Sri Lanka has formally handed over the strategic southern port situated
bang on the international shipping lanes to China on a 99 year lease in a deal
dubbed by the island's opposition parties as a sellout, according to Sri Lankan
The Chinese firms Hambantota International Port Group and Hambantota
International Port Services managed by China Merchant Holdings Company and the
Sri Lankan Port Authority will own the port and the investment zone around it.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe received a cheque of 300
million US dollars as an advance payment from the China Merchant Group Limited
which will now manage and operate the Hambantota Port.
The ceremony to hand of the cheque was held at parliamentary complex
yesterday under the patronage of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Several
ministers, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianling and the officials of the
China Merchant Group attended the ceremony held on December ninth.
The US$ 300 million is considered to
be the largest foreign payment received by the island government after a lapse
of four decades and the money will be
deposited in a special fixed deposit account and will add to the country’s
foreign reserves , he said.,
Speaking on the occasion Prime Minister Wickeremesinghe said next Chinese
project would be the establishment of the Ruhuna Industrial Development
Corporation through which the Ruhuna
area would be developed into an industrial zone and hundreds of factories would
be set up around the Hambantota port.
Among the projects in the pipeline are an oil refinery, an LNG facility, a
dockyard and cement factory, he said.
Negotiations for these have already started. The land for these projects will be
identified by the Ruhunua Development Authority," he said.
The Prime Minister said that the country is on its way to being the hub of
the Indian Ocean. "Sri Lanka is
part of the modern maritime silk route sponsered by China. We have three ports,
one in Colombo, one in the south at Hambantota and one in the east in
Trincomalee". Incidentally a major container handling terminal in Colombo
port is run by a Chinese company.
The Prime Minister added that
thousands of dollars will be received in the future. This will release the people’s debt burden
without leaving any for the present and future generations to pay off. The
intention of the Government is to create a better country for the future
generation which would enable them to move forward without any fear.