Sri Lanka requests India for 3-year stay on loan repayment - PM | Daily News


Interview with The Hindu newspaper

Sri Lanka requests India for 3-year stay on loan repayment - PM

On Tamils’ issues: Ready to discuss after elections

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is currently on an official visit to India has said his Government asked India whether Sri Lanka could get a moratorium on all loan repayments for three years, until it can revive the economy.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, one of India’s biggest-circulation English newspapers, the Prime Minister said if the Indian government agrees to the request, then other governments might agree to do the same, including China.

“The previous government took so many loans, they beggared the economy, and it is a mess. It all depends on the stand India takes” he added.

When The Hindu posed the question that this year alone, Sri Lanka has to pay about $5 billion to service the debt, the highest in Sri Lankan history, the Prime Minister replied: “We have to do it, and we will manage somehow. We don’t want to default on our debt no matter what happens.”

With regard to his discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said: “It was a fruitful and successful meet, for both sides, I would say. The housing project is something that is a priority area for us, and we asked for more funding for that. We have a new initiative, to cover the whole country, every village, and we should like to get some support for that. Apart from housing, there were several projects we discussed.”

When asked about project agreements with India signed by the previous government, the Prime Minister said that the two sides talked about the Eastern Terminal [in Colombo Port] in which India and Japan are jointly investing, and the LNG terminal. “Whatever was signed [in 2017] was not even pursued by the last government. President (Maithripala)

Sirisena actually rejected all the projects the PM [Wickremesinghe] had signed. We are not responsible for those projects. The Mattala [airport] project is also out. Our government has a firm policy on not allowing any national resources to be given to foreign control.”

The Prime Minister also said that Sri Lanka has decided it should have more intelligence sharing with India, and also to increase the technical assistance from India, including training.

On the Easter bombings, the Premier told The Hindu that there was already an ongoing investigation into the conspiracy, and a commission is looking into it.

“We hope that India will continue to help us on that. In addition, we want to continue our earlier [pre-2015] project for trilateral terror and security cooperation between Maldives-India- Sri Lanka. We might have the meeting for that as soon as possible, possibly in The Maldives and discuss how to take the trilateral idea forward”.

When questioned about concerns raised by India about the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and the expectations India has from the Sri Lankan government, the Premier replied: “We have always understood these concerns. Soon after the war ended [in 2009], we had elections, and we allowed the North to select their own Chief Minister. We held those elections despite knowing we would lose them. But nothing moved after that. We are now expecting to hold our parliamentary elections this April, and after that the provincial council elections. We will appoint a team to go to Jaffna to discuss the way forward.”

On devolution of powers, as was promised in the 13th Amendment, the Prime Minister said: “Well, it all has to be discussed. We want to go forward, but we need to have someone to discuss, who can take responsibility for the [Tamil] areas.

So the best thing is to hold elections, and then ask for their representatives to come and discuss the future with us. At the moment the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) is not interested in talks. They are asking for things, which the majority community in Sri Lanka will not accept.”

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