By Ashoke Raj
Colombo [Sri Lanka], April 8 (ANI): People in crisis-hit Sri Lanka are lashing out at the Port City of Colombo (PCC) project, which is being developed at an estimated USD 1.4 billion with assistance from Beijing, alleging that the government had sold out their lands to China.
A local resident of Sri Lanka said, "I don't think Port city is a good idea. These people (the ruling government of Sri Lanka) have sold our land to China. The entire country is suffering because of this problem (Sri Lanka needs to pay the debt to the Chinese government for developing the port) and the economic condition is also going down."
The Colombo Port City project was announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Sri Lanka in 2014 and is a USD 1.4 billion flagship programme under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese agencies have lent large amounts to China's BRI projects like Hambantota Port and Colombo Port City in the island country, under stiff terms of repayment.
In 2021-22, Colombo's debt repayment to Beijing amounted to nearly USD 2 billion. Further, Hambantota Port has already been leased out to China for 99 years against USD 1.2 billion.
The country is witnessing protests over the government's handling of the worst economic crisis in decades. A foreign exchange shortage has incidentally affected its capacity to import food and fuel, leading to power cuts in the country. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries.
Yesterday, locals protested outside Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa's residence over the government's handling of the worst economic crisis in decades.
A protester said, "We have stood silent for a long time. I think the time has come, everyone needs to come down to the street and raise their voices against the government."
He questioned the government that what they were doing in the parliament during this economic crisis and also demanded the resignations of the country's President and Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, former Power Minister of Sri Lanka, Patali Champika Ranawaka has put the blame on the Rajapaksa family for the economic crisis the island nation is facing.
"Rajapaksa family clan totally responsible for the crisis," Ranawaka said on Thursday while elaborating that 78 per cent of the total debt owed by Sri Lanka occurred during the rule of the Rajapaksas.
"The Rajapaksa clan is an oligarchy, they robbed this country. During their tenure between 2004-2014, they siphoned off USD 19 billion, as per the reports from the various agencies, and now we are suffering," Ranawaka said speaking to ANI.
Talking about India's assistance to Sri Lanka, the former Minister said that India should not provide a lifeline to the Rajapaksa family.
"Please do not give a lifeline to the Rajapaksa's family which robbed Sri Lanka's wealth," Ranawaka said adding that the family had blamed India in 2015 for the loss of Mahinda Rajapaksa during presidential elections.
The country is witnessing protests over the government's handling of the worst economic crisis in decades.
Sri Lanka is battling a severe economic crisis with food and fuel scarcity affecting a large number of the people in the island nation. The economy has been in a free-fall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the crush of tourism.
Sri Lanka is also facing a foreign exchange shortage, which has, incidentally, affected its capacity to import food and fuel, leading to the power cuts in the country. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries. (ANI)