PM refutes NY Times claims ‘China never pressurised us to handover H’tota port’

Published : 9:11 am  July 6, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 

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LATE-CITY-DM-1-11By Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardana   

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday refuted claims made by the recent New York Times story that the present government was under heavy pressure from China to handover the Hambantota Port to them after it was struggling to settle the debts borrowed during the previous regime.

Mr Wickremesinghe refuted claims made by the New York Times report during a special statement he made in Parliament last morning.  


“I must say that the Chinese government never pressurised Sri Lanka on this matter. What the Chinese government wanted us to do was to get proposals from Chinese companies to come up with proposals to run the Port initially. The proposal from China Merchant Port was most beneficial for Sri Lanka. China Merchant Port agreed to invest Dollars 1080 million on the port. Chinese President and the government as a whole was agreeable to this proposal. Accordingly The Chinese Company and Sri Lanka Ports Authority entered into an agreement following the cabinet approval. China Merchant paid dollars 293 million in December 2017 and dollars 97 million in January 2018. The company has paid the remaining dollars 589 million as of today. This is a victory as far as the people in this country are concerned. Rajapaksa government borrowed funds and constructed a port without ships. Our government had been able to settle the debts and to convert the port into a profit making one. It has not been sold out. What we did was to set up a joint venture to run the Port. Hambantota would be a developed port in the future,” the Prime Minister said while highlighting that the Sri Lankan government never struggled to settle what it owed to China.  

 

  • Previous government borrowed Rs.1,320 million for the Port project from China. The port became an issue during the 2015 presidential elections


Primer Wickremesinghe also refuted the suggestion made in the New York Times story that the transfer of Hambantota Port had given China the control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival India and strategic foothold along a critical and military waterway. “The Port will not be used for any military activity and that a clause to this effect is included in the agreement with China Merchant Port. We have highlighted this fact during the discussion with the Chinese government,” he said.  

“Previous government borrowed Rs 1320 million for the Port project from China. The port became an issue during the 2015 presidential elections. Repayment became an issue as the government at that time had no means to settle the debt. It was running at a loss. The losses suffered by the Hambntota Port from 2011 to date is Rs 47 billion. The Yahapalana government pledged to resolve the issue during 2015 elections. The present government had two options with regard to the Port when it came to power. Frist was to declare the borrowing agreement illegal and abolish it. The second option was to have a dialogue with the Chinese Government. We chose to have a dialogue with China. Present government went into a dialogue. We discussed on how to make use of the Port which was a while elephant at that time. President discussed with China initially and then I discussed it together with a group of ministers. Our government was of the opinion that the Port should be run as a public private partnership and to convert it into a profit making venture,” he added. There is an airport in Mattalawithout aeroplanes just like the Hambantoa Port which has no ships. This was also debt created by Rajapakasa regime. We discussed about the Mattala Airport with the Chinese government but did not get a positive response. Therefore we have got into a dialogue with the Indian government. Sri Lankan government will be relieved from the burden on Mattala Airport soon. It will also become a profit making venture in the future,” he also said.   Further the Prime Minister urged former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to make statement and respond to the allegations made by New York Times. “ I have responded to what the New York Times report has said about the present regime and I would like to request the former President to make a statement in Parliament as well,” he said.   

 

I must say that the Chinese government never pressurised Sri Lanka on this matter. What the Chinese government wanted us to do was to get proposals from Chinese companies to come up with proposals to run the Port initially.

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