8 10 19

A cabinet paper on the revised draft agreement is expected to be presented next Tuesday for discussion and approval, the sources said on Saturday. Ranatunga has also been campaigning for a fuller control over the security of the port. But the Chinese were not ready to accept a dilution of their stake. It is not clear if the current proposal to cut their share to 60 percent has been made with their prior approval.Some Sri Lankans think that China will give in because it urgently needs to make Hambantota port a part of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) global project. The port is also the best in the South Asia with a depth of 17 meters, and China needs a deep water port in this part of the Indian Ocean. But others think that they will resist because Sri Lanka is indebted to China to the tune of US$ 8 billion.Chinese defence minister coming Like the Joint Opposition (JO) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister Ranatunga believes that the country’s strategic assets must remain in the hands of the Sri Lankan government. But unlike the JO, he does not insist on majority shareholding. He feels that cash-strapped Sri Lanka needs foreign investment urgently.One of the leaders of the JO, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, told this correspondent that even 60-40 would not be acceptable to him. The country should have a majority stake to acquire proprietorship over a critical national asset, he said. The Sri Lankan government proposes to cut China’s stake in the Hambantota port from 80 percent to 60 percent, well-placed sources in Colombo have said, according to bdnews24.com.The watering down has been made upon the insistence of the Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, who has been campaigning against the Framework Agreement which gives the China Merchants Holding Company, 80 percent stake and a 99-year lease for an investment of US$ 1.1 billion. It is in this context that the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister Gen Chang Wanquan to Sri Lanka from Mar 19 to 21, is significant.His 20-member delegation, which includes the Secretary General of the State Council, will discuss with Sri Lankan leaders, both defence and economic matters. Hambantota port will certainly be high on its agenda. Many Sri Lankans, including the Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs said that the US$ 1.1 billion that the Sri Lankan the government would get as Chinese investment in the form of an 80 percent shareholding in the port could be easily generated locally by marshalling resources and cutting down on inessential and extravagant government spending. Nanayakkara and economist Dr Lalithasiri Gunaruwan had filed cases in the Supreme Court challenging the way the government had allegedly bartered away Sri Lanka’s rights without following due processes. The two cases are to come for hearing on Apr 7.Nanayakkara is also opposed to the stipulation in the Framework Agreement that 15,000 acres of land will be given to the Chinese-run port for the development of a Chinese-administered Economic Zone. The question of who would have control over the security of the port was also decided in favor of the Chinese.But there was all round opposition to all of these. President Maithripala Sirisena took steps to influence any further negotiations in this matter. read more

25 09 19

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Separately, a boat carrying 11 migrants, including two teenagers, was rescued off the coast of Boulogne by French authorities in the early hours of Friday morning after it capsized.The migrants managed to phone authorities and were located by a nearby fishing boat. Some had managed to climb onto the boat’s hull, while others were in the water. “Several” were suffering from mild hypothermia and one had a knee injury but none required hospital treatment, according to the local coastguard.In a statement, regional authorities for the Manche and North Sea said that conditions had been calm near the coast but “agitated at sea”.The local state prefect warned migrants against “crossing the Channel, one of the world’s most frequented zones and thus dangerous for human life”.In July, a man attempting to swim across the Channel wearing flippers was picked up by French authorities and returned to Calais.  Border force yesterday intercepted 30 migrants crossing the English Channel, two of which were travelling in a kayak. Two minors, both believed to be teenagers, 27 men and one woman travelling in four separate vessels were stopped by authorities. They identified themselves at Iranian and Afghan nationals. The migrants were travelling in rigid-inflatable boats and two people were recovered from a kayak. Border Force was alerted to the first incident at around 4am on Friday and deployed a coastal patrol vessel and cutter which intercepted the group. It received a final alert at 7am.The occupants of the four small boats were transferred to Dover where they were medically assessed and deemed to be well. They were subsequently transferred to immigration facilities for interview. A Home Office spokesman said anyone crossing the channel in a small boat is taking a “huge risk with their life and the lives of their children”. Since January more than 60 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.HM Coastguard said it coordinated the search and rescue response to a number of incidents off Kent with Kent Police and Border Force. “HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities,” a spokeswoman said. read more