Sri Lanka backtracks on Colombo Port agreement?

In what could become an issue between India and Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapakshe on Monday said the East Container Terminal  (ECT) of Colombo Port will be 100 percent operated by Sri Lankan Ports Authority (SLPA)

Feb 01, 2021
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In what could become an issue between India and Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapakshe on Monday said the East Container Terminal  (ECT) of Colombo Port will be 100 percent operated by Sri Lankan Ports Authority (SLPA). Rajapakshe’s statement came while assuring protesting workers of the ECT port. “The ECT will neither be sold to any country nor handed over to any country for administration,” he was quoted as saying by Daily Mirror. A cabinet paper regarding the same will also be submitted soon, the report claimed.

The report also claimed Rajapaksa as saying that the foreign company (Adani group) has refused to accept the terms and conditions of the Sri Lankan government.

Earlier on 13 January, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakshe announced that India’s Adani group and allies would invest 49 percent in the proposed development of the ECT of Colombo Port. He, however, assured the workers that the port would neither be sold nor leased to any foreign firm.

The prime minister’s statement today cast a shadow on the deal. India reacted soon after his statement, asking for the early implementation of the East Container Terminal agreement to run the strategic cargo terminal. 

“I would like to reiterate the expectation of (the) Government of India for expeditious implementation of trilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) signed in May 2019 among the government of India, Japan, and Sri Lanka for the development of ECT with participation from these countries,” a spokesperson of the Indian High Commission was quoted as saying Colombo Gazette. 

The Sri Lankan government time and again communicated its commitment regarding the ECT to India, including at the leadership level, the Indian spokesperson claimed. “All sides should continue to abide by the existing understanding and commitment,” he added.

Earlier in January, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited the country and hoped for an early agreement on the ECT port. A week after, the Lankan president, for the first time, had announced the participation of an Indian company in the project.

According to The New Indian Express,  the Colombo Port trade unions opposed the proposal of investors from India and Japan buying 49 per cent stake in the ETC. They demanded the ECT to remain 100 per cent owned by the SLPA as opposed to the 51 per cent.

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