Concern over ‘Chinese men in military uniform’ at Sri Lanka dredging site
As China takes control of Sri Lankan infrastructure, the alleged deployment of Chinese military personnel to Hambantota continues to spark fury and concern.
According to True Ceylon, several Chinese men were seen recently dredging up an old tank in the Hambantota district, wearing a military uniform similar to Chinese military clothing. According to Sri Lankan law, it is a punishable offense to wear or even be in possession of a military uniform while not serving in the military.
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, a veteran and former army commander and lawmaker, openly alleged that Chinese military personnel were operating at the site. “Many in the current government have ties to wealthy businessmen in China, therefore it is clear how decisions are made,” he said.
In recent developments, the Chinese stationed in Sri Lanka have been under the hammer for the activities they engaged in after the successful takeover of the Colombo Port City project on a 99-year-old lease with strong government power in their favor. .
As for Chinese personnel seen dredging up a tank, they were dressed in Chinese military uniforms, which is against the law. As usual, the Chinese Embassy dismissed the allegations and said it was common to wear such clothes.
Even in Pakistan, China has deployed many ‘companies’ to protect their China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and it should come as no surprise to Sri Lankans if Beijing deploys its military as civilians to protest against ” their port in Hambantota and Colombo, according to True Ceylon.
The opposition party had questioned the presence of foreigners wearing clothing similar to Chinese military uniforms. There was considerable evidence that the uniform belonged to the Chinese military.
In addition, the dredging had started without a permit obtained from the Sri Lanka Department of Archeology. The practice has been called to cease as soon as the images are broadcast, as the country is sensitive to the preservation of ancient ruins.
Cabinet spokeswoman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella dismissed concerns about a possible Chinese military presence in Sri Lanka, saying on June 29 that the outfits worn by Chinese workers were similar to the overalls worn by Sri Lankan workers in local auto shops.
At the weekly cabinet press conference on Tuesday, Minister Rambukwella further said that if the Archeology Law has been violated, there are laws Sri Lanka can resort to. “We strongly reject the fact that we were silent and cowardly about the incident,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, True Ceylon reported that people spotted a Chinese-run sea cucumber farm in Kilinochchi. The farm had been in operation since 2017 under the previous government, according to Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda.
It is also assumed that no permit has been issued to operate such a farm in the north of the country. An investigation is currently underway into the origin of the farm.
Prior to these developments, there had been a huge outcry against China which sold the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to Bangladesh last month at $ 10 per jab while it was $ 15 for Sri Lanka. Several local politicians have also attacked China on social media and demanded a reduction in the price of the vaccine.
China’s growing control over large-scale Sri Lankan infrastructure projects has rekindled fears that the country will soon become a Chinese colony.
It comes after the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) last month won a new development project for a 17 km elevated highway in Colombo.
Amid criticism from opposition parties, Sri Lanka unveiled a controversial bill for a Colombo Port City Commission that allows sweeping tax breaks, tax-free salaries and an offshore financial hub.
The $ 1.4 billion Colombo port city project is expected to be the largest private sector development in Sri Lanka. There have been concerns about Beijing seeking to increase its footprint in the country through contentious infrastructure projects.
This comes at a time when Sri Lanka’s tax revenues plunged in 2020, raising concerns about debt and fiscal trajectory, credit downgrades and the government’s ability to deliver vital public services to the people, while managing loss-making state enterprises.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)