Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday said the island nation would like to be a part of the radically progressing Asia led by China and India.
Speaking at a function to mark the berthing of the first vessel at the Magama Ruhunupura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in Hambantota built with Chinese assistance, Mr. Rajapaksa said his government was committed to making Sri Lanka the “Wonder of Asia” by making it a five-fold hub — naval, aviation, commercial, energy and knowledge.
Phase One of the new Hambantota port was constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company at a cost of $360 million and includes provision for a high-quality passenger terminal, cargo handling, warehousing, bunkering, provisioning, maintenance and repair, medical supplies and customs clearing facilities.
The $1.5-billion port is being marketed by Sri Lanka as a mega infrastructure project which would transform the economy of the country. The port is located just 10 nautical miles from one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, used by up to 200 cargo vessels every day and can handle vessels of up to 100,000 DWT.
The berthing of the first vessel comes on the eve of Mr. Rajapaksa's swearing-in for a second term as President. Mr. Rajapaksa would take the oath of office at a grand ceremony on Friday. The government has announced week-long celebrations to mark the occasion.
“Today, we have left our mark, not only on the Sri Lankan map but also the world map. Today the Port of Magampura saw the berthing of its first ship. In the maritime maps of the world this will be marked as an important port,” he told the audience.
Mr. Rajapaksa said that in addition to Hambantota, his government was in the process of constructing five more ports in Sri Lanka.