Galle Marina project in stormy seas | Sunday Observer

Galle Marina project in stormy seas

Questions have been raised about the decision to award the Galle Marina project to an Indian company that has listed its technical assistance to the 1990 Suwasariya service in its portfolio, but Government Ministers insist the shipping and aviation company has nothing to do with the free ambulance service.

The Government planned to develop a section of Galle harbour as a marina back in 2013. A Saudi Arabian investor named Hadi Al Hammam stepped in to the proposed development of Galle Marina through its Sri Lankan based company of Sea Gulf Shipyard (Pvt) Ltd. in the same year. However, anti-Muslim violence in Aluthgama in 2014 hindered progress on the project.

The GVK group of India, which is a prominent Marina Management and Shipping and Aviation expert came up with a new proposal last year.

As the first step a project proposal had been sent to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping by letter dated March 21, 2017. The letter was addressed to the Secretary of the Ministry and was titled “Proposal to Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) a world class marina at Galle Port.

Galle marina

Golden beach stretches, the historic Galle Fort, dolphins and whale watching are some key reasons to make Galle, a popular tourist attraction. According to the recent plan of developing a part of Galle harbour as a marina will be a 112 yachts yard. High-end tourism promotion will be the main purpose of the project.

The Ministry of Ports and Shipping published a tender notice on May 25, 2018 under the supervision of Standing Cabinet Appointed Procurement Committee Chairman of the Ministry. The tender published under the name: Request For Proposals For Operation of Yacht Marina In The Port of Galle, met its deadline 21 August 2018. Sunday Observer learns that the Indian company is the only applicant .

Meanwhile Suwaseriya or the 1990 free ambulance service is a top notch service project introduced by the Yahapalana government, soon after they came to power. The highly successful ambulance service sets out to get to emergent patients within 20 minutes. The response rate has been far quicker in reality. The free ambulance service was introduced through a USD 22.7 million non-repayable grant by the Government of India. But the service is 100 percent Sri Lankan owned, according to State Minister Dr Harsha De Silva, who founded the Suwaseriya service.

But what has given rise to the controversy is that in its project proposal to build the Galle marina to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, GVK lists the Suwaseriya ambulance service as a Corporate Social Responsibility Project by GVK EMRI of India.

GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) is a not – for – profit professional organisation operating in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, and calls itself the largest professional Emergency Service Provider in India today.

But Dr. De Silva dismissed the claims in a recent Facebook post, saying that Indian companies TATA, GVK EMRI and Tech Mahendra had been paid by the Sri Lankan Government for all services obtained for the Phase I rollout of Suwaseriya. “Nothing was given free by GVK or any of the other companies,” the State Minister added.

“It is with a terrible sense of disappointment that I note that there are some people in this country who can go so low as to politically attack the life saving 1990 Suwa Seriya ambulance service saying that the government is to give the Indian company GVK a marina in Galle as ‘pay back’ for ‘free ambulance gift’ by them,” State Minister De Silva said in a Facebook post.

But civil society groups allege a connection between Suwaseriya and GVK’s influence in the Galle Marina project.

President of the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection Ranjith Vithanage claims GVK was influencing the ministry of ports to grant them the tender for the Galle Marina by claiming to be a contributor to the Suwaseriya project. The project proposal sent to the Ministry includes pictures of 1990 ambulances, he added.“The connection between GVK and 1990 ambulance service is crystal clear. If the GVK has put 1990 pictures with no such connection with them, the government can sue,” Vithanage said. He claimed that the tender had been customized for GVK and threatened to lodge a complaint with the FCID.

However Ports Ministry officials refused commenting on the tender process. “First of all we haven’t finalized the tender. We haven’t even convened a tender committee meeting yet. Therefore no decision has been taken to grant this project to any company. Secondly I cannot comment on a tender while it’s still processing. It’s against the protocol” said L.P. Jayampathi, the Secretary to the Ministry of Ports and Shipping.

Despite several attempts Mahinda Samarasinghe, the minister of Ports and Shipping was not available for comment.In his statement, Dr De Silva said he had heard there had been a call for expression of interest for a marina in Galle. “We expect that it should have total transparency and is the duty of the Ministry of Ports and Shipping to ensure same,” he said. If the project was not carried transparently, everyone including the National movement for Protection of Consumer Rights has the right to go to court against the project, the State Minister added condemning attempts to discredit the free ambulance service.

“Furthermore no one can be allowed to use the good name of 1990 Suwa Seriya for self-promotion. If done so by any party we will deal with it in an appropriate manner,” he said.