President Sirisena leaves for Beijing
March 25, 2015 02:10 pm
President Maithripala Sirisena today left for Beijing commencing a four-day state visit on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The President, First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena and a delegation boarded a SriLankan Airlines passenger flight at around 1.20pm today, the Presidential Media Unit said.
Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratna, Ravi Karunanayake, Rauf Hakeem, Wijedasa Rajapaksa and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka are accompanying the President.
Sirisena will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping along with other members of the leadership on a range of topics including the port city project.
According to reports, the President will attempt to rebalance ties with Beijing, in the wake of the halting of construction at the 1.4 billion U.S dollar Chinese-funded port city project in Colombo.
The project, which is the largest foreign investment deal in Sri Lanka, was suspended by the new government that was elected in January over environmental concerns, which the Chinese company has denied.
The government is also concerned over the Chinese company owning about 100 hectares of the 233 hectares to be reclaimed from the sea for the project.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited Beijing a month after Sirisena came to power.
Colombo is also seeking to renegotiate huge loans given by China for projects at rates as high as 8 percent, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake told reporters recently.
China had emerged as Sri Lanka’s biggest single financier, accounting for about 40 percent of some $2.03 billion in foreign money spent on infrastructure projects in 2013, according to the latest Central Bank of Sri Lanka report.