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Sri Lanka formally hands over the strategic Hambantota port to China

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 media reports

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.

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