Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa Speaks Out over Opposition Against China's Hambantota Port Project
Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday finally spoke over his opposition against the Chinese-funded project in the port city of Hambantota, adding that he is merely against the unfriendly terms and conditions included in the deal's agreement.
"My request is to implement the project according to initial agreement without displacing people & harming the environment," Rajapaksa said.
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Rajapaksa's clarification on the controversial project comes barely days after he held a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang.
During a live question and answer session on Twitter, the former president claimed that even Chinese ambassador had expressed "concern" over the implementation of the project. However, Sri Lanka's local media disputed Rajapaksa's claim and said that the Chinese envoy merely sought the former president's clarification on the contagious issue.
Sri Lanka Erupts in Protest against Hambantota Port Project
Last week, members from Rajapaksa's political party along with local people clashed against government supporters near the Hambantota port site. The police resorted to tear gas and water cannons to stop the violent protest just as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe participated in opening ceremony of the industrial zone.
The island nation was initially in two minds over Chinese investment in Hambantota project, before agreeing for 80 percent investment in the port project in October last year. The deal with the Chinese merchant company will supposedly help the Sri Lankan government bring down the country's soaring debt.
In fact, several analysts openly claimed that Sri Lanka is generously opening up for Chinese investment to purely fix its debt problem.
Rajapaksa: The Architect of Chinese Investment
While Rajapaksa decided to go public against the Chinese-funded Hambantota project, it was under his regime that Sri Lanka decided to open up to Chinese investment in a big way. Under his presidency, the island nation signed several big ticket projects with China-based companies.
Rajapaksa, however, has been well guarded in not raising any voice against Chinese investment or leadership. Throughout the Hambantota protest fiasco, the former president did not utter a single word against China.
It must also be noted that Sri Lanka's former president had paid a visit to China in November last year on government's invitation. Many political analysts believe that Beijing considers Rajapaksa as a key ally to fulfill its geo-political goals in South Asian region.