Amunugama tells India Today Ranil had no business to promise Delhi East Terminal


Sri Lanka is looking at developing the east terminal of the Colombo Port on its own and Ranil Wickremesinghe absolutely had no business to go to India or any country and give assurances regarding it, Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told India Today on Wednesday.

"The port is very vital for Sri Lanka because it is a trans-shipment port and most of the traffic goes to India. India is also developing its own ports, so we have to take a futuristic view of how to develop this port. Three parts of it are developed. The next two are the east and the west terminals that are due for construction," he said.

Amunugama added that the East terminal is extremely important to the country as it is a deep water port. "We all agree and the President has intimated that to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi himself that the west terminal can certainly be developed by India. Sri Lanka is looking at developing the east terminal on its own," he said.

The Foreign Minister also criticized former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe for giving an assurance to India regarding the development of the East Terminal.

"He absolutely had no business to go to India or any country and give assurances regarding this port. That is not how it works. It has to be passed by parliament. It was under discussion but was not signed and sealed. We will have to heed the opinion of the workers and the trade unions that it [developing the east terminal] has to be a Sri Lankan operation," he said.

Amunugama also stated that Sri Lanka has not undermined her sovereignty by taking loans from China and that he is grateful that Sri Lanka sought Chinese assistance to develop infrastructure a decade ago without waiting. He also dismissed claims that Hambantota Port has been taken over by the Chinese.

"We cannot compromise [on] our sovereignty. These are commercial operations carried out on the basis of detailed feasibility study. We are glad that we did it ten years ago because projects today cost much more. It is a win-win situation. It cannot be seen as an attack on our sovereignty. Take Hambantota port for example. It is clearly a Lankan operation. Not a single ship can enter Hambantota unless it is guided by the harbour guards who come under Sri Lankan Navy. No Chinese submarines can dock here. Sri Lanka will protect its sovereignty. Just because we take loans from China, it does not mean we will subscribe to their strategic interests," he said.

Amunugama also said that Sri Lanka has economic relations with China and wants more [expansion of ties] with India. "Our first choice is always India. We don’t want to be dragged into the military and strategic interests of any country. Nobody should infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. We are grateful to India for respecting that. There might be some differences but largely it is a strong relationship."

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