H’tota Port 99-year Lease Extendable
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out the previous Government had awarded the Hambantota Port to China not only on a 99-year lease, but also on an extension of another 99-year lease, as explained in the clauses of the agreement between the two countries.
He said, “There is a provision for a further 99-year extension of the lease.” “As we are implementing our policies giving much attention to all countries, the previous Government made a mistake on the Hambantota Port deal when they cancelled the lease and gave it on a longer period of 99 years plus another 99 years once the first term ends,” he added.
When asked whether that is mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), he responded, in an exclusive interview with Ceylon Today, “Yes. It says the 99-year lease can extend for a further period. Which means it can go on for any number of years after 99 years or for another 99 years.”
The Minister did not respond directly to the question whether the MoU could be corrected or that clause can be removed but his response was that China has been a friendly country and China waited for 200 years to get Hong Kong back and that even now they are struggling as some say the sovereignty of Hong Kong is not with China.
He added that Sri Lanka should stand by China on these key issues. On the geopolitics engaging Sri Lanka, China, India, Japan, the Foreign Minister noted that Sri Lanka-India ties are at a very high level and further noted that the President visited India and Prime Minister of India Modi also held long discussions with the leadership. “We are going ahead with most of the work that has been agreed upon. There have been some setbacks and changes in some issues.”
He also mentioned that the Japanese have expressed their concerns over revoking the Light Rail Transmission project. “Japan did express it should not have been handled that way. We have also explained and the both countries economic assistance would continue as usual and we grow in an expanding economy. Now all countries are looking at us for investments. The President has invited all private investors to come,” he added.