COLOMBO:Sri Lanka and China appear to have cleared the decks for the continuation of China’s mega infrastructure projects in the island nation. Some of these projects have been mired in controversy leading to a suspension of two of them.
The visiting Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, has told his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that China is not at fault in the Colombo Port City project and that the halt called to it by the Lankan government is only temporary.
This was conveyed to the Lankan media in Beijing by the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liu Jianchao, on Thursday on the first day of Sirisena’s state visit to China.
“He (Sirisena) said that the issues over Port City are temporary. The problem does not lie with the Chinese side. The project will continue after things are sorted out,” Jianchao quoted Sirisena as telling Xi.
The US$ 1.5 billion Port City project has been objected to on several grounds, including environmental. It has been temporarily halted to enable the government to examine all the clearances given to the Chinese state-owned company executing the project.
Chinese officials warned that if the Lankan government cancels the project it will downgrade Lanka as a world investment destination. China itself has pumped US$ 5.3 billion into mega infrastructure projects in the island nation.
However, China is keen on staying put in Sri Lanka. Xi told Sirisena: “China wants to push forward. The two countries should genuinely help each other.”
Xi described Sirisena as an “old friend of the Chinese people,” reciprocating, Sirisena recalled that his first visit to China in 1983 was at the invitation of the Chinese Communist party. Despite the troubles faced by the Port City project and the Northern Highway project, Chinese companies from four provinces are currently in Lanka looking for trade and investment opportunities.