Agreement to lease the Hambantota Port was a mistake
President Rajapaksa speaking on foreign policy stated that Sri Lanka should remain neutral, as the country cannot survive if it gets into a balancing act between superpowers. The President reiterated that Sri Lanka should not get in between the power struggles of superpowers, adding that Sri Lanka wants to work with all countries. He also noted that Sri Lanka does not want to do anything to harm any other country.
Addressing the issue of China’s involvement in Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that the involvement which took place under the tenure of his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was purely “commercial.” He went onto state that even though China saw the Hambantota port as part of its “String of Pearls,” the then Government looked at it as a requirement. He also stated that Sri Lanka should have never given “control of the Port to China,” adding that it was a mistake.
The President stated that he is not afraid to say that it was a mistake even though China is a good friend of the country and even though Sri Lanka requires China’s assistance for development. President Rajapaksa added that he would request China to renegotiate the 99-year lease of the Hambantota port to come up with a better deal for Sri Lanka, as the people of the country are not happy with the existing agreement.
“The strategically important, economically important harbor, giving that is not acceptable. That we should have control. We have to renegotiate. Giving a terminal for an operation is a different thing, giving some location to build a hotel is different, not the control over a very important place, it is not acceptable. So that is my position.” – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa