The Sri Lankan government today denied reports in
the media that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesingh
had proposed to the Cabinet India’s participation in Colombo’s East Terminal
Project saying government has already decided that the terminal should be
developed by the Sri Lankan Port Authority.
The Islands Port minister Mahina Samarasinghe was
grilled by the media over reports of a conflict between Prime Minister Ranil
and President Srisena over who should run the Colombo’s east terminal. The
reports said while the prime minister favored the terminal to be handed over to
India for development, the President wanted the project to be kept by the
Samarasinghe denied media reports as regards
Premier Wickremesinghe submitting a cabinet memorandum on East Terminal development.
The media pressed Samarasinghe over the possibility of the UNP hitting back at
President Sirisena following his refusal to give East Terminal to India as
proposed by the PM. Samarasinghe displayed the Cabinet memorandum submitted by
him in his capacity as the Ports and Shipping Minister seeking approval for the
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to develop the East Terminal according to
SriLankan media reports.
Samarasinghe alleged that a section of the media
at the behest of some unidentified UNPer had propagated the lie that India and
Sri Lanka (current dispensation) had finalised a MoU on the East Terminal
Development. No mention had been made to East Terminal in the MoU signed by
Minister Malik Samarawickrema on behalf of Sri Lanka and President Sirisena had
repeatedly declared his intention to keep East Terminal under Sri Lanka
Responding to media queries, Samarasinghe said
that previous plans to operate East Terminal through public-private partnership
had been scrapped and the government was now going ahead with moves to invest
SLPA funds in the East Terminal.
Of course if India, if it wants to develop a new
container terminal, there will be substantial investment in case New Delhi
accepted Sri Lanka’s proposal, the Sri Lankan Port minister said.
After a Chinese company had taken over a
container terminal at Colombo a few years ago, India has evinced interest in
participation in Colombo’s East terminal project. This was confirmed by the Shipping
Minister Nitin Gadkari while talking to newspersons during his visit to Chennai
Mr Gadkari while replying to questions said
participation in Colombo’s East terminal did not mean scrapping of Colachel
port project in lands end in Tamil Nadu.
Colachel project is intact he said. Indications were the state owned
Container Corporation of India would undertake the development of Colombo
The fact of the matter is Colombo port is
thriving on transshipment business and 80 per cent of the volumes came from the
East coast ports of India. It was for this reason, Colachel port was planned and given in
principle approval by the Union Cabinet four years ago. If India takes up development
of Colombo East terminal, the rationale of having a transshipment terminal at
Colachel or Vizhinjam gets lost according to industry sources here.
Meanwhile the Tamil Nadu government had pressed
the centre to set up a naval station at Kannyakumari which is close to the
proposed terminal at Colachel.