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President defends China investment in H’tota port

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (30) said that the construction of the Hambantota Port, with funding from China, had been a project with enormous development potential, although some called it a debt trap.

The President pointed out that the previous government had leased the Hambantota Port to China but it was being used only for commercial purposes.

The President commented on the Chinese-funded Hambantota project after newly appointed Ambassadors of Republic of Korea, Germany, Holy See and Switzerland had presented their credentials.

The President’s Office quoted President Rajapaksa as having said Sri Lanka’s foreign policy based on neutrality and development cooperation was the country’s top priority.

“Sri Lanka is located in a place of strategic importance. Therefore, our country is attractive to many parties. In this context, Sri Lanka has chosen neutrality as its foreign policy. Our top most priority is mutually beneficial development cooperation. This country is open for foreign investments”,

The new envoys are Jeong Woonjin – Ambassador- the Republic of Korea, Holger Lothar Seubert – Ambassador- the Federal Republic of Germany, Monsignor Brian Udaigwe – Apostolic Nuncio-designate of the Holy See and Dominik Furgler – Ambassador- Switzerland

Explaining Sri Lanka’s policy towards the Indian Ocean during the discussion with the new envoys based in Colombo, the President said the Indian Ocean should be a free zone open to every country.

Five decades ago, it was Sri Lanka that proposed Indian Ocean to be declared as a zone of peace, the President recalled.

While paying attention to the development efforts of Sri Lanka in the recent past Rajapaksa said that after defeating terrorism in 2009 priority of the Government as well as the people of Sri Lanka was to achieve a rapid development.

“The economy was weakened due to terrorism. We required foreign investments for speedy development. China came forward to invest in development projects in the country. It was only a commercial transaction between our two countries. But some described this as a manifestation of a pro-China policy. Sri Lanka is a friend of all countries,” the President explained.

President Rajapaksa pointed out that the construction of the Hambantota Port with funding from China was a project with enormous development potential, “although some call it a debt trap”.

He said the previous Government leased the Hambantota Port to China but it is being used only for commercial purposes proving critics wrong.

Expressing their views the Ambassadors commended both President and the people of Sri Lanka for successfully controlling the COVID–19 pandemic. “Sri Lanka is so safe”, Ambassador of Korea Jeong Woonjin remarked.

Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany Holger Lothar Seubert said he was pleased to be appointed as an envoy to Sri Lanka that had overcome the COVID–19 pandemic.

“We are not here to lecture you, but to offer any possible assistance. We are certain that Sri Lanka is capable of choosing what needs to be done. We are ready to extend our cooperation to achieve development aspirations of Sri Lanka”, both German Ambassador Holger Lothar Seubert and Switzerland Ambassador Dominik Furgler echoed.

Communicating congratulations of Pope Francis to the President for the massive mandate received during elections Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See Monsignor Brian Udaigwe said he was a member of the entourage of the Holy Father during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015. The Apostolic Nuncio said the geographical location was a great gift to Sri Lanka.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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