Colombo: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday said he opposes the government’s decision to give land in the southern sea port of Hambantota to China for the development of a special economic zone (SEZ).
His statement came after the inauguration of SEZ in Hambantota amidst violent protests by Rajapaksa supporters. Rajapaksa said in a statement that government’s plan to grant 15,000 acres cannot be justified when 2000 acres of land around the port were to be utilised by the Chinese in terms of his government’s agreement with China.
He said the Hambantota port was meant to be a free port and the loan taken by his government was to be repaid through the revenue gained from the Ports Authority operations.
“The new government made some unwise decisions. Firstly they disregard the management contract entered into by my government” he said. He adds that current government’s framework agreement with China Merchant Company to lease out the port for 99 years. “No other income will accrue to the Ports Authority for 15 years,” he added.
He stresses the 99-year lease agreement impinges on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. Rajapaksa supporters protested against the ceremony to launch the SEZ on Sunday. The police used water cannon and tear gas to quell the protest amidst claims by the Rajapaksa backers that ruling party supporters had attacked them. Over 30 people were arrested for the riot including a Buddhist monk. They have been kept under remand custody.