“The new Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, has a chance to make some changes, but only if he can keep an uncertain coalition together. Resetting relations with Delhi and Washington will be an important part of this – and his country’s friends need to give him some space.”
On a Sunday four months ago, a vessel pulled unannounced into Sri Lanka’s Colombo harbor: the Chinese Navy submarine Great Wall No. 329, which is designed to carry torpedoes, a cruise missile and a 360-pound warhead.
“Rajapaksa has made it clear in public rhetoric and propaganda that China is our best friend,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives. “There’s a perception that the Chinese are underpinning misgovernance and corruption in the regime.”
In less than a week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka will be facing the toughest political battle of his life as the country votes in the presidential elections on January 8. The Sinhala strongman, credited with ending a 30-year war against the separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009 was expected to have a cakewalk until one of his closest colleagues Maithripala Sirisena walked out of the ruling combine and mounted a credible challenge after the fragmented opposition rallied around him.
A leader of Sri Lanka’s opposition said he would scrap a $1.5 billion deal with China Communications Construction Co Ltd (601800.SS) to build a port city if the challenger to President Mahinda Rajapaksa wins next month’s election.
The extension of the Southern Highway from Matara to Beliatta however appears to be in a class of its own is over priced by an astounding 545%. The common denominator of all these projects is that they were funded with Chinese borrowings and contracts have all been awarded in 2014 without calling for competitive bids. The loss arising from these 4 projects alone is estimated at Rs 200 billion.
The Port City will be built by a unit of state-controlled China Communications Construction Co. (1800) on 233 hectares (576 acres) of reclaimed land, an area slightly larger than Monaco. The offices, hotels, apartments and shopping centers will draw as much as $20 billion in investment over about 15 years, according to ports authority chairman Priyath Wickrama.
Since ending its civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has become increasingly financially dependent on China, receiving an estimated $4bn worth of loans, grants and aid.
“La semaine dernière à Genève, le Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations unies a adopté une résolution visant à faire la lumière sur des crimes de guerre commis entre 2002 et 2009 au Sri Lanka. Entre autres, l’extermination de 40 000 à 70 000 civils, selon les estimations de l’ONU, très majoritairement des Tamouls, par l’armée gouvernementale durant les derniers mois d’une guerre qui a ensanglanté ce pays de l’océan Indien durant plus de vingt-cinq ans, un massacre que le gouvernement de Colombo a toujours nié.”
This is perhaps for the first time that China was vocal about Sri Lanka addressing the human rights issue, as Beijing which in recent years has beefed up its ties with Colombo with billions of dollars of aid, voted against the resolutions passed by UNHRC in 2011 and 2012 censuring Colombo for its alleged rights violations during the war against the LTTE.
China has offered Sri Lanka about $2.2 billion in loans for infrastructure projects and a free trade pact, the island nation said on Wednesday, moves that could stoke fresh unease in India about Beijing’s expanding influence in its neighbourhood.