Colombo, Dec 16 (NIA) – Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapakse has been accused of adopting a ‘double standard’ on the new Chinese industrial zone which is to be set up in the southern coast of Hambantota, early next year.
Rajapakse, who was a key ally of China, when he was President, has now been accused of assuring one thing to China but saying something else to the people of Hambantota in order to disrupt key development projects in the southern area.
Deputy Minister of Power and Energy and senior United National Party Parliamentarian, Ajith Perera said that Rajapakse had, during his recent visit to China, assured Chinese leaders that he would corporate in setting up the industrial zone in Hambantota for Chinese investments. However Perera said that he was saying the complete opposite, to the people in Hambantota, thereby creating trouble in the area.
“If he continues this, he will lose his credibility. Mahinda Rajapakse is still a very good friend of China, but he is saying one thing to the Chinese and another thing to the people in Hambantota. If he continues this he is going to lose China as a friend,” Perera said.
Last week, hundreds of temporary port employees protested at the Hambantota Port against the government’s decision to lease 80 percent of the Port to a Chinese company and demanded that they be recruited into the permanent cadre before the agreement takes place.
The protesters, had held hostage for four days a large Japanese vessel docked at the Port and obstructed it from its onward journey to Oman. The Sri Lanka Navy were called in to free the ship and restore normalcy in Port operations.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the government had received a 400,000 dollar bill from the Shipping company as the loss incurred by the vessel for a day amounted to 100,000 dollars.
The Premier questioned as to who was going to pay the bill.
Government legislators have clearly pointed fingers at opposition parliamentarians who are backed by Rajapakse for being involved in the strike.
However after a warning by Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, that the protesters would lose their jobs if they did not report to work on Thursday, the protest was called off after nine days, severely damaging Sri Lanka’s reputation with global shipping giants.
Ever since the hostage crisis, no foreign ship has arrived at the Hambantota Port.
“Sri Lanka is a democratic country and anyone has a right to protest. But this protest was unsuccessful and we were able to get an upper hand and restore normalcy,” Perera said.
Meanwhile the Minister insisted that the 15,000 acre economic zone, to be set up in Hambantota as part of the government’s southern development project would be beneficial to the country and the economy.
“Thousands of jobs will be created and the country will receive a lot of foreign investments. The country will benefit from the joint venture between the Sri Lankan government and China Merchant and we look forward to working closely with China,” Perera said.
He also rubbished claims by the opposition that public assets were being sold, stating clearly that the government would do no such thing.
Commenting on the protests which the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna said would take place next month against the government’s decision to ‘sell’ lands to the Chinese, Perera said that this would not have any impact on the Chinese investors or the government.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said on Thursday that a permanent naval base would be set up near the Hambantota Port and an air force base near the Mattala Airport for the security of the harbour.
Wickremesinghe said several countries, including China had asked for this arrangement.
“It is essential especially after the construction of oil bunkering, refinery and ship building facilities are set up in the area,” he said.