Cost of Central Highway inflated – Prof. Peiris

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L Pieris yesterday exposed the government’s alleged fraudulent and corrupt practices relating to the Central Highway project.

Speaking at the Joint Opposition (JO)’s Economic Research Unit (ERU) media briefing held in Colombo, Prof. Pieris said the central highway was initially to be financed by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) under the former government.

When the present government came in to power in 2015, the Higher Education and Highways Ministry had stopped the highway project alleging fraud and corruption in its implementation. Later they stopped JICA from financing the highway project and handed it over to the Mitsubishi Bank and the highway contract was given to Fujita Japan Company, he said.

Prof. Pieris stressed that the Technical Committee of the Central Highway Project which comprises of engineers were opposed to the government decision on the grounds that Fujita Japan Company was unable to handle such a massive project as it had no previous experience in handling a project of this magnitude.

Then the government brought another company named Taisei and urged them to build the road as a joint venture with Fujita Japan. The government said the need to offer the contract to Fujita Japan was to further the bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Japan, he added.

However the Japanese Ambassador in Sri Lanka has written to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe saying that there was no influence brought to bear on the government of Sri Lanka by Japan, Prof. Pieris added.

Under the previous government the total cost for the construction of the Central Highway was estimated to be about Rs. 123 billion and now it was Rs.132.2 billion. There was a difference of Rs. 10 billion and there were questions as to whose pocket this money was going, he said.

The government knows that they would not last long and therefore they are trying to earn as much as they can while they are in power, he claimed.

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