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* No plans to sell Hambanthota Port to China, only leasing - PM
Thu, Apr 6, 2017, 12:00 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 06, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says no plan has been drawn to sell the Hambantota harbor to a Chinese company.

"There is no preliminary draft regarding handing over the Hambanthota Port to anyone," the Premier said addressing the parliament Wednesday. He said the discussions are now on going to reach an agreement to operate the southern Port as a China-Sri Lanka joint venture.

The Prime Minister said during his visit to China he conveyed to the Chinese government that Sri Lanka cannot pay the loans taken by the previous government for the port and requested the loan to be written-off. The Chinese government has then suggested a China-Sri Lanka joint venture to operate the Southern Port, the Premier explained.

The Premier revealed these facts in response to a question raised by parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma.

He said the former Rajapakse regime had given the Hambantota harbor project outright to the Chinese company. However, there is a new agreement between the two governments now and the government has taken it back under a leasing system.

He said the government has to pay back $3.6 billion of debt taken during the previous regime and the government's aim is to provide relief to the people by minimizing the debt burden.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that the government agency that signed the agreement with the Chinese company was the Port Authority while it Urban Development Authority should be the responsible authority. "We need to appoint another committee to find why the Port Authority signed the agreement," he said.

The Premier promised to submit a report to the House on the agreement with China after reaching a final decision.


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