- First meeting on Friday
- Discussions to focus on conditions in draft agreement conflicting with Port Act
- China Harbour Company goes to international arbitration over non-payment of loan for Sooriyawewa Cricket Stadium
Newly-appointed Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday said negotiations for a Public Private Partnership to salvage the debt-ridden Hambantota Port will resume this week under his leadership.
“I will take control of negotiations. It’s under my subject, I will not allow anyone else to discuss the deal,” he said speaking to media yesterday.
According to the Minister, progress on the negotiations stalled as too many individuals were involved in the process.
“Too many cooks spoilt the soup,” he said. Prior to the Cabinet reshuffle, Development Strategies Minister Malik Samarawickrama and Special Assignments Minister Sarath Amunugama led the negotiations, prompting former Port Minister Arjuna Ranatunga to speak out about being sidelined in negotiations.
The Minister however said he discussed the current status with the two ministers who were involved in the process from the beginning, explaining the concerns over the legality of the agreement.
The first meeting with Chinese counterpart China Merchant will happen on Friday, he said.
During the meeting, the Minister is set to discuss conflicts that have arisen regarding the Sri Lanka Ports Act and the conditions laid down by the Chinese company which is to control 80% of the port’s operations.
“The agreement has to be in line with the law of Sri Lanka. So the role of harbour masters has to stay with the Government, so should any customs-related activity,” Samarasinghe said.
He insisted that a PPP is imperative as the Government cannot afford the mounting interest and loan payments. Further, he said the Government was now slapped with an international arbitration case by the China Harbour Company for failure to repay the loan and interest taken to build the Sooriyawewa Cricket Stadium in Hambantota.
“We have handed the stadium to the Cricket Board but they don’t want it either. They have paid two instalments of the loan interest but the rest has not been paid. Now we have to manage this as well,” Samarasinghe said.
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