May 12, 2017
Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is to make an official visit to China. During the trip, he will discuss the agreements with regard to the handover of Hambantota port and investment zone to China.
However, the cabinet is yet to grant approval for the same. At the cabinet meeting two days ago, Malik Samarawickrama submitted the final report into the port agreement. The president informed the cabinet that granting approval for the report could be delayed further.
The SLFP has been opposing the handover of the port and land on a 99 year lease, and now China has agreed to reduce the duration to 70 years. However, the president’s decision will mean that reaching consensus on the agreement could be delayed further. The president says more time is needed to study the Sarath Amunugama report and Samarawickrama’s final report.
In light of China’s agreement to reduce the leasing period to 70 years, final agreements were expected to be reached during the PM’s tour, but that could be delayed further.
However, with the continuous postponement of the deal by the Sri Lankan government, there is a risk that China will withdraw from the agreement. If that happens the government will come under tremendous pressure, as the money that is due to flow into the country through the agreement will not be available for the economy to make a revival. The economy is being run on Chinese investments. If China withdraws due to the tug-of-war between the UNP and the SLFP, it will indirectly impact the government as well.
Therefore, the PM’s China tour will be a decisive one, and his abilities will decide if a China tired by the government’s tugs-of-war will remain with us any further.