Justice Minister, Ali Sabry, PC, yesterday, April 18, flatly rejected claims that the Port City would be a ‘Chinese Colony’ governed by China. Minister Sabry also denied that 43 per cent of the Port City’s land area will be given as an outright grant to China.
“The entire land area of the Port City belongs to Sri Lanka,” the Minister told a news briefing held to explain the legal background of the Port City project at the Government Information Department.
He said the present Government will always act in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka and will not go against the Supreme Court rulings.
Minister Sabry said, “Special Economic Zones are not a new concept. Sri Lanka cannot move ahead without foreign investment. The competition for investment is high at present. Therefore, we established this project to get down more investors and fast track investments. Our main intention is to bring in more Foreign Direct Investments”.
The Minister pointed out that Sri Lanka is at the 99th place of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. “The complexity of the approval procedures discourages investors. Sri Lanka has been seeking a one-stop shop to facilitate investors for years now. The Port City is the best resolution for those issues,” he added.
Out of this US$ 1.4 billion initial investment for Port City, Sri Lanka expects an income of US$ 15 billion after the completion, he said. Out of the entire 269 hectares reclaimed land area, nine per cert has been allocated for common facilities such as roads and parking, 116 hectares (43 per cent) for the Chinese company and the rest for the Sri Lankan Government.
“These 116 hectares have been leased out for 99 years with the concurrence of the previous governments of Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena,” he said.
The Minister also said the Sri Lankan General Law and the Criminal Law will be effective within this new territory as the land area belongs to the Colombo Administrative District.
Accordingly, the Sri Lankan Government has total control over the Port City and can take over the lands in case of a violation of the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Megapolis Ministry, Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Chinese Company in 2016.
The UDA has to express its consent even when the lands leased out to China are sub-leased to a third party, the Minister noted.
“The parties criticizing the project are just creating a bogeyman. This is the turning point of the country’s development drive. It is an occasion to celebrate,” the Justice Minister also said.
Parliamentarian Jayantha Weerasinghe, PC addressing the media said there is disinformation over the controversial Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill.
He said as per a letter sent to the President’s Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara by Attorney General, Dappula de Livera on March 24, the provisions of the Bill are not inconsistent with the Sri Lankan Constitution. According to the provisions of this Bill, the Commission becomes the sole authority to take decisions with regard to the functioning of the Port City. Powers to appoint and remove the Chairman and the Members of the Commission are vested with the Sri Lankan President and there is no provision that makes it compulsory to appoint foreigners rather than Sri Lankans to the Commission, he added.
Financial transactions of the Commission should be audited by an internationally recognised company on an annual basis and the report should be submitted to the President and the Parliament, he said.
He also pointed out that regulations enacted with regard to the Port City should be presented before Parliament for its approval and no regulation(s) would be effective if rejected by Parliament.
“This is a great opportunity to benefit our citizens. We have to make the maximum use of it. It is sad that the Opposition is purposely attempting to mislead the public on this issue,” he also noted.