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Leasing Hambantota land to China: FR petition fixed for 30 June

Leasing Hambantota land to China: FR petition fixed for 30 June

The Supreme Court yesterday (14) fixed the fundamental rights petition filed by former Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara against leasing land to China in Hambantota for 30 June.

The bench comprised Justices Eva Wanasundera, B.P. Aluvihara and Sisira J. De Abrew.

The Attorney General had on 29 May moved for time to obtain instructions from the new Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The fundamental rights petition was filed by former Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara challenging the framework agreement with China to use 15,000 acres of land for investment promotion in Hambantota for converting debt into equity.

The Attorney General on 2 May raised three preliminary objections on the maintainability of the fundamental rights petition.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam, with Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, appearing for the Prime Minister, Minister of Ports and Shipping, Finance Minister and Attorney General, had raised the preliminary objections on the alleged suppression and non-disclosure of the facts, lack of good faith and premature application.

Additional Solicitor General Rajaratnam said the Hambantota Port Development was a continuous process and stated that there had been two agreements signed, one in 2007 and another in 2016, where the petitioner was a Minister in the previous Government.

He had also submitted that as a Minister, the petitioner ought to be aware of these agreements but he failed to disclose them. He said the third phase was the framework agreement and it was a continuous process. Petitioner Nanayakkara cited the Prime Minister, Minister of Ports and Shipping and Finance Minister as well as the Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Cabinet-appointed Negotiating Committee, State-owned corporates of China namely China Merchants Port, China Communications, the Speaker, Members of the Constitutional Council and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioner states that no bids or tenders were called from the open market and therefore the recommendation or selection of China Merchants Port Holding Company was not made in accordance with the procurement guidelines or the procurement manual.

He states that the said matter was handled without consulting the Sri Lanka Port Authority.

He states that the Finance Ministry Secretary has still not finalised a concession agreement and he fears that however the same would be imminently finalised and entered into by the Sri Lankan Government. The petitioner laments that the selection or approval of the Chinese company and decision to sign the framework agreement on behalf of Sri Lankan Government was arbitrary, capricious, mala fide and illegal and unlawful.

Manohara de Silva PC appeared for the petitioner. Romesh de Silva, with Manjuka Fernandopulle and Niran Anketell, appeared for the China Merchants Port. Faisz Musthapha PC, with Faiza Markar, Niranjan Arulparagasam and Nivantha Sathrasinghe, instructed by G.G. Arulpragasam, appeared for Minister Sagala Ratnayake. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam, with Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, appeared for the Prime Minister, Minister of Ports and Shipping, Finance Minister and Attorney General.

Chrismal Warnasuriya appeared for Dr. T. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan in a similar petition. (FT)

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