Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa claims that the manner in which the government privatised the Hambantota port has shocked the nation and that parliament was not allowed to even debate the agreement to privatise one of Sri Lanka’s most important strategic assets.
“No one knows who did the valuation of this asset. No one appears to have seen any technical/financial evaluation report,” he said, issuing a statement on Tuesday (1).
He also claimed that the government has also not explained to the public on what criteria they selected the company that won the bid when there was clear evidence that the other bid was much more favourable.
“This headlong quest to sell state assets is a direct result of the economic crisis that the government has plunged this country into,” he charged.
The former President said that in just two and a half years, the government has taken foreign currency loans amounting to over USD 13.7 billion and that all this money has been spent on consumption.
“USD 13.7 billion is the equivalent of ten Norochcholai power plants or ten Hambantota Ports, or more than twenty Southern Highways. But the government has nothing to show for all this money that has been borrowed and spent.”
Rajapaksa said that after imposing taxes even on terminally ill patients, the government was still not able to raise enough money to repay the USD 13.7 billion they borrowed and they have now resorted to increasing non-tax revenue through the sale of state owned assets.
He alleged that the Budget proposals of the government make it clear that they intend privatising all state owned assets ranging from non-strategic business establishments like the Colombo Hilton to strategic assets like the Norochcholai power plant.
“The sale of the Hambantota port was just the beginning.” He says that the Prime Minister has already announced that the Mattala airport would be next. Other assets like the Colombo -Katunayake Highway, Southern Highway, Water Board and Electricity Board are also due to be privatized, he claims.
Rajapaksa says that in their desperation to justify the sale of government owned assets, the government has been deliberately running down the enterprises they want to sell, as for instance by stopping bunkering operations in the Hambantota port.
“My government built or created new things. The present government is making a living by selling what my government built,” he said.
He said that as public indignation mounts at the manner in which the Hambantota port was privatised, ministers are now going around saying that the Rajapaksa government too had planned to sell the entire Hambantota port to the Chinese.
“This is a diabolical lie. Everyone knows that my government had an explicit anti-privatisation policy.”
He said that not only did my government refrain from privatising any State assets, they even reacquired several important assets that had been privatised by previous governments.
“If things continue in the present manner, Sri Lanka will not have any national assets left by the time this government ends.”