Sri Lanka: Justice Minister sacked for criticising port deal with China

Sri Lanka: Justice Minister sacked for criticising port deal with China

23/08/17

Melanie Ullrich, Business and Policy Programme Manager

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked justice minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse for his criticism of the government, including the decision to sell majority shares of the Hambantota sea port to China, according to the South China Morning Post .

In July, the government signed an agreement to sell a 70 per cent stake in Hambantota port to China Merchants Port Holdings, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, for 99 years. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had publicly denounced the $US1.1 billion sale, calling it a ‘sellout’. The deal has been controversial and raised concerns within Sri Lanka over a fear of loss of land and growing Chinese influence.

The Port of Hambantota is geographically central to important energy supply lines in the Indian Ocean, along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Despite its location, Hambantota has struggled to attract both ships and cargo.

Sri Lanka’s debts to China are currently over $US8 billion and in April this year, the IMF agreed a $US1.5 billion bailout for Sri Lanka.