Sri Lanka not to renegotiate Hambantota Port agreement with China: president

Says he will ensure that security of the port lies with the Sri Lankan side

Xinhua December 20, 2019
A group of Sri Lankan visitors at the deep water shipping port watch Chinese dredging ships work in Hambantota. PHOTO: Reuters

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said he will not renegotiate the Hambantota Port agreement with China and will look to ensure that the security of the port lied with the Sri Lankan side.

Speaking to Colombo-based foreign correspondents at the Presidential Secretariat in the capital Colombo on Thursday, Rajapaksa said he would not renegotiate the commercial agreement of the project as that had already been signed, and he was studying to see if the entire security of the port was under Sri Lanka's control.

Rajapaksa said if additional clauses are needed to be inserted to reassure the security deal, then the government would go ahead with it.

"I am now not here to renegotiate the agreement as it is a commercial contract and I am not worried about the commercial aspect. But I am concerned about the security aspect as to whether there are any security lapses. That is what I am discussing with China," the president said.

Sri Lanka signs $1.1 billion China port deal

He further said he had conveyed these concerns to China through a visiting special Chinese envoy who visited Sri Lanka recently, and China too had agreed that the security aspects must be with the Sri Lankan government and they are ready to reassure the security deal.

The president further said that he would not renegotiate the 99-year lease agreement of the port, as this was purely commercial and he did not want to convey a message to investors that commercial agreements would change every time a new government was elected to power.

"I want Hambantota to be just like Colombo Port and all our other ports. We should have control over its security because this is Sri Lanka's asset," the president said.

Meanwhile, he said the Mattala International Airport, in close proximity to the Hambantota Port, would be developed by Sri Lanka so that it could be used as an alternate international airport in the future.

He dismissed plans of discussing the development of the airport with India, saying it would be developed by Sri Lanka alone.


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