China Prohibited From Conducting Military Activities, Setting up Bases in Hambantota Port: Sri Lanka Ambassador
China will not be allowed to conduct military activities or set up a military facility at the Hambantota Port, Sri Lanka's ambassador said on Saturday.
"I do not know about other countries, but Sri Lanka as very categorically informed the investor that it [Hambantota port] will not be allowed to be used for any military purposes," Ambassador Karunasena Kodituwakku said, stressing that the rule is not only applicable to Hambantota port but also to all the ports in Sri Lanka.
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The envoy's statement comes as hundreds of protestors rallied to express their opposition to the government's decision to hand an 80 percent stake in the strategic port to China Merchants Port Holding company.
Despite the ongoing protests, the ambassador said the government would push for the deal. Sri Lanka said the port was being handed over to a Chinese firm on a 99-year lease. Kodituwakku also noted that the port had not been a viable project so far.
"Very small numbers [of ships]. Even the incoming they have received is not even enough to maintain the port maintenance, forget the salaries about the people who are working," he said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka plans to finalize its free trade agreement with China within this year.
Kodituwakku said, "2017 is the 69th anniversary of Sri Lanka and the 60th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China... the best way to remember the friendship of both countries is to sign a free trade agreement."
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to attend a forum on the Belt and Road initiative in Beijing in May, Kodituwakku told reporters during the Sri Lanka National Day Celebration on Saturday.