Sri Lanka says China to be consulted on any project re-think
February 27, 2015 05:53 pm
Sri Lanka will not make any decision on Chinese projects it is reviewing until it consults China, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister said on Friday, pledging that his new government would welcome Chinese investors.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that China has invested in, including a $1.5 billion “port city” project in Colombo.
India, which lost out to China in infrastructure development on the Indian Ocean island, was in particular worried about the security threat posed by Chinese ownership of land, aggravated by the docking of Chinese submarines in Colombo last year.
Last week, Sri Lanka said it would reconsider the outright transfer of a parcel of land to China under the port city deal signed by the previous government, amid concern it could be used for by the Chinese navy.
Speaking in Beijing after meeting his Chinese counterpart, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said he did not discuss the port issue directly, and the government was not only looking into Chinese projects.
“Anything relating to Chinese investment will be shared and discussed with the government of China before we take any final decision,” Samaraweera told a news conference, citing what he told his Chinese counterpart.
Sri Lanka will always welcome Chinese investment and it would now be an even safer place in which to invest, he said.
“We are trying to ensure that there is a level playing field for all investors and a conducive environment for investment based on the restoration of the rule of law, democracy, good governance and transparency,” Samaraweera said.
“All proposals in future will be considered totally on merit.”
Samaraweera is in China to prepared for an expected visit by Sirisena next month.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China remained a good partner of Sri Lanka.
“China is willing to continue being a trustworthy and reliable development partner ... and will also keep doing its best to provide assistance for Sri Lanka’s social and economic development,” Wang said.
India had grown increasingly wary of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pursuit of closer ties with China, which became a key supporter of the island’s economy after its 26-year-civil war ended in 2009.
China has built a seaport and airport in the south of the country, raising fears it is seeking influence in a country with which India has traditionally had deep ties.
India’s concern grew after the Rajapaksa government allowed the Chinese submarines to dock. – Reuters