Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera stressed that the Hambantota Harbour will never be sold to anyone or an agreement in this regard will not be signed tomorrow.
He was addressing the weekly SLFP media briefing at the SLFP Headquarters yesterday. Minister Amaraweera said that the SLFP will not allow anyone to sell the Hambantota harbour but however the harbour should be converted to a profit making venture as the harbour is a huge burden to the country’s economy at present.
“I dare say that such a agreement will not be signed as there is no such agreement drafted yet. A ministerial subcommittee will be appointed to look into the utilisation of the Hambantota harbour. Accordingly, a subcommittee will recommend the terms and conditions of the PPA agreement regarding to the issue,” he said.
He said the harbour had been constructed with a US$ 1.3 billion loan obtained from China by the then government at an interest rate of 6.3 percent and three percent. "The government is now paying instalments and interest for the loan. Under this, Rs. 8,640 million was paid last year and Rs. 9,350 million should be paid in 2017. The amount in 2018 will be Rs. 9,950 million and from 2020, over Rs. 17,000 million will have to be paid until 2035," Amaraweera said.
“Therefore, there is no alternative than running the harbour as a public -private partnership,” he said.
Questioned whether the 15,000 acre land is to be given to China for the proposed industrial zone, he said there was no truth in the story.
He said only 200 families living in the Hambantota Harbour area will have to be relocated.
“Certain persons are making allegations that 35,000 families in Hambantota have been evacuated to release 15,000 acres of land for the Chinese industrial zone. Only bare land will be allocated to the industrial zone," he added.
Only environmental friendly industries will be allowed to be established by a committee appointed to look into environment protection, the minister said. Minister Amaraweera said the Ranminithenna Tele-Cine Village will never be privatised as certain artistes pointed out.
Moreover, the government will never allow China to use the Hambantota harbour for their Naval activities, he said.