Posted on May 6th, 2021

Sarath Wijesinghe- President’s Counsel and former Ambassador to UAE and Israel, President Ambassador’s Forum

Nothing is Permanent in the world-What is permanent is impermanence

Nothing is permanent in the world – what is permanent is impermanence which is the eternal truth according to Buddhist Philosophy , or any other religion or concepts which are  practised by the mankind tested, observed, and proved to be correct. Is 99 year a long period in the world of metaphysics’ and related computations is relatively a difficult question to be discussed? It is a long time for a human or a living being but the nations go on generation after generation with new subjects, subject to new changes which is eternal. China waited for 99 long years to regain the sovereignty of Hong Kong from British who had a legacy of acquiring sovereignty of sovereign nations by any means which is not in conformity with  international law they are expected to practice, all times giving opportunities for lawyer and academics to discuss the subject at length with many similar examples. Hong Kong is a tiny land but a masterpiece on money trading and a Financial Hub , China maintains undisturbed with a brilliant vision despite many differences on economic and financial management ideologies though today China has the sovereignty on Hong Kong to make any changes. Hong Kong is a historical site in the ancient Chine Empire, it was captured by the British in 1842, and later in 1898, and the peninsula was taken as a tax haven from the Chinese emperor for 99 years. Then reluctantly, it was given back to China in 1999, when the 99 year lease ended. British had to give up the Hong Kong region because they were sheep in the eyes of the world,   whose wealth and natural resources were exploited by wolves. British has Hong Kong for 150 years, and the Chinese authorities did not change the regime overnight. China has not made any drastic changes and maintains sovereignty over the territory based on Hobbs theory that sovereignty of a state is the ultimate authority exposition of international law which regulates behaviour of states when international reputation and Concepts of sovereignty is also ever changing under international law and practices based on the situations then. For example the sovereignty over a territory could be limited restricted or shared with anther nation. Portuguese, Dutch and British had sovereign power over certain provinces of Sri Lanka during  certain periods and thereafter British in 1815 by cheating the some Sri Lankan Chiefs in the upcountry by the infamous 1815 agreement after fighting with Sinhalese over 150 years killing hundreds of thousands and destroying paddy fields and cattle with the maximum number in 1818 uprisings when Sri Lankans through history uplifted peaceful peace-loving life with loving kindness to all based on Buddhism with no scars and allegations of violation of human rights of won citizens or others worldwide.  Damage including mass murders including children, done by Portuguese and Dutch are recorded in (blood) red letters in history. Obviously we have to learn a lot from history especially long term international agreements entered into due to whatever the reasons. We have experiences giving away our sovereignty partially and full in certain eras of our history we must learn from. We are angry when they try to teach us peace, loving kindness and human rights! It is in 1948 that we regained lost sovereignty over the land from 1815 a long time again in the history of nations now enjoying freedom as an independent nation and a senior and respected member of the United Nation Organization. Lot Can be narrated on the sovereignty over the Middle East countries, India during the western domination and similar examples and precedents on sovereignty and actions of overriding acting’s taken taking sovereignty away from legitimate nations. China appear not concerned on the sovereignty of the Port City. They are in business not interested in sovereignty of lands over others and the partnership with Sri Lanka appears to be ideal.

Sovereignty of a Nation

Sovereignty of a state which is the supreme authority over the territory  is also is protected and guaranteed  by the international law via United Nations under article 2(1) on sovereign equality and 2(4) based on the principle on non-intervention which is cemented by Geneva Convention on international relations and the accepted practices and conventions the states adhere to. It is accepted and considered that we are a Sovereign Nation. But do all member nations especially powerful and rich accept and consider so is a moot point in terms of practical Universal Practice. 

Sovereignty of a Nation

Is Sri Lanka a sovereign nation today? Is an interesting question when the state has the full power over the territory and recognized by the United Nations Organization as a member nation not permitted by other nations interfere in international affairs. It is the duty of the member nations to respect us and our sovereignty, unconditionally based on the convention of the diplomatic relations entered into in Vienna naming Vienna Convention of diplomatic relations commending the nations to respect all member countries’ irrespective of the size or the economic strength. With the setting up of the Port City in the district of Colombo, a question has arisen on legal basis on the economic zone established under the Port City Bill with sweeping powers to do international business in the most competitive atmosphere which according to the facilitators   claim essential to do business with the rest of the world competing the giants on the trade. Sri Lankan state is a presidential model and the recent 20th amendment has strengthened the executive powers of the president with a firm grip on the administration along with the legislature headed by the Prime Minister – a veteran politician and brother of the President, backing the President. Each nation has sovereignty over the land, sea and air space partially or in full depending on circumstances. The economic zone is constructed by a company in China with no cost for the Sri Lankan state due to close, warm and long-time friendly relations with the two nations over two thousand years bonded by religious, cultural and personal contacts uninterrupted, with closer bonds by supporting and facilitating China to be a world Power in the United nations when she had few friends and needed friends then. With Rubber Rice pact with China and close leadership bonds with the world leaders during non-alignment with  charming and friendly friendship with ‘’Madam Sirimovo Bandaraneika’’ friendships were  enhanced with exchange of good will and materials in kind such as the BMICH, and Court Complex which are monuments exhibited  to date. A nation has to be economically and politically sovereign to be a fully-fledged sovereign nation. Are we politically and economically sovereign are complicated relative issues based on the large scale debts from international organizations, nations and private sector, political issues connected to human rights, treatises we have entered into such agreements and treatises as Indo Sri Lanka Accord when India now demanding Sri Lanka to implement 13th Amendment – a by-product of Indo Sri Lanka Accord , which according to Sri Lanka a domestic affair and matter within the domestic jurisdiction of the independent nation. It is in the midst of this that Sri Lanka has launched the largest ever FD said to be future of Sri Lanka with a massive influx of funds from China Harbour Corporation – a Chinese Company linked to the state. Massive influx of funds pumped is mainly based on the strong friendship and connections in addition to the excellent geographical situation unmatched in the world connecting all parts of the world historically traditionally connecting sea, airspace and other links to the world in the busiest Indian sea. This shows international relations and foreign policy plays a main role in politics, economy and trade. The agreement of the Port City runs for 99 years which is substantial in the life of the mankind. Depend on the magnitude of the funds and labour spent it has to be a successful project and all the signals are that it is on the right directions when compared to some examples close to us such as UAE, Singapore, Israel, and Malaysia –  all success stories with trial and error methods achieved by swimming in the dark, when we are blessed with  learning their success stories and experiences freely available  in order to swim in broad day light with experiences gained and studies on and of the success stories of leading world powers from nothing!. Let us now look into the success stories of few as a learning process for us. India’s concern on the massive Port City project is realistic and understandable in terms of India and strained relationships with China and the mentality   of regional hegemony on the Indian Ocean and entire SAARC region. This is where Sri Lanka should play the cards well based on long term friendly relations from the period of ‘’Arhath Mahinda’s’’ arrival and even before during ‘’Ravana’’ era, on balancing exercises on foreign policy learning lessons from Madam ‘’Sirimavo Bandaraneika’’ the best foreign ever in Sri Lanka.

Vision and Visionaries in UAE, Singapore, Israel, Malaysia and Sri Lanka- Learn from them

We respect UAE and achievements – once  a fish marked in 1960 having blessed with oil exploited the geographical situation and other factors such as sea routs and airlines towards and passing through  neighbouring countries set up the trade zone with all novel devices and  administrative measures in a disciplined society successfully introducing  the one stop shop procedure with  ease of doing business within the zone which is implemented successfully to date transforming  UAE to a rich world power with the tallest world tower,  boost on tourism trade and business with only 4% of oil compared to the rest of the oil rich six emirates. ‘’Rashid Al Maktoum’’ is the Father of Dubai in the current boom, and the visionary of the Nation, who was responsible for what UAE is today who patiently studied the other success stories such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and few other success stories adopted a unique model for UAE, by filling land, making manmade harbours with his vision as a visionary for the nation! He is a go getter and an innovator introduced many novel and world famous places such as the internet city, such as the tallest building, Media City and Financial Centre to his credit with many other development schemes by employing professionals of world repute as CEO’s and employing Asian labour mingled with only 18% local population which is a real vision of a visionary which brought Dubai to the limelight and a top financial, tourism, and a business Hub. As the person who brought UAE to what it is today! Dubai airport and harbour is one of the busiest and Jubal Ali Harbour the manmade Harbour is one of the busiest and largest in the region. It is a business Hub and a tourist paradise, and a money making world power as a centre of education, business and industries with lot more and more success stories still growing. ‘Shaka Lubna’ – once the Trade Minister from the Royal Family and the author of Why UAE? Visited Sri Lanka with a trade delegation to discuss matters of mutual interest laying the foundation of further friendship in order   to exchange views and experiences. The book why UAE deals with the country, success, developments and guide of the country and guide to others in real style to attract the world of investers. It is time now Sri Lankan Trade Ministry or Tourist Ministry to edit a book on Why SriLanka? Following footsteps of why UAE, Inviting given the world the potential and beauty of Sri Lanka and abilities of Sri Lankans.   Success of Singapore too is unique story with the leading visionary Lee Kwan Yew popularly named LKY is transformed Singapore a powerful financial Industrial and economic hub of the world hub of Asia  who also  introduced discipline and modern developments to the unproductive barren land with no resources with inmates dealing in small businesses and cottage industries. Singapore itself is a port city, a financial Centre, and a Trade Centre transforming itself to a world financial Hub in an exemplary manner. It is known and famous or International Arbitrations and one of the busiest harbours in the region. ‘’Dr Manther Mohamad’’ is the visionary of the current development of Malaysia as a developed nation and a financial and a trade centre in the region. Israel is the other model country for us  with the economic and innovation miracles and  also a partly land filled due to want of space and making Israel a miraculous economic centre as a financial hub in Middle East midst of enemies around. Israel a tiny barren desert of 1/3 rd of Sri Lanka with no  water except disputed Galali river  73 years ago is today a world power and a nuclear power, due to the vision of the Visionary ‘Ben Gurian’ and the innovative nature of the people who worked hard despite enemies right round the land developed it to be land of agriculture and innovations by desalination of sea water and managing the water well using in agriculture using drip irrigation they introduced and shared with countries such as China and India. They are the leaders in agriculture innovated to improve agriculture based on innovations and technology making 95% of agriculture is technology. Sri Lanka today has faced the main challenge with the economic downtown and desperately in need of FD and assistance in development with the highly educated but poorly planned and not maintaining standards on agriculture, developments, export and generally in many aspects. Sri Lanka has had close relationships with China over 2000 years and close to each other in international dealings especially acknowledges the assistance of Sri Lanka, when China needed help of close friends to obtain membership and a major power. Sri Lanka maintained the foreign policy of friendly with all and angry with none throughout with the themes non alignment and neutrality. China has given Sri Lanka the highest ever FDI of 1.6 billion with the most prominent and modern Port City governed by the Port City Economic Commission with direct supervision of the President armed with 20th amendment and powers to appoint and remove them when necessary. Government and the Port City has long thought having studied the success stories of other enterprises worldwide in practice. China has given Sri Lanka two major investment opportunities in Colombo Port City and ‘’Hambatota Harbour’’ , based on the vision of the visionary Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who masterminded both projects  – especially the Port City project expected to be the future of Sri Lanka. The bill was highly contested in the Supreme Court heard by five judges including the Chief Justice to ascertain the legality and constitutionality of the port city which is established for the establishment of a special Economic Zone in order to set up a Commission empowered to grant registration, licences and many other such propositions. 

Sovereignty of the Port City as an independent entity

Port city is gazetted as a part of Colombo District and the details are common knowledge to the average citizen following the serious of events out of interest and curiosity. Mode of operation is clear cut with powers to the Commission appointed by the President for a specific term with powers to change on rotation or administrative requirements, despite concerns from the interested citizens of the sovereign power of the Commission to act independently, with questions of international norms such as ‘’Montevioco’’ theory on international law that when a Unit has a defined territory, effective control, and ability to enter into contracts with the outside world may  be considered a separate state as has been effected in Israel in 1948, when USA recognized Israel as a separate state even without defined territory in dispute then. This is a weak argument when Port City is a part of Colombo district, with full control over the President of Sri Lanka, under whose directions the Port City enters into contracts with the outside world. But the fact remains that the Port City is given a certain amount independence and powers to perform the duties to make the concept and the project a success, which is the challenge to the Nation. It is clear that the sovereignty of Port city is with the nation and the challenge lies on all of us to cooperate with the project for the betterment of the future and future generation. Sarath7@hotmail.co.uk


  1. Noor Nizam Says:

    Dear Mr. Sarath Wijesinghe- President’s Counsel,

    A wonderful piece of write-up, explanatory, informative and educative clearly explaining the Sovereignty of the Port City as an independent entity in the last paragraph. I hope HE. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will have some time to read through this article. As a staunch supporter of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and the Presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, your contributions in writing is also much appreciated by all concerned about our “Maarthruboomiya”. Old soldiers of the political groups that fought for the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election campaigns will not be forgotten soon.
    Noor Nizam – Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher, SLFP/SLPP Stalwart, Convener “The Muslim Voice” and Member “Viyathmaga”.

  2. aloy Says:

    There is a Sinhala saying that goes as “dee kirata balalluth saakki”.

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