says the Hambantota Port is not a Ďdebt trapí nor can it be used for military
purposes by China, the island countrysís ambassador to China was quoted by an
international TV channel. The excerpts of the interview were carried by the
Seri Lankan media.
If anybody is saying that the Chinese government
gave its money to put Sri Lanka into a Ďdebt trapí, I donít agree with that.
Itís an absolutely wrong conclusion," Karunasena Kodituwakku, the
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China, told a International TV Channel.
His comments came amid accusations from critics
who said China is setting a "debt trap" for Sri Lanka with its
southern port of Hambantota. The first phase of the Portís construction was
finished in 2010, with 85 percent of its cost funded by China.
Facing severe losses and a heavy debt burden, Sri
Lanka entered into a 99-year lease agreement with China Merchant Ports Holdings
(CMPH) to revitalize the Port. The handover was made last December.
"Of course, we have difficulties paying
backÖ but I must say that the Chinese government assisted the government
of Sri Lanka to build this project. It is up to the government of Sri Lanka to
build on the basis of feasibility studies, then to make business decisions. The
Chinese government (has) never asked to hand over the Port to the Chinese
government or to the Chinese venture. It was a proposal that came from Sri
Lanka, asking partnership from China," he added.
As a response to media concerns that China is
"militarizing" the Port, Mr.Kodituwakku pointed out that "in Sri
Lankaís case, from the very beginning, we have very clearly indicated to the
Chinese side, itís only an economic venture." He said Sri Lanka does not
allow anybody to interfere with the defense affairs of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka decided to shift a naval base to
Hambantota Port in July. Kodituwakku explained, "The security of Port
Hambantota, the security of territorial coverage of Sri Lanka in the Indian
Ocean, is an entire matter for Sri Lankan security forces. China never asks us.
We never offered it."
Mr.Kodituwakku remains optimistic over the
long-term prospects of the Port being situated on the southern tip of the island
and bang on the international trade routes and the future of Sri Lankaís role
in an emerging Asia.
"Now, Asia is becoming the most important
part of the world in global development. The Indian Ocean is a center for
Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East, so the future
potential in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka being the center in the Indian Ocean, is
huge," he emphasized.