Sri Lanka reviews land transfer to China as port deal draws scrutiny

COLOMBO, (Reuters) – Sri Lanka is reconsidering the outright transfer of a parcel of land to China under a $1.5 billion port city deal signed by a previous government, the energy minister said, amid concerns it could be used for Chinese naval activity.

China’s port and other infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka are under the scanner ever since former president Mahinda Rajapaksa lost power in an election last month. He had pursued close ties with Beijing, drawing neighbouring India’s ire.

Under the plan, 108 hectares of land next to the main commercial port of Colombo would be taken over by China Communications Construction Co Ltd, including 20 hectares on an outright basis and the rest on a 99-year lease.

The development would include shopping malls, water sports, golf, hotels, apartments and marinas.

“There is a new suggestion not to give freehold land and that land should be controlled and subjected to the Sri Lankan law,” Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka told a Foreign Correspondents Association Forum.

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