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PM tells P’ment Govt. firm on Hambantota


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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament of the Government’s firm stand on new projects for Hambantota and inquired about the stance of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa since other districts were clamouring for the same investment projectsdft-1-43

The Prime Minister, being critical of the Joint Opposition’s move to stage a protest in Hambantota last Saturday, said that the proposed development project would go ahead as planned unless former president Mahinda Rajapaksa was opposed to development. “Instead of debt amounting to $ 1.3 billon we were able to get $ 1.1 billion as investment. On top of that we have been assured of $ 5 billion worth of investments," he said.

The first investor in Hambantota is a Sri Lankan who is establishing a cement factory. China has promised to invest further to include an oil refinery, LNG fuelled power station, dry docks and another cement factory. We are also in discussion with the US and Arab companies to bring in another oil refinery to Hambantota,” said PM Wickremesinghe.

A top-level committee comprising MP and former speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister Sajith Premadasa, Minister Ranjith Maddumabandara and Minister Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa has been appointed and action was taken to explain the development program, Wickremesinghe told Parliament. 

“They are instructed to leave out religious places and archaeologically important sites. 95% of the land identified belongs to the Government. The agreement will be presented in Parliament. But the situation changed on Sunday. President Sirisena is requesting that these projects be established in Polonnaruwa if the Hambantota people are not in favour of them. The SLFP and the UNP Ministers are asking to shift it to Moneragala. Minister Kiriella wants it to go to Kandy while Minister S.B. Dissanayake is looking at shifting it to Nuwara Eliya. I would like to know the position of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and MP Namal Rajapaksa,” he added.

Extending his gratitude to the international community for supporting Sri Lanka’s development, the Prime Minster said: “I am thankful to the Chinese Government for helping us to develop Hambantota. On the other hand, we are thanking Japan, India and Singapore for coming forward to help develop Trincomalee. I will table the agreements. The Port of Colombo was started as a private harbour. The Government built the breakwater. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike nationalised the port. Let me know what you discussed with the China Merchant company last month.”

MP Chamal Rajapaksa, who endorsed the Government’s plans to develop Hambantota, said the Government should have shared more information with the public. “The rumours to acquire 15,000 acres scared people in Hambantota. The framework agreement was another matter which was not clear. I am thankful to the Prime Minister, who came to Hambantota and met the priests to explain the project in detail. Such action by the Prime Minister prevented a serious incident. People were planning to have a peaceful protest. This is common in a democracy. There is no point in having a port idling. If necessary we should make use of carefully selected land in the area. Development benefits should be made available to nearby districts as well.”

However, Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena accused the Government of misleading the public and selling land to foreign entities. “There are State-owned ports in Sri Lanka. The Ports Authority was established to develop the ports. During former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time in power, action was taken to make Sri Lanka a maritime hub. In 2014 the Hambantota Port was launched as part of this action. Several phases were identified and these phases were to develop the suburb. But the situation changed after 8 January with a new Government coming to power.” (AH)


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