Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena would renegotiate the more than USD 5.3 billion-worth of Chinese deals signed by his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa during a visit to Beijing starting tomorrow.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who will accompany Sirisena to Beijing on the three-day visit, said the Sri Lankan president would appeal to the Chinese leadership to review the China-financed projects.
In an unusual blunt comment, Karunanayake termed the Chinese firms handling the projects in Sri Lanka “corrupt.”
“What we want to tell the (Chinese) president is that the government of China is clean, but Chinese companies (operating in Sri Lanka) are corrupt,” Karunanayake said.
“We are basically saying, look at the costs these people have quoted and look at the internationally accepted rate,” he told reporters.
Sirisena, who starts his three-day China visit tomorrow, has already suspended work on a USD 1.4 billion “Colombo Port City” project by reclaiming land.
India considers the project a security risk since the island lies only around 30 kilometres off its southeast coast. India was also concerned after Chinese submarines were reportedly allowed to dock at Colombo by Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa relied heavily on China to rebuild Sri Lanka’s infrastructure during his decade in power, irking India.
The new president, who made his first overseas visit to India after taking charge following his surprise victory in January polls, has also ordered a review of other projects funded by China amid allegations of corruption.
China has been accused of trying to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean under a strategy named “string of pearls” to counter India’s dominance in the region and secure its own economic interests.
During his visit to Beijing, Sirisena would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.