By Shamindra Ferdinando
Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday played down the importance of an adjournment debate on Chinese funding former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election bid to the tune of USD 7.6 mn.
Samarasinghe, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the SLFP, claimed that the debate had been called by the National Unity Government. The SLFPer said two MPs asked for the adjournment debate. Samarasinghe said so in response to The Island query why such an important adjournment debate, initiated by the UNP, had been called off for want of a quorum with only nine out of 225 members present in parliament on the evening of July 19. At least 20 lawmakers have to be present for proceedings to continue.
When The Island pointed out that at the time the sittings were called off, the members of the SLFP group in government, including Samarasinghe had not been present, the minister said that he had deliberately skipped the debate as no less a person than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had assured there was an ongoing inquiry into the Chinese funding issue. Samarasinghe said such a debate shouldn’t have taken place as it could affect the investigation.
Samarasinghe said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa skipped the debate. In fact, none of the Rajapaksas had been in parliament on that day, Samarasinghe said, referring to one-time Speaker Chamal and Namal.
Had he been the target of such an adjournment debate, he wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to respond to allegations, Samarasinghe said, adding that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) no longer had to service the debt and the Chinese funds amounting to USD 974 received for Hambantota port had been sent to the Treasury.
The minister added that besides, the Chinese would investment a further USD 146 mn in the Hambantota port. Subsequently, they would investment between USD 400-600 mn in the third phase of the Hambantota project.