H’tota won’t be a ‘Military Port’: PM | Daily News

H’tota won’t be a ‘Military Port’: PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that the Hambantota Port would not be a ‘Military Port’ with security being strictly handled by the Sri Lanka Navy and law enforcement agencies. The Prime Minister was speaking at a business forum organized by the Japan External Trade Organization in Tokyo, yesterday.

As Chinese interest in the Port continue to be viewed with suspicion, especially with regard to its military interests, the Premier said, “The Agreement on the joint venture between the Chinese company and the Sri Lankan Ports Authority precludes any foreign country from using the harbour for military purposes”.

“It is only a commercial operation and we do not want any of Sri Lanka’s harbours to be used for military purposes other than that of the Sri Lanka Navy,” he added. The Prime Minister explained that law and order at the Port would be handled by the Police, Customs and Immigration of the Sri Lankan government and all internal port security would need to hire Sri Lankan staff.

Premier Wickremesinghe reassured his Japanese audience that any violation of conditions in the agreement would mean that the Sri Lankan government could take over the Port without payment of compensation.

“Any warship can come into the Port, provided the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to it,” said the Prime Minister as he sought to promote an equal playing field for all.

In March this year, the US Pacific Fleet’s transport ship USNS Fall River visited Hambantota on a Pacific Partnership goodwill mission. During its 12-day stay, it held a joint exercise with the navies of Sri Lanka, Japan and Australia. The visit was seen as a show of strength against Chinese expansion in the region along with allies such as Japan who is struggling to ensure that Chinese aggression in South China Sea does not extend to the Indian Ocean. 

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