By P. K. Balachandran/newsin.asia
Colombo, January 13: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday assured representatives of Port Trade Unions that the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) in the Colombo Port will not be sold or leased out.
The President, who met representatives of the port unions, made it clear that the plan is to develop the ECT as an investment project that has 51% ownership by the Government of Sri Lanka and the remaining 49% as an investment by India’s Adani Group and other stakeholders.
Explaining the participation of India, the President said that India contributes 66% of the ECT’s re-export operations. 9% of re-exports is accounted for by Bangladesh and the rest by several other countries.
The previous led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to sell the ECT to India, the President recalled and added that the agreement envisaged obtaining a loan from Japan after sale and purchase of construction equipment with the loan money.
The President pointed out that after his government negotiated with India on the contract, it was possible to reach an agreement to where in Sri Lanka will retain 51% of the ownership and the control of the terminal under the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
The President said that ECT Development was planned after reviewing all the factors, including regional geopolitical concerns, sovereignty of the country, revenue earning and employment generation potential.
He explained that the Eastern Terminal will be “sustainably developed” under the investment program. The President asked the trade union representatives to submit their proposals and ideas on this program.
He further said that he intends to hand over the operation of the West Container Terminal to the Ports Authority and stressed the importance of submitting plans for the development of the port by trade union representatives.
The President reiterated that he would not allow any harm to come to the sovereignty or independence of the country when investments are arranged. He pointed out that the previous government had leased the Hambantota Port to the government of China for 99 years. After coming to power, the present government, in consultation with China, took over the responsibility for the security of the Hambantota Port in to its hands, President pointed out.
Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, the Head of the Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation, said that the expansion of operations in the Eastern Terminal would create a large number of jobs. He further said that the present government had completely stopped plans mooted by the previous government to sell the Mattala Airport and the Norochcholai Power Plant.