COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has sought to put at rest doubts in some quarters in general and a section of the Indian establishment in particular on the latest agreement between Sri Lanka and Chinese Exim Bank for development of the Hambantota Port.
Ports Minister Chamal Rajpaksa said on Sunday: “We have been following the debate on the Chinese investment on the Hambantota Port project. Some people are under the impression that the project could adversely impact the geo-strategic interests of some countries in the region. It is not true. It is a development and commercial project and has nothing to do with military objectives.”
He said Sri Lanka began to ‘build the harbour with a special loan facility extended by the Chinese government’ and reiterated that ‘there are no other intentions.”
Mr. Rajpaksa was responding to a remark attributed in a section of the media to Indian Navy Chief Suresh Mehta that China was helping to build strategically located dependency ports in South Asia for military purposes to gain easy access to the Indian Ocean.
Last week Sri Lanka Treasury Secretary Sumith Abeysinghe signed two financing agreements relating to the construction of the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway and the Hambantota Bunkering Project with the Vice-President Zhu Xinqiang of the Exim Bank of China.
Separately, the Information Ministry said that over half a million devotees from all parts of the country thronged the Madhu Church in Mannar district on Saturday to pay homage at the feat of Our Lady of Madhu.
“This was a record crowd seen after three decades and the devotees were welcomed by the Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Dr. Malcolm Rangith,” it said.
Meanwhile, Government Agent Vavuniya PSM Charles said that 60 war displaced families in the temporary camps had to be temporarily moved to a higher location within the camp but now the situation was under control.
“This was an ‘unexpected downpour one month prior to the monsoon,” she said.
Sudden heavy rains two days back in Northern Sri Lanka have caused water logging in certain areas of the relief camp, causing hardship to the internally displaced people living there.
Ms. Charles said that on the first day cooked meals were provided for 21,000 people because there were problems in community cooking. But on the very second day things were brought under control and cooked meals were given for only 500 people, as the community cooking had resumed.
The monsoon is about a month away and many aid groups have expressed concern that the temporary shelters may not be able to withstand the downpour.
Ms. Charles said contingency planning was already afoot for the rainy season. The camps are located on vast tracts of formerly forested land near the northern town of Vavuniya.
As the ground on which many of the camps were made was cleared of trees recently, the soil is soft and porous.