As President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa rushes to have the Port City Bill enacted in Parliament, new reports surface daily about how the project is riddled with conflicts of interest.
In addition to the raging conflicts over sovereignty and China’s outsized influence in the reclaimed island city it has constructed and now wants hefty tax breaks to operate, Government officials are sporting major conflicts of interest with family members and close associates functioning as employees and consultants on the Chinese side.
Last week, Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal admitted to reporters that his son, Chatura Cabraal had been an employee of China Harbour Engineering Corporation Port City since 2016.
Chatura Cabraal currently functions as Manager, Estate Management at Colombo Port City as a CHEC employee.
Also in the mix is a senior lawyer Shamalie Gunawardane, well-known as the paramour of Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera. Gunawardane is employed by CHEC Port City Colombo as “Senior Legal Consultant” based on her resume, available online. The same resume claims that Gunawardane served on the core group that developed a legal framework for the Port City Special Economic Zone. It is unclear why an employee of the same Chinese company that will reap the benefits of tax holidays and other major legal concessions was involved – by her own admission – in drafting the laws that will deliver these benefits to CHEC Port City.
Ironically – or perhaps obviously – Dr. P.B. Jayasundara is in the Supreme Court this week as an intervening petitioner in the cases challenging the Port City Bill.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that similar conflicts of interests are rampant across the Chinese run company, which has taken seemingly deliberate steps to recruit personnel with deep ties to the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration, working early to cement and secure these connections. Beijing already has at least two high level assets inside the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration. It remains unclear how many more agents of Beijing are scattered across the regime, working to leverage China’s interests in the island nation, the sources added.