by Shiran Illanperuma
Colombo, December. 8 (Xinhua): Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said Saturday that his government is looking forward to continuing to develop friendly relations with China.
“The two countries enjoy a strong, long-standing friendship, which has laid the foundation for practical cooperation,” Rajapaksa, who assumed office on Nov. 21, told Xinhua in an interview during his visit to the Colombo Port City, a project jointly developed by the Sri Lankan government and China’s CHEC Port City Colombo Ltd.
Rajapaksa visited the project along with Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan and other government officials to officially declare the 269 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea for the project as part of the Colombo district.
The new prime minister said his government will never forget China’s strong and long-term support for Sri Lanka’s development.
He said that he did not believe that Sri Lanka’s engagement with the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative amounted to a “debt-trap” as portrayed by some Western media.
“We are very confident that Sri Lanka can very clearly repay the loans for the Hambantota Port and other development projects. Today, the economy has collapsed but when we rebuild it, paying back loans won’t be a question,” Rajapaksa said.
The prime minister also described a recent spate of media hyping of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remarks on Hambantota Port deal as “quoting out of context.”
“The President didn’t mean there is any problem about sovereignty. What the President meant was that our government, unlike the previous one, has a principle of not privatizing assets,” he said.
“If Sri Lanka and China have any problems, we can easily discuss and resolve them as friends,” Rajapaksa said.
According to a statement by the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka on Dec.2, the two countries have agreed to further strengthen political trust between the two countries and upgrade their pragmatic cooperation.
The two countries will speed up the implementation of cooperation on big projects, including the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, under the existing consensus, and on that basis draw up and promote a new blueprint for future cooperation, the statement said.
(The featured image of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa above is by Tang Lu)