China charms new Govt.

Saturday, 7 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Sends assistant FM for talks on $ 5 b worth projects
  • Says wants to understand policies of Sirisena administration
  • Open to “mutually acceptable” solution on costs, “nothing to hide” in contracts, willing to engage openly
  • Asks Govt. to talk about cost-saving with Chinese companies 
  • All agreements made by Rajapaksa to go ahead after re-evaluation, no issues with closer Indian relations

Launching a charm offensive, China has sent a top level official to engage with Sri Lanka’s new Government to ensure an estimated $ 5 billion in infrastructure projects continue. Assistant Foreign Minister and special Chinese Government envoy to Sri Lanka Liu Jianchao is in Sri Lanka to meet with the new Government and engage with them on the numerous projects that were signed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We want to understand the policies of the new Government, so we can find a reasonable solution to all these questions that might have risen in the last few weeks. It is with this motive I’m here to learn more about the policy thinking of the new Government. I’m happy with the discussions and approach with the Government officials on these issues,” Liu told reporters after his meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rajapaksa was voted out after a decade in power early last month and the new Government had previously raised concerns over possible environmental concerns and inflated costs of some of the massive infrastructure projects undertaken with Chinese companies. The $ 5 billion dollars are principally distributed between a $ 1.2 billion coal power plant, a $ 360 million port and a $ 209 million international airport. A host of highways, roads and railway projects were also signed off by the previous Government. Despite voicing concerns over possible environmental implications over land reclaimed from the sea along Colombo’s coastline, the new Government on Thursday gave the green light to a $ 1.4 billion port city project funded by multinational China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).This is a positive development insisted Liu, who emphasised that the Chinese Government and companies stand ready to work on any concerns related to projects. “Any project in any country will have questions and concerns. This is a natural development. All contracts signed between the Sri Lankan Government were all done with very serious, very pragmatic and very business-like procedures. So we are following all the rules terms and conditions set by the Sri Lankan Government. Otherwise China would not have signed these agreements.” “The Chinese Government will work with the Sri Lankan Government on these issues. Both sides are determined all these issues will be settled in a friendly manner and in a way that will not upset the strong relations between our countries” he added. Liu went onto say he was “happy” with the response of the Sri Lankan Government and foresees “no major obstacles” in continuing to work together. “We have nothing to hide. If costs are a concern then the Chinese companies can work with the Government to explain costs and look at cost-saving mechanisms. We have full confidence in Chinese companies,” he stressed. The official responding to questions emphasised all projects signed between the two governments would proceed though they could be re-evaluated by the new Sri Lankan administration. China would not interfere with Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs and would not pit it against any other country, he assured. Liu also mentioned President Sirisena’s visit to China in March and said they are unperturbed by stronger relations with India and China also has deep relations with the subcontinent.

Assistant Foreign Minister of China and Special Representative of the Chinese President, Liu Jian Chao - who is on an official two-day visit to Sri Lanka - called on President Maithripala Sirisena this morning at his official residence in Colombo. International Affairs Advisor to the President, Jayantha Dhanapala and Secretary to the Minister of External Affairs, Chitranganee Wagishwara were also present - Pic by Sudath Silva