Cabinet approves renegotiated Port City agreement with China

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 00:54 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Government will ink a revised agreement with Chinese construction firm China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) to resume work on the Colombo Port City with the company agreeing to drop its $ 125 million compensation claim in exchange for additional land in the reclaimed city.

The Colombo Port City project to create a 500-acre city built entirely on land reclaimed from the ocean was suspended in March 2015 after President Maithripala Sirisena’s Government raised concerns about the terms of the agreement inked between the Chinese company and the Rajapaksa administration as well as the environmental impact of the reclamation project.

Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne announced yesterday that a revised tripartite agreement would be signed in September between the Ministry of Western Development, the Urban Development Authority and the CCCC.

“Our opposition was to the fact that land in our country was going to be owned in full by another state,” Minister Senaratne told the Cabinet briefing last morning.

“Even India raised objections to China owning land in Sri Lanka,” Senaratne said, adding that the Government had renegotiated the 20 hectares of freehold land to be granted to the China Harbour Engineering Corporation Port City Ltd. as a 99-year extendable lease.  

“According to the consultations of the new Government, no land will be granted on a freehold basis, and all the lands will be on a 99-year lease basis. If the Government does not require these 20 hectares, the company may obtain the land for another 99 years,” the Cabinet decided on Monday.

Minister Senaratne said that once the land was reclaimed, the land would be taken over by the Government and gazetted as land belonging to the Colombo District. “Then it will be handed over to the UDA which will sign the 99-year lease,” he explained. 

The Cabinet Spokesman said that the Government had “solved a big problem” because if the previous agreement had been allowed to stand there would be major problems associated with the reclaimed territory.

Minister Senaratne added that the Chinese construction company had also agreed to drop its $ 125 million compensation claim for the duration of the project’s suspension. “But by way of compensation for the losses incurred by the company, the Government has decided to award a further two hectares that can be sold on a 99-year lease.”

Minister Senaratne also explained that the new agreement would include an extended list of environmental conditions. The previous agreement contained 42 environmental conditions while the revised agreement would contain 70, the Minister added.

The Cabinet Spokesman said that the agreement had been revised in a manner advantageous to Sri Lanka. The Government was hoping to make the Colombo Port City the main financial district between Singapore and Dubai, he added.