation act is exempted from this. It applies only to this land. In other places of the country you cannot do that.
QEarlier in 2019 wasn’t this land marked in the Sri Lankan map and included in the Sri Lanka’s territory?
The Government at that time had done its work perfectly. I must say that. Although I had lot of arguments with Ranil regarding the Hambantota Port as far as this Port City land is concerned his Government acted correctly. They have complied with the law.
Now with this bill, if it is passed, the sovereignty is completely lost. And there will be two laws and two countries. With this bill the land area in the Port City with 1115 acres would be excluded from all the essential normal laws of the country. There will be so many benefits like tax concessions.
QHowever some economists are arguing in support of this Bill saying that you need certain laws to encourage investors and there are similar laws in countries like Dubai and Singapore?
Can they show any special law in Singapore? They didn’t give Singapore lands to ‘aliens’. They developed their lands. Of course you must offer tax concessions to foreigners. Before giving tax concessions to foreigners you must give tax concessions to your own people. In Dubai also there has been some incentives however they have not given an inch of land to outsiders.
We are confident that the Supreme Court will show the correct direction.
QSo why should the Government be so lenient with China; particular regarding this project?
That is the main issue. I was also in the campaign in the Presidential Election and also during the parliamentary elections. Everybody in this Government promised the people that we will not give an inch to any other country or outsider. It was promised that we’d safeguard our assets and environment. Also they went beyond that and promised that what have been given to outsiders would be taken back. Now this is completely the opposite of what they had promised. Ranil did not sell, even thought we used the word sell. We said it was a sale because 99 years is not a short period, but at least for namesake that goes as a lease. But here it is an outright sale. I don’t know how you can justify this happening with the people, specially the people who voted for us. If not for that election promise that they would not give any resource to outsiders we would have definitely lost the election. That was the main promise. At least we must keep in line with that main promise made to the people. Otherwise we will be cheating 6.9 million people.
QDidn’t Minister Ajit Nivard Cabraal say that the Port City project will generate about 83,000 jobs?
That is total false. How can you have 83,000 jobs? Even if it is 83,000 or 8.3 million 90- percent will be Chinese fellows. This is because there is a special provision that anybody who had been there for six months is considered as a resident in that zone. How can you rely on a man like Cabral? According to the forensic audit he has caused a Rs. 10 billion loss on the bond scam and Rs. 10.2 billion on hedging. Do you think that people should believe a man like that? And he has allegedly given USD 6.5 million to a CIA spy? Can the people believe this kind of man?
QNow that you have come out strongly on this issue you have complained that you were pulled up by the President. Were you expecting such a reaction?
I have associated with many leaders like J. R. Jayewardene, Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunge, R. Premadasa and D. B Wijetunga. As a member of Parliament I always criticise. I have mostly criticised Mahinda Rajapaksa. But whenever he meets me he talks in friendly manner. He knows that our criticisms are not aimed at harassing him. It is in the interest of the country and the people.
QHaven’t some of the Cabinet Ministers complained that there should be collective responsibility by the MPs and the ministers to support this Government?
Ministers should have collective responsibility, but if the Government is going to sell the country, what is the point of having a collective responsibility? When I was the Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister of his Government I told Ranil that collective responsibility should be there for the betterment of the country only. It was not to destroy the country.
This is worse than the war we fought. Even Prabhakaran was not fighting for this kind of unit. Over 65,000 lives were lost and we did not want to give Prabhakaran a separate area for his ruling. But here without any war or killing we are just giving it away for Yuan. Then why did we have a such a long battle against Prabhakaran?
QYou mentioned that this would lead to Sri Lanka becoming a geopolitical battle ground for powerful nations. How important is it for us to follow the non-align foreign policy which was initiated by former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, specially at a time like this?
Unless we return to a Non-align foreign policy, we cannot survive in this region. Ms. Bandaranaike is the classic example. She had a very good rapport with India, China, the US, Europe and Russia. She balanced them well. Up to a certain extent Chandrika Bandaranaike also maintained it. If we take the side of one powerful nation we will be definitely punished by the other side. Whether we like it or not that is the reality in the world.
QBangladesh Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor recently quoting Sri Lanka has commented with regard to taking loans from China and the country doesn’t want to borrow more than its repayment capacity as it has learned a lesson from Sri Lanka and the East African state of Dijibouti. How do you describe this in the backdrop of Sri Lanka getting into China’s debt trap and the alleged repercussion of proposed bill?
The whole world cites Sri Lanka as the best example for a nation being snared in a debt trap, set up by China. The entire world is talking about this now. That shows the capacity of our leaders. These are happenings recorded since 2005.
QWhen you say from 2005, wasn’t the previous government also responsible?
Up to 2005 there was no issue because when Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the Government our entire debt liability was Rs. 2160 billion only. That is after so many years of war fought by a number of leaders including J. R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Kumarathunge. With all that our liability was only two trillions. It was after the war concluded that most of these loans were taken.
QSo according to you with regard to Sri Lanka can we have hope or expect to see light at the end of the tunnel?
Not up to now. With regard to this Executive Presidency A. J. Wilson has written a book called ‘The Gaullist System in Asia’. Now he says that the President elected under this Constitution cannot be controlled by any force. Members of the Cabinet are not his colleagues, they are only colonels. So it is only through a force of the people or people’s power that it could control the dictatorship of the Executive President. Therefore people must raise their voices. The 6.9 million people should ask whether they cast their votes to see land being sold?
QHowever in the recent history no powerful government in Sri Lanka has remained in power for many years. After winning a 26 -year-long war Mahinda Rajapaksa’s powerful Government was defeated in 2015 and within one term Maithripala Sirisena’s Government too was changed in 2019. How do you analyse this situation?
That is the problem of our people. People are allowing the politicians to take decisions that affect the country and the people. In 2019 people didn’t have a better option; there was no proper political party that loved the country; a party which was patriotism. All the people were trapped with these pseudo patriotism. That is what happened. If they were told that they would give at least a five acres from Sri Lanka to China they would have lost the election. Now they are going to give 1115 acres of our land.
QAnyway even now there is no proper opposition. Could that opposition come within the government?
Possible. Even the ministers are holding the same opinion that I hold but they don’t want to give up their status in one way and the other one is they are scared. Due to those two reasons they keep silent. Some politicians are living in politics. If they give up their posts and positions they cannot survive. Sri Lankan politics has stooped down to such a low level.