Port City: The Next Chinese Colony?
Posted 17,April

By Chaveendra Dunuwille

In Local News

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China’s gradual reach of influence into nations that borders the Indian Ocean  cannot be considered as a sudden occurrence. Many of the construction projects  over the years carried out in the surrounding countries are part of the Chinese grand design referred to as “The Belts and Roads Initiative”. Sri Lanka can be  considered as a rather significant piece in China’s attempt to recreate the ancient  maritime silk route in the modern day.  

The Indian Ocean hosts up to 80% of the world’s sea borne trade connected to  Europe and the Middle East through the Suez Canal and South East Asia  connected through the Strait of Malacca. The maritime choke point referred to  as the Strait of Malacca is of particular importance to the Chinese as 70% of the  nation’s oil imports pass through the strait. Any blockade of this position can  have catastrophic repercussions on the Chinese Economy. As a means of  protecting its trade routes and securing interest China has continued to expand  its influence into the Indian Ocean, the more recent of these projects is referred  to as the Colombo Port City 

Colombo Port City is a Sri Lanka China joint venture which sits on 269 hectares  of reclaimed land which is now officially designated as a part of Sri Lanka. 116  hectares out of the total belongs to the China Communications Construction  Company (CCCC) on a 99 year lease while the remained portion belongs to the  Sri Lankan Government. The Government recently presented the “Colombo Port  City Economic Commission Bill” which if passed allowed for the establishment  of a special Economic Commission which would be responsible for all financial  activities within the Port City region. The bill if passed would allow the proposed  commission a multitude of discretionary powers such as approving financial  investments without approval from the Board of Investment.  

The bill now included in the gazette has been piling up petitions from various  individuals such as the United National Party (UNP) General Secretary Palitha  Range Bandara, Janata Vimukthi Peramuna Minister Wasantha Samarasinghe,  and Engineer G Kapila Renuka Perera along with institutions such as  Transparency International Sri Lanka, Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Bar  Association of Sri Lanka.  

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has appointed a 5 member panel headed by  Chief Justice Jayanath Jayasuriya and its members include Justice P.B.  Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena, Murdu N.B. Fernando and Janak de Silva.  

Many of the petitions hold the general premise that the passing of this bill would  facilitate illicit financial activities, money laundering and would negatively affect  the administration of justice and has called on the Supreme Court to intervene  and determine the bill to be unconstitutional. 

The petition presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) seeks to  challenge the bill under Article 120 of the Constitution. The petition went on to  highlight that the bill greatly lacked consultation and transparency which would  in turn impugned on the administration of justice as the provisions of the bill  would be in violation of article 1,2,3,4, 75 and 76 of the Sri Lankan Constitution.  The petitioners noted that the provisions of the proposed bill inter alia is in  violation or contrary to the separation of powers, the rule of law, independence 

of the judiciary, effective operation of the constitution and creates a body with  legislative powers other than parliament.  

Along with the petitions regarding the unconstitutional nature of the proposed  bill concerns have been raised on how the bill would facilitate the Port City to be  considered as a Chinese Colony rather than Sri Lankan sovereign territory. According to SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapkshe the proposed framework  would facilitate the prerequisites of a state namely population, territory,  sovereignty. As the proposed bill indicates the formation of the commission in  which parliament will have no controlling authority over. Dr. Wijeyadasa  commented on Sri Lanka’s less than perfect track records of Chinese projects by  citing that such a decision would be worse off than selling Hambantota Port.  According to Dr. Wijeyadasa his remarks have gained the attention of the  president who according to the lawmaker has gone on to threaten him regarding  the sentiments expressed.