Colombo: Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa clarified his stand on the current government leasing out land to a Chinese company in the country’s Hambantota Port area to build a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the media reported on Wednesday.
The port in Hambantota was built with a Chinese loan of US$ 1.4 billion during the former President’s tenure and named The Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port. The first phase was opened in November 2010.
The current Sri Lankan government has inked a deal with a Chinese company to transfer 80 percent stake of the port to them.
In a media release, Rajapaksa said, “The new government made some unwise decisions. Firstly, they disregard the management contract for the Hambantota container terminal entered into by my government with China Harbour Co and China Merchant Co.”
He also said, “A 99 year lease impinges on Sri Lanka’s sovereign rights because a foreign company will enjoy the rights of the landlord over the 2,000 hectare free port while operating the entire harbour as well.”
According to media reports, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that only 1,235 acres of land will be given from Hambanthota and the rest of the 15,000 acres from other districts in the south such as Moneragala and Matara.
Rajapaksa’s supporters had gathered at the site during the inauguration of the SEZ on Sunday to protest. Later, the police had to use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters who claimed they were attacked by the ruling party’s supporters, media reported.
Image: Mahinda Rajapaksa Twitter