Jan 07, Colombo: Sri Lanka Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a group of people including Joint Opposition parliamentarians protesting the launch of Southern Development Project in Hambantota today.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning launching the Southern Development Project laid the foundation stone for the Hambantota Industrial Zone at a ceremony held at the Mirijjawila Board of Investment (BOI) premises.
Yesterday, the Hambantota Magistrate's Court on a request made by the police issued a restraining order against 27 parties banning protests, demonstrations and meetings for the next 14 days in the area near the southern port.
However, the protesters including Buddhist monks and opposition MPs disregarding the court order staged a protest march against the government's deal with the Chinese investors to hand over the 80 percent stake of the Hambanthota Port and the land for an industrial zone. It has been reported that the protesters pelted stones at the opening.
The government also has agreed to lease another 15,000 acres in Hambantota district and adjoining Moneragala district for the industrial zone and the protesters are against the government's decision claiming that the government is plannning to take over private land.
However, the Prime Minister yesterday said that only 1,235 acres of land will be given from Hambantota to the Chinese companies for investment and 95 percent of the land is state land and only 5 percent is privately owned lands for which the owners will be provided a reasonable compensation for their damages or loss of lands.
The government says the framework agreement for a 99-year lease of the Hambantota port with a Chinese company was necessary to make the Chinese-financed port and the nearby airport, both of which are running at a heavy loss, viable.