The Sunday Leader

Suspension Of Port City Project A Political Gimmick?

by Ashanthi Warunasuirya

Colombo Port City has been the subject of heated discussions in recent times. However, with the Prime Minister’s scheduled official trip to China, the topic has once again come to fore. It is said that the key objectives of the Premier’s tour include signing of a new contract regarding the Port City project. It is said to be signed in China on August 15. Accordingly, China’s biggest investment project in Sri Lanka, the Colombo Port City Project, which the new government suspended for months, will finally restart.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne confirmed that the Colombo Port City Project was recently given green light to resume. The government in March last year suspended the project due to environmental concerns. The Minister also said that the project will now be granted a special status as a unique financial and business district of Sri Lanka and will be included in the government’s mega development plan.

“The Port City will become a special financial and business district of Sri Lanka which will have its own laws. Of course, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka must have the final say,” he said. There will be a separate financial and legal system operating in the Port City “where people can come and transact business internationally,” according to the deputy minister.

During the election the new government vowed that it will not carry out the project if it harms the environment. However, it was alleged that the government is having double standards over the matter. Meanwhile, justifying the government’s stance, Feputy Minister for Power and Energy Ajith P. Perera said that the Cabinet has decided to restart the project. He also said that a proper way to carry out the project must be found since it is a profit-making projects,.

The following are excerpts of comments made by government and opposition political figures as well as intellectuals on the Project.

 

Thilak Kandegama – Environmentalist

We are living in a society where politicians eat eel with sticks. Eels are disgusting but its flesh is tasty. So people who want to eat eel use chopsticks. So we must not listen to these politicians’ empty justifications. They are going to have it their way anyway. The previous government carried out development projects only to gain votes. So they cannot stop it now. Since this is an international agreement, it is impossible for us to fight against an opponent such as China. It is a long-term ally of Sri Lanka. It has even helped us with our national security. Even India cannot fight against China. So we have been compelled to recommence the Port cCity plans in the end. Now the government is giving out lame justifications as excuses. These talks are not relevant at all.

What is relevant is that whatever construction that is being carried out in sea or land has an impact on its environment – especially when it comes to marine environment. A disruption could change currents, behavior of marine life and various other changes. It is hard to notice them from outside. I’m not saying that everything is going to break apart. Development is a necessary evil. But we must try to avoid the extent of environmental damage. Therefore, we must weigh in the development against the environment. The Port City is an attempt to construct a Chinese Colony in Sri Lanka. Here the territorial waters of Sri Lanka have been invaded by a foreign country. This is like Hong Kong. It was released from the grasp of the US only after 99 years.

The Port City is being carried out under an international agreement. So no matter it is carried out by Mahinda or Ranil, we have problems. It would take almost a century for us to escape from this Chinese Colonization. In the North, we are being harassed by India. In the South, the Chinese are taking hold of our country. We have been trapped. As an environmentalist, I’m against this project. This is going to destroy both natural and political environments of this country.

Development must not be stoped. It is true that we must make sacrifices to achieve development. But at the same time, we must try to minimise the harm.

 

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MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara – Leader Leftist Front

This government does not know which direction it should take. It is not even aware of the extent of the decisions it has to take. These are not my words but the opinions of policy experts. Many have defined the policies of the government as blunt and useless undertakings. A government must have a proper vision and a mission. But that is not so with the present government. It is always doing contradictory things. This has been confirmed by Rasim Sally as well.

The government has changed the name of the ‘Port City’ to ;Financial City’. Changing the name of the City is not going to change its structure. The Port City was proposed to boost financial services. But the present government says that it will not set up casinos or racing tracks.

It claims that it is only concerned about attracting foreign investors. Further, the government has promised the construction company an additional 2-acre land apart from the initial bargain. This is given away under a 99- year lease agreement to compensate the losses that the company incurred due to the temporary suspension of the project.

It is now clear that the government takes decisions not considering the consequences. They previously said that the Port City should be stopped. Now it has taken a totally opposite turn and claimed that this project will be economic centre of the country.

This is simply a joke. These are mere political shows carried out to challenge political opponent’s decisions. But it’s the people who have to pay in the end.

The government previously said that they would present both previous and new Port City agreements to parliament. It must be done before signing anything. The government has claimed that it had to stop the project considering the environmental damage it may cause. So now they must produce the environmental impact assessment. Only then we could go for criticisms. But the government is taking arbitrary decisions.

 

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Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa – JVP MP

The previous government initiated this project without carrying out any environmental impact assessment or diplomatic analysis.
It was recently revealed in parliament that this project has been carried out by openly violating 42 conditions that had been imposed by the Coastal Conservations Department. Further, it was evident from the Prime Minister’s speech that it is not clear as to what local government body should take charge of the project.

Whatever party that is seeking power must have a proper vision about its economic policies. Here what the government is doing now is contrary to what it said at the elections. It is trying to please different people by saying different things.

Such a government cannot go forward. Such policies have pushed the country off the cliff several occasions. We must understand that the economic superpowers are now moving at a great speed. China and India are more concerned about their national interests than helping out neighbours. So it is the government’s duty to manage these affairs while protecting our national interests.

Both previous government and present coalition government are only focused on securing and sustaining power. It is not an effective policy to drive the country forward. That is why the Port City has emerged once again.

However, this does not mean that we are opposing all economic relationships with China. Under the Communist rule, China has achieved a great development. They have now been able to dominate the international market. Hence we are in need of a mechanism that could use the interests if China to our advantage.

 

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Niroshan Perera – State Minister, National Policies and Economic Affairs

Cabinet approval has been granted to restart the Port City Project. Previously we had problems regarding its environmental damage and the outright land grant. But the new agreement will change all the previous conditions and focus on setting up a new economic center. According to this agreement, this is carried out as a joint venture between China and Sri Lanka.

This is similar to international economic centers in Singapore and Dubai. Under the new agreement, any company can take part in this project. The project is carried out under the supervision of the Western Province Development Ministry.

 

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Mahinda Amaraweera – Minister of Fisheries (SLFP)

This is only going to create a profitable situation. During our previous administration, we gave out land outright to the Chinese.

Now it has been converted into a long term lease. This is a victory achieved by the President and the government. There are many other favourable conditions offered to Sri Lanka under the new agreement.

These are the results of extensive negotiations between the two countries.

No one has said that the Port City project would be stopped. May be the Prime Minister has said so during the election.

But now it has turned into a more profitable and people-friendly project. So there is no harm in carrying out this forward.

 

2 Comments for “Suspension Of Port City Project A Political Gimmick?”

  1. daggy

    Thilak Kandegama the Enviromentalists -This is like Hong Kong. It was released from the grasp of the US only after 99 years…..
    Mr. Kandegama HK was released from the grasp of the BRITISH.

    Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa – JVP. Hi Doctor, you have no right to speak of either government’s vision. Its short memories of JVP’ers who make such statement .
    Are you aware how many decades the country was taken back by the JVP?
    JVP has no moral right to speak.

    Shameless Yahapalanaya has now got to devour their own vomit before the Chinese having humiliated them.
    Where are their Westerned backed Indians? Why did they not bail out?
    Indians are only capable of sheeting allover.

  2. former government has decided policy of port city by family concern, the name democratic but action it is undemocratic and uneconomic, dictator government, srilanka has back ward for fifty years, in education, entirement culture law of the land even chief justice removed by the former president, international law society was against it, president arrogance very high with out understand the consecutions,, prime minister going after china must stop. srilanka was mortgage to china, former president was brought over by china ,present government doing more mockery same like last government, criminal and corruption are in the cabinet and opposition,

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