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Lankan President Gotabaya's remarks on Hambantota Port quoted out of context: PM Mahinda Rajapaksa

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's recent remarks on the strategic Hambantota Port, calling it a mistake to give it to China on a 99-year lease, were "quoted out of context" by the media, according to a report.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa clarified on his younger brother's remarks while formally declaring the Colombo Port City as part of Sri Lanka's territory on Saturday.

The 665 acres of reclaimed land from the sea at Galle Face is a project funded by China and built by a Chinese company.

Soon after his election as President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said that giving away the Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year lease was a mistake by the previous government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena.

"The deal has to be renegotiated. Giving a small loan for investment is a different thing but giving a strategically important economic harbour is not acceptable. That we should have controlled," President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said.

In response to Gotabaya Rajapaksa's comments on the Hambantota Port, China had said all projects with Sri Lanka were developed with a "win-win spirit" and "equal-footed consultation" with the host nation.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa clarified to China's official Xinhua agency that the President did not mean there is any problem about sovereignty.

"What the President meant was that our government, unlike the previous one, has a principle of not privatising assets. If Sri Lanka and China have any problems, we can easily discuss and resolve them as friends," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Prime Minister on November 21, said his country will never forget China's strong support for Sri Lanka's development, the report said.

"We are very confident that Sri Lanka can very clearly repay the loans for the Hambantota Port and other development projects. Today, the economy has collapsed but when we rebuild it, paying back loans won't be a question," he said.

Sri Lanka's participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) did not amount to a "debt-trap" as portrayed by some Western media, the prime minister said.

The BRI seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes

The issues related to BRI, earlier known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), has been a major bone of contention between India and China as one portion of the corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, December 09 2019. 18:10 IST