HAMBANTOTA FIASCO COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED
Posted on December 12th, 2016

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

When ones reads the headlines in the daily papers and watch the main news headlines in TV, one could see only the heroics of the commander of the Navy, who appeared in the front of a battleground (which is not very wise for a battle hardened Navy officer) and trying to hold the chins of a so called journalist (various versions indicate that he belongs to different newspapers).

Newspapers could have interpreted whatever way they like to , give the impression to the public that it is the fault of Yahapalanaya but not the  fault of politicians in the area who may have instigated the protest .

Journalist being attacked was the head line and no prominence was given   to the wounded protestors and the wellbeing of the ship staff of the foreign vessels being held at ransom.

Back to story of how to avoid such incident, we would like to high light the fact that both incumbent and previous governments did not have to hand over the Harbour in a platter to Chinese ,if they listen to local companies who wanted to be part of the investment in the Magamapuara Port during the past few years .

During previous regime a private public partnership with a company which operates a mega oil tank farm in middles east   wanted to invest in the oils storage and bunkering operations. But due to the influence from the VVIP’s close family member ,it was shelved by then chairman .That is because Sri Lanka Ports Authority wanted to keep control of the oil bunkering ,most probably because  the chairman was influenced by the VVIP to retain the business so that they can benefit from oil purchases ,SLPA  got involved in bunkering operations which is beyond their mandate  and  it was never  successful business operation.
After the change of the regime, SLPA again called RFP for bunkering and it was never processed due to influence from the current regime .If this operation was launched on PPP basis Chinese would not have been able to take over the area for operation.

SLPA called RFP’s for various investments for bottling plants ,sugar bagging factories ,ware housing , and they were never processed .If such investments were in place Chinese would not have taken over the whole Harbour .

Few other investors were keen in install refineries and oil tank farms and both governments were not interested.

A dockyard was also proposed and a company even placed the order for a floating dock to be placed in Hambantota for ship repairs and SLPA under previous regime turned down the proposals.

One local entrepreneur wanted a piece of land in the Harbour to install a grain processing plant and SLPA turned down.

Now SLPA, some Ministers and Opposition are lamenting that the port has been given to Chinese .If SLPA allowed other local investors with or without foreign collaboration to proceed in the Hambantota Harbour, today Chinese would never have expressed any interest to take over.

Under the privatization of the Magampura Port, SLPA having 20% equity should entertain some local companies to invest in various ventures and show the presence to the Chinese rather than just holding one seat in the Board of Directors.

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

 

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