UNP cheers CATIC cancellation

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 01:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The UNP yesterday welcomed the Government’s decision to cancel the Galle Face project with CATIC, a move which the main Opposition party lobbied for as it lacked transparency, among other issues.

“We are glad to note that our relentless campaign to reverse this absolutely shady deal to sell Sri Lanka’s most valuable property to a Chinese arms manufacturer purportedly to build a luxury hotel sans any transparency has forced the Government to finally cancel the sale,” UNP MP and the party’s Chief Spokesman for the Economy Dr. Harsha de Silva said.

“We are happy to have performed the duty of a responsible Opposition. We will continue to fight against the plundering of public property, immaterial of how powerful the players are,” reiterated Dr. de Silva, a vocal critic against CATIC deal and bad governance.

The China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corporation (CATIC) project with an investment of $ 500 million involved the construction of CATIC Grant Skyline Hotel and Rainbow Multifunctional Complex on Galle Face land.

The Daily FT yesterday exclusively reported the cancellation as revealed by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. He said that though it was viewed as somewhat of a drawback for the Government, the decision was made in the best interest.

The Government has taken a decision to lease out land of high commercial value on a long-term basis and not on a direct sale basis as classified before.

“As a Government we have come to the conclusion that unless it is on a long-term lease, such property under the Government will not be given out,” Rajapaksa said. He further explained that CATIC was owned by the Chinese Government and decisions on their part must be taken with Cabinet approval.

“The Government is trying to settle this as a long-term deal. Meanwhile, we are looking at other investors who share an interest in acquiring the said land.”

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena however confirmed to Daily FT that the deal was in fact “off,” noting that “it is not just paused for the moment, it has been annulled”.

When asked about the US$ 54.5 million that Abeywardena on previous occasions claimed had been paid in advance, he stated that the money had still not been returned to the institution. “The money is still here,” Abeywardena said. “We are now discussing with CATIC on directing the money to build other properties in a different location. We are now negotiating various terms and conditions.”

The CATIC deal had previously come under constant fire both in Parliament and outside from the Opposition.

Responding to Opposition allegations on the matter, Minister Rajapaksa dismissed them as a “speech for survival,” adding that “they have to say something now and so they will speak”.