Prime Minister Sirisina dismisses his jjustice minister: too critical of China
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe publicly condemned the multimillion dollar agreement on Hambantota Harbor. The sale to Beijing of 70% of the stock is worth 1.1 billion dollars. The protests of the local population, which fears being evicted.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Maithripala Sirisena fired Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, his government’s justice minister. On several occasions, he had dared to publicly criticize the multimillion dollar agreement with which last month Sri Lanka handed over to China most of the port of Hambantota in the south of the island. The port will become a key juncture of the "One belt, One Road" project, the network of ports, highways and railways across South and Central Asia that will allow Chinese goods to reach the heart of Europe.
Gayantha Karunathillaka, spokesman for the Colombo government, has motivated Rajapakshe's dismissal as the result of a betrayal of the party. "He violated the collective responsibility of the cabinet, speaking openly against the agreement," he said. Indeed, the Justice Minister has repeatedly condemned the sale of the area to Chinese-owned China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPort), which will hold 70% of Hambantota International Port Group's capital, which will handle the port and terminal. According to Rajapakshe, the $ 1.1 billion agreement was a transparent "sale" to the best bidder.
The politician is not the only one who has opposed the commercial project. Before him, the population led protests and demonstrations for several months against Beijing's megaproject. The inhabitants fear they will be evicted from their lands to transform it into a Chinese colony. In fact, the agreements stipulate that the port area will be in Chinese concession for 99 years and CMPort itself said the Sri Lankan government has assured that it will not start any project within 100 kilometers of Hambantota for the next 15 years so as not to enter into direct competition with the port.