The formal talks between India and Sri Lanka over
the latter seeking control of the Colombo harbor East Container Terminal (ECT)
in terms of an MoU signed in April 2017 has been delayed indefinitely due to
the sacking of the UNP-led government President Srisena is understood to be
against handing over the East Container terminal to India and is in favor of
developing the Colombo port terminal by Sri Lankan Port Authority..
Sri Lankan Port Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said
his administration will not abide by the Memorandum of Understanding signed
with India last year to hand over the East Container terminal at Colombo Port
to New Delhi. The United National Party and its leader Ranil Wickremesighe have
erroneously asserted that the MOU covered handing over to India the development
of East Terminal the Port Minister was quoted by the Sri Lankan media..
President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP-led administration on Oct 26.
Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman
Mahinda Samarasinghe said that planned talks with India couldn’t be held due to
the current political situation in the island. Minister Samarasinghe said that
he would meet Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu soon after the
reconvening of parliament on Nov 14.
At the last Sri Lankan Cabinet meeting attended by President Sirisena
and the then PM Wickremesinghe on Oct 23 before sacking of the government, the
UNP leader had requested the final decision on the East Container Terminal be
delayed until they discussed the matter with the Indian High Commissioner,
The Country’s Port Minister Samarasinghe had
presented a cabinet paper on Oct 16 to give the responsibility of running the
East Container Terminal to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
Samarasinghe said that Sri Lanka wouldn’t abide
by an MOU finalized in April 2017 in New Delhi in respect of the ECT though the
UNP erroneously asserted that it covered the facility.
The then Development Strategies and International
Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj signed the MoU on behalf of Sri Lanka and India, respectively.
According to Samarasinghe, President Sirisena was
ready to accept Indian investment on West Container Terminal (WCT) of the
Long before the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe
government sought to attract external investments to the Colombo port,
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa had secured
major private investments.
A consortium running the South Asia Gateway
Terminal (SAGT) took over the operation and management of the Queen Elizabeth
Quay (QCT) in Sept 1999 on a 30 year Build-Own-Transfer (BOT) contract. SAGT
secured 85 per cent of the partnership and the balance held by the SLPA.
President Rajapaksa allowed Colombo International
Container Terminals Ltd. (CICT), which is a joint venture involving China
Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited (85 per cent of the partnership) and
SLPA the rest. The agreement is for a period of 35 years. At the moment, only
the CICT can accommodate the largest vessels and once the SLPA fully equipped
the ECT, it, too, will be able to accommodate such vessels.
Currently, SLPA runs Jaya Container Terminal at
the Colombo port.