State Minister for Ports and Aviation Premalal Jayasekara yesterday (23) alleged that the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, under Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, had leased 13 acres within the Colombo Port to China’s CM Port to construct South Asia’s biggest logistic centre, without calling for tenders, procurement or government evaluation of the land.
The CM Port also runs the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) and the State Minster alleged that the transaction was facilitated by a Chinese business figure, who secured the land at a seemingly low cost to construct the mega logistic centre.
Expressing concerns over the leasing of the land, the State Minister warned that this development poses a potential threat to national security and expressed worries that the revenue generated from the Port’s operations over the next 35 years would be diverted to the Chinese operators of the facility.
The construction work on the logistic centre has not commenced as yet according to sources.
He claimed that the land was undervalued, because land evaluation was not carried out by the State, but by a private party who undervalued the 13-acre plot at a time when there is a high demand for land inside the Port.
He said he would expose the matter at the next press conference and that he, as the State Minister who is aware of the corruption, was in the process of gathering inside information to bring it to the notice of the authorities. He claimed that he has been side lined without any job given to him and he merely signs documents of requests for jobs and opportunities which are then forwarded to Minister de Silva.
He said the 13 acres, located between the East Container Terminal and the West Container Terminal, has been given to the Chinese for a song.
Further, he alleged that certain senior officials were reportedly involved in rampant corruption at the Ports ministry. Notably, the land that was leased for 35 years sans a tender process, proper procurement procedures, or a thorough evaluation was a serious matter of concern.
The State Minister said however, the striking paradox is where some trade unions, typically vocal about corruption and the sale of national assets, have remained silent regarding this issue.
Further, Jayasekara alleged that there had been proposals concerning the usage of this land since 2016. However, the leasing took place without transparent processes before it was given to China, he claimed.
Original Caption: 13-acre land given to China undervalued – Jayasekara
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan / Ceylon Today
23 August 2023.