The inauguration ceremony of the Sri Lanka – China Logistics and Industrial Zone, which comes under the Mirijjavla Investment Promotion Zone in Hambantota, was held this morning
This is a joint venture between the governments of Sri Lanka and People’s Republic of China.
Tensions boiled over moments before the event ,following the arrival of a group of demonstrators.Twenty eight persons, including 11 military personnel, were injured in the incident with 21 arrests being made.
Moments before the inauguration a crowd converged on to the area surrounding the development zone and engaged in a demonstration.
Police attempted to prevent them from entering the premises of the inauguration. However, the unruly crowd began to hurl stones which resulted in a tense situation.
The Police together with the Special Task Force fired water cannons to control the station.
Monks and members of the Joint Opposition arrived at the location as well .As the crowds continued to be unruly, police fired tear gas to control the situation.The Riot Police and several other police teams were called in to move the demonstrators away from the locations.
Minister of Ports and Shipping,Arjuna Ranatunga pointed out that 60 % of the profits generated by the Colombo Harbour is being used to pay the debt of the Hambantota Port and if this debt can be paid the Colombo harbour canbe further devoloped
He added that although the previous government said that the villagers will be given jobs, nothing transpired and there were only five workers.
“When we reach the third and fourth stages of this development drive, we will definitely require a work force of around 2000 to 3000 …” said Minister Ranatunga
Minister of Housing and Construction, Sajith Premadasa charged that the politicians who survive by preying on the poor will suffer a great disadvantage because of this industrial zone.
“The previous government gave 21 plots of lands from Hambantoa to their bodyguards. We will dedicate ourselves to obtain the best deal we can from China ..” he said
Let us rise using this port that was to collapse. We were in a serious debt crisis. Both mother and child were to die”, said the Prime Minister,Ranil Wickremesinghe
He added that the Chinese government was asked if this loan can be terminated, However, this loan was obtained from Exim Bank, based on the conditions so it was not possible,
The premier explained that at least a billion must ve repaid and if 80% is paid that is 1.1 billion, and that reduces the debt burden
“Though we have only 20 percent of the administration , we retained the special features of administration”, he said
He added that the Navy and the Army has been vested with the responsibility of security of the port while the law of Sri Lanka applies to everyone who comes here and 95% of lands are state owned.
“Our objective is to create the South Western Economic Strip. We have Chinese aid to develop Hambantota. Japanese Aid to develop Kandy. We also have aid coming from Singapore , Indian and four other major countries in Aisa. We want to be stronger in these tasks …”
Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine,Dr. Rajitha Senaratne pointed out that 197 billion was obtained in loans and that very company has presented an estimate today for this which is 1.1 billion dollars and that is a difference of 350 billion dollars.
“I want to ask the Rajapaksas one question? Into whose pockets did 50 billion go into? I ask those who are demonstrating to go to the Rajapaksa house and ask was it the father, son or the uncles that looted 50 billion.” charged Minister Senaratne
He explained that the debt being paid with interest is 9500 million rupees but he annual revenue is only 200 million.
“So are we going to sell the lands of the Rajapaksas to pay off the remaining 9300 million?” he said.
He went on to note that the government must bring in a law where the lands of these persons must be sold – and this government will not sell anything.
The minister further charged that 1500 acres in Ulhitiya , 1200 acres in Pelawatte , 5000 acres in Somawathiy , 20 acres from opposite Galle Face Green, 50 acres from Hambantota and another 600 acres for the Port City were sold.
“I tell this to the Rajapaksas. The people who voted for us are disappointed because we are not sending you to prison and the gallows for the crimes and murders that were committed …” charged the Minister of Health.
Meanwhile former President Mahinda Rajapaksa commented on the incident that transpired in Hambantota today. He stated that the people of Hambantota had said that the police and military presence over there was more than what was seen in Vadamarachchi and Killinochchi, and vehicles were not permitted to enter while phone connections were cut off.
He further charged that people are rising because their lands and houses are being given away to foreigners while farmlands are being lost.
“They say that I started this. Yet, we started an industrial zone of 750 acres. They requested 1000 acres from me. I said that 750 acres was more than enough …” he said.