Port project by China gets special status in Lanka

The controversy-hit USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City Project funded by China will be accorded special status of a “financial and business district” with laws of its own, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has said ahead of his fence-mending visit here.
Port project by China gets special status in Lanka
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe


“The Port City will become a special financial and business district of Sri Lanka which will have its own laws. Of course the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka must have the final say,” Wickramasinghe told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency ahead of his four-day visit from Wednesday. 
He said a separate financial and legal system will operate in the Port City “where people can come and transact business internationally.” The ambitious project to be built on 583 acres of reclaimed land has raised concerns in India over its proximity to the Indian coast. It is Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign investment project. 
The project, suspended by President Maithripala Sirisena in March last year over allegations of corruption and concerns over its impact on the environment, was recently cleared after amending the agreement reached during the tenure of Mahinda Rajapaksa, especially the clause relating to the ownership of the land by Chinese firms.
Wickramasinghe said that with China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, Sri Lanka hopes to regain its status as the economic hub of the Indian Ocean region. India has not yet endorsed the Maritime Silk Road proposal because of its strategic concerns over the Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean, often regarded as India’s backyard. 
While Wickramasinghe during his election campaign had threatened to scrap the project over environmental threat to the coastal belt from Negombo to Beruwala in the island, his government later put it on hold to probe its controversial clauses including the ownership of the land by Chinese firm. 
The proposed city is to be built between the Colombo South Port and the Galle Face Green -- an ocean-side urban park. According to the project agreement, 20 hectares of land will be given to China Communication Construction Company (CCCC), which is building the project on outright basis. 
Concerns have been raised over the deal since the company gets the land on a freehold basis in a high security zone. Sirisena government had earlier said that land in a high security zone cannot be given to another country and the project needed to be completely reviewed.

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