19 July, 2024

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Release Of Port City Tripartite Agreement Will Disclose What Sri Lankan Citizens Have Lost

Concluding a four year hearing into an appeal brought under the RTI Act by environmentalists, the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka on Thursday 6 April, 2023, directed the release of the controversial Port City Tripartite Agreement (2016).

The directive was issued to the Ministry of Investment Promotion with orders to comply before 4 May, 2023. The Ministry and environmental activists were present before the Commission when the final order was delivered. 

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and a citizen, Mr M.A. Mansoor had asked for the Agreement signed by the Government of Sri Lanka and a Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Port City Colombo Ltd in 2016 to be publicly made available, arguing that its contents will disclose the serious disadvantages that Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans are subjected to, on the ‘Port City deal.’ 

This was supposed to establish a ‘new international financial city.’ However, environmentalists had argued that traditional fishing communities had been displaced by the filling of coastal areas, grave harm had been caused to the environment with proper environmental impact assessments reports not being done. Benefits to the Government or to citizens will be few, with the acreage released to the Chinese company being far greater than what Sri Lanka would retain. This will create only a playground for the corrupt ‘uber-rich’ they said.

The appeal hearing, one of the longest before the Commission, had involved several Public Authorities, including the Urban Development Authority (UDA). Midway through the hearings, the Presidential Secretariat had asked to intervene and had filed interventions in 2020/2021 attempting to continuously delay the appeal, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason. 

In late 2022, the Secretariat had withdrawn from the process, stating that the President’s Office was no longer involved.

Initially the UDA had stated that confidentiality clauses in the Agreement prevented its release. But, as environmental activists petitioning for the release of the Agreement told the media, Commissioner Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena in delivering the final order, had explained that the confidential clauses related only to information necessary for the development, operation and management of reclamation works. 

But the Ministry of Investment Promotion had been unable to establish which specific clauses of the Agreement should be kept confidential. This was despite the Commission giving several opportunities to the Ministry and the UDA during several years. 

Also, it had been observed that an earlier Tripartite Agreement between the UDA and CHEC in 2014 had already been released to the public following environmentalists going to court. As the Ministry had failed to indicate what specific reclamation work of the Port City is ‘ongoing’ regarding the 2016 Agreement, the Commission stated that it was unable to accept its explanations put forward to refuse the release and could not agree to further postponements.    

The Ministry of Investment Promotion has been given time to release the information by 4th May 2023. The Commission has informed that it will file a criminal prosecution in the Magistrate’s Court if the Ministry fails to comply. 

Colombo Telegraph understands from environmental groups involved in the struggle to make the 2016 Port City Tripartite Agreement public that several criminal prosecutions have already been filed in the Magistrates’ Court by the Commission against the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the Kelaniya University including others. 

These relate to failure of Public Authorities to obey the directives issued by the Commission. The power to prosecute has been given only to the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka, other Information Commissions in South Asia and other countries are limited to having the power to impose fines.

‘The Commission must act similarly if the Government fails to obey this order’, they say. The Ministry also has the option of appealing to the Court of Appeal against the Commission Order before the due date (4 May, 2023). 

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Truth will never come.

  • 7
    0

    What is the use and purpose to know what has already been “AGREED” and “LOST”?

    As always, in Sri Lanka, we close the stable once the horse has bolted away.

    In like manner, our Parliament is scheduled to “Debate” the “IMF AGREEMENT” which has already been “Agreed” and “Signed” by the Head of the State – the President. For how long, has the Opposition asked the Government to table this “Agreement” before being “Agreed”? But the Government claimed that it cannot be done because some of the terms in it are very “SECRETIVE” and would jeopardize reaching a consensus with the IMF. So, WHY this is now in Parliament to “Debate” and waste money and time? The only answer is: That is the “SYSTEM” in Sri Lanka.

    • 3
      0

      The port city tripartite as well as the IMF agreements should be placed before the people as well as in Parliament for the country outside the government to decide whether the Government had acted correctly and prudently in the best interest of the country as a whole or there are some hidden provisions that are unfavorable to the country in the long term. The government, the cabinet and the government parliamentary group would have understood the implications of all the terms and conditions and therefore they are collectively responsible and be able to defend their actions without engaging in blame game and answer every probing question put forward by those outside.

      This is a litmus test for the government.

      Will they take it up like gentlemen?

  • 4
    0

    Before the 2014 elections, Ranil and the Yahapalanaya crowd went round the country swearing to abrogate the agreement. Sirasa too played a big part. But it all came to naught when the heavy penalties attached were pointed out. Shameless Sirasa even organized a brick collection campaign for some sort of monument in Port City.
    The bankrupt have no bargaining power. The bankrupt have no sovereignty.

  • 3
    0

    The Mahasangha protests about sovereignty whenever the 13th Amendment is to be discussed. Why do they not protest when land is handed over to the Chinese or the IMF imposes conditions on Sri Lanka?

  • 0
    0

    Many of us were well aware of some of the things we would lose by the imposition of Port City, & registered our protests time & time again over the years as soon as we came to know about it.

    The most recent letter of several I sent to the press can be read in the Financial Times at:
    https://www.ft.lk/Opinion-and-Issues/the-new-port-city/14-388543

    Leading politicians of all parties have sold our birthright for their own selfish, petty,

  • 0
    0

    Many of us were well aware of some of the things we would lose by the imposition of Port City, & registered our protests time & time again over the years as soon as we came to know about it.

    The most recent letter of several I sent to the press can be read in the Financial Times at:
    https://www.ft.lk/Opinion-and-Issues/the-new-port-city/14-388543

    Leading politicians of all parties have sold our birthright for their own selfish, petty, even criminal ends.

    • 0
      0

      Manel
      Knowing how we arrived at the Port City idea will be useful before we go judgmental.
      It was a bad idea, for it will drag the country further in the direction that JRJ wanted to. We will depend heavily on external players to the extent that we become highly vulnerable to the vagaries of capital markets.

  • 0
    0

    Manel Fonseka,
    ii went through the link, but not impressed by your writing. Actually what is happening now at the port city.
    Was the expectation at that time was even partly fulfilled.?
    Ranil is now on a deafening silence mode. Why this secrecy?
    Is there a way out?

  • 3
    1

    As an outsider please allow me to offer the following:-
    *
    This will never be released – very powerful people have too much to lose. The whole “Port City” is nothing but Theft, Fraud, Corruption and most likely Treason (selling out your country for money is Treason in my book).
    *
    Ranil is not elected – he was appointed. As such he has no mandate – anyone with a shred of decency and honour would have called an Election to obtain a mandate from the People. This is called Democracy – something that no longer exists in Sri Lanka imho.
    *
    Ranil is nothing but a WEF puppet. The WEF is Pure Evil – you don’t want what they are selling!
    *
    If you search you will find a video called “In the future you will own nothing – and you’ll be happy” – has been scrubbed from the WEF website for obvious reasons.
    *
    The only way forward is to get rid of all of your current Politicians – every last one needs to be voted out imho.

  • 0
    0

    “selling out your country for money is Treason in my book”
    Selling out for anything else?
    *
    What was the UK sold out for to the US? Today it simply echoes the US.

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