Inconsistencies Spur Sri Lanka to Amend Bill on China-Built Port

A worker takes shade next to the bucket of an excavator at the site of Colombo Port City, developed by China Harbour Engineering Co. (Photographer: Atul Loke/Bloomberg)

Inconsistencies Spur Sri Lanka to Amend Bill on China-Built Port

Sri Lanka plans to amend a bill that will determine how investments into a $1.4 billion Chinese-built port city in Colombo are overseen, after the nation’s Supreme Court found inconsistencies in the proposed law.

The island nation’s Supreme Court found inconsistencies in some clauses of the draft Colombo Port City Economic Commission bill after last month hearing petitions from about 20 individuals and organizations challenging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s plan.

Sri Lanka will present the amended bill to the legislature Wednesday, the nation’s information department said on its website. The government accepts “in its entirety” amendments suggested by the top court, Education Minister G.L. Peiris said Tuesday. It would have needed a two-third approval if it were to present the bill without amendments.

Petitions filed against the bill raised concerns about the constitutional integrity of the panel overseen by the president, and the lack of direct oversight by regulators, including the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The proposed law came after Rajapaksa last year succeeded in a bid to amass executive powers for his office.

The South Asian nation’s parliament is scheduled to hold a debate on the bill Wednesday and Thursday and put it to a vote.

The port city in Colombo, being built by China Communications Construction Co., has a plan to construct a financial district -- pitched as a new hub between Singapore and Dubai -- with a marina, a hospital, shopping malls, and 21,000 apartments and homes.

The court ruling, read out by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in parliament Tuesday, stipulated that the government garner a two-third approval in the 225-set legislature and seek public approval through a referendum, if it were to present the bill without amendments.

Sri Lanka has been one of the countries drawn to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The government has said that the port city project will be a source of non-debt inflows that will help drive growth by reducing red-tape faced by investors.

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