H’tota Port agreement can be amended: PM

The agreement signed between the Sri Lankan Government and China Merchant Holdings to develop the Hambantota Port contains a clause which enables further amendments, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament today.

He said this in response to a matter raised by Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayke that Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had publicly stated that a clause enabling amendments in the future were included in the agreement while President Maithripala Sirisena had also given a similar assurance to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation unions.

Mr. Dissanayake asked whether such clause was included in the agreement or whether the President and the Minister had attempted to hoodwink the unions and the people.

“There is a clause enabling the agreement to be amended but we need to determine the amendments that need to be made,” the Prime Minister said and added that the CPC trade unions had not raised any issues on the agreement other than being allowed to handle oil bunkering but the Ports Authority had not agreed to it.

“It would have been possible to postpone signing the agreement if Parliament was able to hold the debate on July 27 and decide on amendments. However the chaos created by the opposition on that day prevented any kind of debate or the submission of amendments,” the Prime Minister said.

“The Hambantota Port had up to date incurred operating losses of Rs.9,814 million with an overall revenue of Rs.7,119 million. The overall loses had amounted to Rs.51,530 million. The total debt repayment to date had amounted to Rs.40,813 million. We cannot leave this burden to future generations to settle. It will be possible to provide much needed employment opportunities to the younger generation.”

The Prime Minister said Colombo Port unions had asked the government not to use the revenue generated from Colombo Port to maintain the Hambantota Port.

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