Date
20 November 2017
Sri Lanka has halted the Colombo Port City project, which is spearheaded by a Chinese state construction firm, amid questions over the venture's legality. Credit: Bloomberg
Sri Lanka has halted the Colombo Port City project, which is spearheaded by a Chinese state construction firm, amid questions over the venture's legality. Credit: Bloomberg

Sri Lanka halts Chinese-backed Colombo Port City project

Sri Lanka has ordered that work be suspended on a massive Chinese-backed construction project amid questions over the venture’s legality and a reassessment of the country’s commercial ties with Beijing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After a review board said the US$1.4 billion Colombo Port City project appeared to lack required approvals, Sri Lanka’s new government decided to “temporarily and immediately suspend” the operations, a government spokesman was quoted as saying.

The Colombo Port City venture, flagged off last September by Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of a plan to expand trade and influence along a “Maritime Silk Road”, involves the construction of hotels, apartments and office buildings on 500 acres of reclaimed land in the ocean off Colombo.

Construction on the project began last September, and was expected to take eight years for completion.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who took office in January, had during his election campaign pledged to probe Chinese-funded megaproject deals inked by his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament last month the Port City deal lacked “transparency”.

“If there has been any corruption, if there are any conditions detrimental to the country, we will take necessary actions,” he said.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, meanwhile, was quoted as saying Thursday that Beijing believes Sri Lanka’s review will “take into consideration the bigger picture of friendly China-Sri Lanka relations, as well as their national development needs.”

The spokeswoman urged Colombo to “protect Chinese companies’ confidence in investing in Sri Lanka”.

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