26 November, 2020

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Port City Project: The Investor’s Interest Cannot Supersede Sri Lanka’s National Interest

By Javid Yusuf

 Javid Yusuf

Javid Yusuf

The Port City Project has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in the media in the past several weeks. The discussion has primarily centred round the issues of whether the proper procedures and approvals have been followed as well as the impact on the environment which is likely to result from this massive project.

Absent from the discussion has been the more fundamental issue of whether this Port City is something that the country needs. This is a 575.7 acre project out of which 420 acres are to be used for commercial purposes while the rest will be utilized for infrastructure. Out of the 420 acres, 266 acres (that is more than half the extent set apart for commercial purposes) will be given to the Chinese of which 50 acres will be given outright and the balance 216 acres on a 99 year lease.

According to media reports, retail businesses, residential, business and entertainment locations and public recreational areas will be built on the reclaimed land which will become the Port City. Casinos, Formula One racing tracks, a World Class performance Hall and shopping malls are some of the other “attractions” to be included in the development of the reclaimed land.

Port CityIn other words the Port City will be a different world to the one in which ordinary Sri Lankans live. The facilities and rest of the infrastructure will have no meaning or direct benefit to the vast mass of the people of the country.

In coming to a conclusion with regard to the question whether Sri Lanka needs the Port City to be built on reclaimed land what we need to first ask ourselves is whether all the above facilities are absolutely essential for the wellbeing of our country and our people. If the answer is in the affirmative then the logical question that ensues thereafter is whether these very same facilities cannot be built in the land mass that surrounds Colombo City at much less cost and with far less adverse environmental impact.

If a rigorous evaluation is done and the conclusion is arrived at that the Port City as currently envisaged is absolutely essential for the country’s development , then a thorough examination of all the environmental concerns in relation to the project will have to be made. It has to be remembered that the project will require a reversal of nature and a consequential impact on the environment some of which can be predicted while other consequences may not be possible to anticipate. In fact several environmentalists have drawn attention to the possible destruction of marine life and other environmental hazards.

Anyone interested in acquainting oneself with the possible environmental hazards caused by the creation of artificial islands need only google for the consequences of the Palm Island project in the UAE to understand a few of the risks inherent in the implementation of the Colombo Port City Project.

The irreversible nature of this process may result in a great deal of irreparable damage to the environment and disastrous consequences to the citizens who live along the coastal areas of the Western Province in particular and the country in general. If and when such damages occur it will be well nigh impossible to mitigate the damage.

Questions have also been raised as to the quality of the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by the University of Moratuwa. According to reports, amazingly the EIA has stated that the Project has no impact on the environment. According to these reports no marine biologist was in the team to assess the impact on marine life which is a necessity for a project in the sea.

Further the EIA does not touch on where the Project will obtain the 16 million cubes of granite required and the impact of such excavation of granite.

Another aspect that needs to be looked at is the social impact of such a project. Deputy Minister of Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion Eran Wickramaratne has pointed out that within 10 to 15 years there would be about 300,000 people using the land that would constitute the Port City. This would amount to about half the current population of Colombo and major issues relating to transport, water supply and sewerage would arise according to the Deputy Minister.

Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion Minister Kabir Hashim has also pointed out that the project implementation lacks transparency and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority has no mandate to implement the project. In fact sufficient and necessary information with regard to the project has not been placed in the public domain. Unfortunately there was no Right to Information Law in the statute books during the time the Project was conceived and formulated for those interested to obtain the necessary information on the Project.

Concerns have been raised by some that a review and reversal of the Colombo Port City Project will result in loss of confidence among foreign investors. This is unlikely to be so if the Government is able to explain to the world the reasons for such a step to be taken. However, in any event, it must be remembered that at all times the National Interest must prevail over the interest of Investors.

Another view that has been expressed is that any decision taken to cancel the project will adversely affect our relations with China. While China will definitely be concerned if the Project is stopped, this cannot deter us from doing what is best for the country. As a long standing and consistent friend of Sri Lanka China will have to show understanding of our concerns and that this is part of an overall review of the mega projects started by the previous administration and not a singling out of Chinese projects.

China has been one of Sri Lanka’s strongest allies in the international arena ever since the rubber rice pact days. In more recent times China has assisted the country in its efforts to defeat the LTTE. Sri Lanka has relied heavily on China to keep other sections of the international community at bay with regard to the allegations of human rights abuses in the last days of the military campaign against the LTTE.

Being such a strong friend of Sri Lanka, there is every likelihood that China can be persuaded to see the whole issue from Sri Lanka’s perspective and every effort must be made to ensure that China displays the necessary understanding if the Port City project has to be stopped.

The Company which has undertaken the Port City Project would have known the risks in undertaking the project without all the approvals being in place as well as the political context in which the project was being undertaken. Even if Sri Lanka ends up having to pay some compensation to the said Company for scrapping the project it would be a price worth paying to prevent the unquantifiable harm that could result to Sri Lanka and its people if the Project goes ahead without the exercise of the necessary due diligence which has been absent from the inception of the Project.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    3

    “Being such a strong friend of Sri Lanka, there is every likelihood that China can be persuaded to see the whole issue from Sri Lanka’s perspective and every effort must be made to ensure that China displays the necessary understanding if the Port City project has to be stopped.”

    I am not sure China will in fact understand.

    However, due to the long relationship China has had with Sri Lanka, the Chinese Government should have known, that the Medamulanas, were a gang of thieves, and that before they signed any investment agreement amounting to nearly 2 billion dollars, they should have insisted on ensuring full transparency by informing all political parties, the full results of the feasibility studies, impact on environment, and of the contractual terms.

    By virtue of their active complicity to hide these from the Sri Lankan public, the Chinese Government has forfeited its right to insist on compliance by the Sri Lank government – indeed it has lost any kind of right to compensation.

    My gut feeling is that particulars mentioned above were hidden from the Public because the project was inimical to the interests of the Country. I would recommend that the project be scrapped, and take China to the some International Court, to order them to restore the land to the condition in which they received it.

  • 3
    3

    The project will start within weeks.

    Buying time until the state visit is over.

    Already USD 300 mn spent. It will cost at least USD 500 mn – USD 1000 mn to pay compensation to the Chinese and to remove the rocks.

  • 5
    3

    When the CHINA PORT CITY is running at full blast with Jarapassa’s paid Commission,
    Are they going to allow flying over the city only to Mihin Air and Sajin Vass Air.????????????.
    [ As compliments to Robber Barons].

    ANOTHER BIG PROBLEMEN ????????.
    What about the Sri Lankan national Flag fixing on the Highest Tower and
    Will the Our Moda MOolana Patriot Politicians and Jarapassa Patriots Object to the Singing of or national anthem in CHONESE ??????????????????? .
    With out those, Our National PRIDE will go Under the Toilet Basin!!!!!.
    or under the Kurakkan Saataka Amude !!!!!.

    By the way,
    For the CHINA PORT CITY consumption of water, Are they importing from China and
    Are they Taking Back the sewerages and Garbage To China??????.

    Because always foreigners Bring Some useless things and Garbages to leave Here and Our people take them with Fat commissions and open hands,
    they give those to us with a tackle attached for decades solve and make our people go mad with those Problems and gone to kill each other.
    [ I am not referring to the State Tamil problem]

  • 1
    5

    “Another view that has been expressed is that any decision taken to cancel the project will adversely affect our relations with China. While China will definitely be concerned if the Project is stopped, this cannot deter us from doing what is best for the country. As a long standing and consistent friend of Sri Lanka China will have to show understanding of our concerns and that this is part of an overall review of the mega projects started by the previous administration and not a singling out of Chinese projects.

    “China has been one of Sri Lanka’s strongest allies in the international arena ever since the rubber rice pact days. In more recent times China has assisted the country in its efforts to defeat the LTTE. Sri Lanka has relied heavily on China to keep other sections of the international community at bay with regard to the allegations of human rights abuses in the last days of the military campaign against the LTTE.

    “Being such a strong friend of Sri Lanka, there is every likelihood that China can be persuaded to see the whole issue from Sri Lanka’s perspective and every effort must be made to ensure that China displays the necessary understanding if the Port City project has to be stopped.”

    This is a mega infrastructural project in which the Chinese govt itself has keen interest.This was shown from remonstrations by top Chinese officials including the new Chinese Ambassador in Colombo.That the Chinese President brought it up as his opening gambit in official discussions was not lost on the visiting President who responded saying the stoppage was “temporary” and absolving China of any blame.That was setting aside the corruption charge which his Finance Minister spoke of repeatedly,virtually implicating the Chinese side.Bilateral friendship apart,against my China background, I am constrained to say that Chinese side would not permit Sri Lankan govt to to get away without extracting every advantage for it using every trump card in their hand including very touchy issues to SL like Chinese cooperation in the international field.
    Yes, there may be readiness for some give and take on the existing Colombo Port City project but not China accepting to completely “loose face” on it. One redeeming factor is that China would not want to completely abandon interest in SL as a infrastructurral development destination.The indication of interest in building an industrial park behind the newly constructed Hambantota Port fits into the China Maritime Silk Road project of which some details were disclosed by the Chinese President at he BOAO Forum in Hainan island.

    Bandu de Silva

  • 5
    2

    “Javid Yusuf”,
    Your island/illam is speck in the ocean of money market. Less than $10 billion go borrow it form a local bank or rich man in the world- STUPIDS
    Don’t you have Concepts of the world we are in Common market than religion or bigotry???
    Don’t waste time on dead ducks projects- lanka the plantation island have 2 options
    port city, casino, prostitute, heroin from muslim country, guns for terrorist – filth and end up like subic bay.
    Or use the funds to start ant industries even without government- but the muslim cant think except squat on USAID in the north.
    The port city is a sitting dead duck- that was only an initial understanding so the Chinese used the singapore plan as a base and left it for 2 things
    The Silk route has always come via rome to cochin then the jews, then the arabs then the portugese and then the Brits.( all works of art in the british museum indicate that)
    Above all Cochin is the interaction of Chinese fishing nets.

    When Xi called over at India on official visit (before his men spent 6 weeks at Cochin0 Modi because of security threat posed by terrorist Muslim ( Indian fishermen are not allowed to carry mobile phones) was quick to take Xi within an hour of his arrival to Ahamdabad sign a sister city deal for IT to IT manufacture city China then he Took him to Surat (this is where the refugee Iranians/Parses arrived- like TATA) and signed a port city development (if need be with china).

    Both knew the Silk train was cheaper, cleaner faster (russia, german, China Spain rail worked on this together) and by 9th the train arrived at Madrid 50 carriges maiden voyage with electronic goods at least 5 carriages was for China town Madrid the boiggest of Europe and it left with the best of cured Jammon, Olive Oil Wine, Brandy, Port to China in time for Chinese New year.
    Now this train is being given the bullet touch by Europe and China- Europe is investing in China Sovereign Bank equal to World Bank.

    Silk route via SARC is Out because of muslim terror. Europe, China, Russia Have the muslim problem – they will be settled very soon- its all planned don’t spread legs too far the others have limits too.

    from 48 Pakistan would not let the gas line from Iran to go to India. Whiy because Islam of the middle east is fu**ing god..
    Today Russia and china for the fist time have finally negotiated a Gas deal so that China does not have to go via Pacific or Middle east – its the biggest and more than Europe supply from 2 lines siberia,…

    Russia-China Gas deal- 30 year agreement from 2018.
    Upto 68 bcm of gas per year delivered
    Price $350-400 per c.m.- Altai pipeline, Siberia pipeline
    The construction of the extended line would be complete before 2018.

    President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. The agreement paves the way for a contract that would make China the biggest consumer of Russian gas.

    Russia’s so-called “western” or “Altay” route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China.

    The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May.

    READ MORE: Putin breaks ground on Russia-China gas pipeline, world’s biggest (VIDEO)

    “After we have launched supplies via the “western route,” the volume of gas deliveries to China can exceed the current volumes of export to Europe,” Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller told reporters, commenting on the deal.

    Speaking to journalists on the eve of his visit to Beijing, Putin was optimistic about prospects for the new gas deal with China.

    “We have reached an understanding in principle concerning the opening of the western route,” Putin said. “We have already agreed on many technical and commercial aspects of this project, laying a good basis for reaching final arrangements.”

    The “western” route deal is one of the 17 agreements signed at the Sunday meeting between Putin and Xi.

    They also included a framework agreement between Gazprom and China’s CNPC on gas deliveries and a memorandum of understanding between Gazprom and another Chinese energy giant, CNOOC.

    Gazprom and CNPC have also signed a preliminary agreement for China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development to take a 10 percent stake in Russia’s Vancorneft.

    Among the business issues discussed by Putin and Xi at their fifth meeting this year was the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals military, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by RIA Novosti
    http://rt.com/business/203679-china-russia-gas-deal/

  • 3
    2

    This type of ‘China Towns’ are operated in complete contravention to the Laws of the land in most of the host countries that I know of. Once established the Local Police will have no control of it’s environ which will be solely in the hands of the Mafias that run it. Besides overburdening our resources of drinking water for the folk in the Capital, will also encroach on the supply of Electricity. Then the disposal of solid waste will be heaped on the mainland again adding to the woes we already have.

    Could someone explain whether our Jurisdiction would encompass this ‘China Town’? Will we ordinary citizens have to get permission to enter or will be debarred?

    For this crime alone the Rajapaksas should be made to sit on the spikes of the newly constructed round about at the Galle Face in front of the Old Parliament. There are twelve spikes, four sets of threes for the whole family.

    • 3
      2

      China Town -Madrid is controlled by law-
      Its not UK its clean.
      Lankans want to chew more than they can.
      to top that they are racist & religious crusaders- and cannot get that resolved.
      your passport has no value.
      Are SL just hoodwinking the world with their DPL passports and smuggling heroin??
      5000 DPL passport how many more??

    • 4
      1

      the problem is SL are now a gang of boasters- the BBc commentators like 365 days sun so they praise.
      working class low budget uk tourist who come home and say `we are still the empire over there. Lankans open doors for filthy cheap suddha pukka but when a qualified simple Lankan with dollars to spend arrive they either ignore or abuse.
      Lankans have low IQ. Bell curve less than 50 for 90 % of population.
      Who sends your mums to medival middle east- 600 k.who advertises youg boys in Eu magazines??
      Blessed island??
      People are mad if they think Buddhism is spreading in Europe
      when pews are empty.
      Yoga is the vogue in the west but not Hinduism- thankfully Hindu is not as stupid as other religion because its not a religion.
      Not the three fold path of the Buddha but the 4th is now catching on.
      Mindfulness – especially food intake. – its business and health of a nation with obesity.

  • 2
    3

    Investor interests can supersede national interests … thats fine as long as its lawful. That said it can’t supersede national security or be in any way beyond the law (e.g. through corruption or other breaches). In a liberal economy investors and tax payers are always at odds with each other and that’s just fine.

  • 2
    2

    Port City or Colombo China Town is illegally conceived and implemented project initiated by corrupt Rajapakses and cunning China. The Rajapakses have betrayed
    the sovereignty and territorial integrity of SriLanka by offering or selling illegally 20 hectares on outright ( sinnskkara ) basis and leasing 108 hectare for 99 years to China. In that 128 hectares Srilanka has no authority whatsoever. This deal has no parliamentary approval or has not given any opportunity to be debated. By using the all powerful executive power Rajapakse has got approval only from his dummy cabinet who raised hand for any thing without any queries.

  • 1
    3

    Yes, national interest must take precedence. However, at times investors interest can be in the interest of the nation also – in such instances we should not allow political confusion to derail investments. Owing to political instability and acts such as questioning each and every project started by the previous regime without valid reasons has lead to even the stock market losing Rs. 280 billion in value since January 8th. The Chinese company that is doing the Port City Project has informed the public through the media that they obtained all the necessary approvals including the EIA. But the present Government has not informed the public what is the irregularity that they are talking about? and HE the President, PM and Minsters are saying contradictory statements. Surely after over 2 months in power and given the priority with which the Port City Project was being discussed can not the Government make a proper statement? Mr.Javid’s reasoning is also on the assumption that proper approvals including the EIA may not be in place. Also, we are not privy to what controls/exclusions have been included in the agreement to protect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and security, etc. Surely such controls must be basic requirements. All these doubts can be cleared if the Government can publicise the agreement (not sure if there are any legal impediments to doing so)and the Government makes a clear statement on the issues that are there. China is not a fair weather friend to be treated like this and we can ill afford get them on the wrong side for reasons that should be obvious.

  • 1
    1

    Mr.Javid Yusuf what a beautiful analysis of the subject and we Sri Lankans should all cry out loud “STOP THE PROJECT IMMEDIATELY” if we love our motherland. It was recently reported in a local newspaper that the skies above the land leased to China will be foreign to Sri Lanka and I presume the Chinese will also benefit from the 200 mile maritime boundary being so their ships and fishing boats could come at their beck and call . Sri Lanka will have no authority to stop these movements.
    China had leased out Hong Kong to the British and we all know how Britain used that land as an outpost for the Brits until China reclaimed it.

    • 1
      1

      The Rajapakses were heavily bribed by the Chinese in a project they have calculated for long term military (land, sea and aerial) plans against nearby India’s security interests. If cancellation involves
      compensation to the Chinese there is always that small saving of $680 million lying safely in a Dubai Bank to the credit of the Princes that the Fraud Committee can lay their hands on. How the Princes came across this booty, of course, is yet another question notably the good Sinhala Buddhists of this country should know about.

      Incidentally, rumour is the former Maldivian President, now in custody, has stated some of the cache of ammunition he was caught with came from younowho? This can be juicy news to the UN/Americans keen to catch arms smugglers and their supply rings.

      Backlash

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