Weerasekera alone refuses to abandon China ship
Posted on August 17th, 2022

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Former Public Security Minister, Rear Admiral (ret.) Sarath Weerasekera, has taken exception to the withdrawal of permission granted to Chinese research vessel Yuang Wang 5 to visit Hambantota port for refueling.

Sri Lanka, in 2017, leased Hambantota harbour to China for 99 years.

The ex-Navy Chief of Staff has raised the issue at hand at the government group meeting, chaired by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Monday (08) at the Presidential Secretariat.

Among those present at the group meeting were Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and former PM and MP Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Lawmaker Weerasekera has explained that it wouldn’t be fair to rescind approval at the behest of India after having given the Chinese go ahead on July 12.

Prof. G.L. Peiris had served as the Foreign Affairs Minister at the time the Foreign Ministry granted approval for the vessel to visit Hambantota port.

Since then new President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the foreign affairs minister after Prof. Peiris chose to join the SLPP rebel group.

Sabry, who held justice and finance portfolios under the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has explained the developments relating to the Chinese ship visit scheduled for Aug 11.

Declaring that the proposed visit was a routine one and posed no threat at all, Colombo District lawmaker Weerasekera alleged that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to pay a very heavy price by depending on the US and India.

Except for SLFP MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, who asked for deferment of the visit, other members of the government group had been silent, sources said.

MP Weerasekera has warned that China would be furious with Sri Lanka not with India over the ship controversy.

The naval veteran has also referred to joint military exercises conducted with the US and India over a period of time.

Rebel SLPP members hadn’t participated at the group meeting. However, the National Freedom Front (NFF) has issued a statement strongly condemning the government over its response to Indian pressure.

The MP has queried the Indian intervention in the wake of Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong taking it up with President Wickremesinghe.

China throughout the war backed Sri Lanka regardless of change of governments. After the successful conclusion of the war in May 2009, Sri Lanka received Chinese support at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where Western powers continuously undermined war winning Sri Lanka.

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