Government’s response to JVP claim on Port City | Sunday Observer

Government’s response to JVP claim on Port City

18 April, 2021

Recently the government used its two-thirds majority power to introduce a Bill called the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Law.

A government does not need a 2/3 majority to introduce a Bill in Parliament. It can be passed by a simple parliamentary majority except in the case of a Supreme Court ruling or other special ordinance.

Eighty percent of the 1,115 acres of land in the Port City built near the city of Colombo is owned by China Harbour Company. The land area of the Port City of Colombo is only 269 hectares or 664 acres, but the total area around it, including the breakwater and moat, is 446 hectares or 1102 acres.

Government owned lands

All this is freehold land owned by the Government of Sri Lanka with ownership vested by a Parliamentary Resolution. Out of 269 hectares of land, only 178 hectares or 439 acres can be used for constructions and the remaining 91 hectares or 224 acres are allocated for public infrastructures such as roads, beaches, parks, sidewalks and canals. Out of the possible 178 hectares, the project company will receive 116 hectares or 286 acres on a 99-year lease, while the remaining 62 hectares or 153 acres, could be released directly to the government or any other party.

The company plans to re-lease their land to private investors to get payback of $ 1.4 billion it is investing in the project. Out of the total 1102 acres of land, only 286 acres will be given to the company temporarily, which makes it 25%.)

It was reported that this company had pumped a lot of money for the Rajapaksa’s elections and funding in the recent past. The government has been pressured by this company to designate the region as non-compliant to local laws. This bill by the government is put forward as a result of that.

US fabricating stories

In 2018, a New York-based newspaper in the United States of America slandered the China Ports Engineering Company with distorted information and a fabricated story with the intent of discrediting China in the eyes of the world. China Port Engineering Company denied that news and the falsehoods contained therein.

The management of the Engineering Company held a press conference chaired by the then Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka and revealed the facts, although both the ruling party and the party in power at the time insisted that a law suit be filed against the Company based on the news. The investigation did not take place because the American media report was completely untrue and the project company could not influence the Government on the bill except to invest in the construction of the Colombo Port City.

The Bill, which was originally drafted, was rejected by the Attorney General’s Department on two occasions. Because it is so powerful that it surpasses even the Constitution. Accordingly, a bill which has now been introduced is less in force as compared to the previous two drafts.

Government Acts

There are two Acts in our country, the Board of Investment Act and the Strategic Development Act. Those bills allow huge tax breaks. It was under this that the Rajapaksa’s gave tax relief to the Shangri-La Hotel for 25 years and Ranil gave tax relief to the Chinese company in the sale of the Hambantota Port. Despite having these Acts, they have not been applied a large number of privileges but have been granted under a commission similar to power of a state.

The Board of Investment Act or the Greater Colombo Economic Commission Act is now more than 43 years old. The aim at the time was to encourage production-based investment, for example, garments, rubber products, assemblies, etc., to attract foreign investment in those sectors. The Strategic Development Act, 2008 was introduced to attract services and commercial investment not covered by the Board of Investment Act. As the Port City is a project aimed at the financial and service sectors the need for an inherent legal framework has developed over time.

Special zone

* The Port City is a special zone that does not belong to any local government area.

This is the time where there is a lot of talk about local government bodies and its inefficiencies, regardless of party affiliation. There is a lot of talk about suitable alternatives. The Port City creates the perfect environment for any of these experiments. If this model succeeds as an efficient and people-oriented service region, it can be substituted for the rest of the country.

* Local Government areas are governed by elected representatives of the people living there. But the Port City is governed by a commission appointed by the president.

The President of this country is elected by the people

* Representatives of the Commission will be granted immunity from prosecution for doing or not doing anything. It is not the same as the President, but close to such immunity.

That exemption applies only to matters relating to this Act. That exemption does not apply in the event of any criminal offence, intentional omission of this Act or any other violation of law recognized in the country

* This Commission has special financial powers. The Commission has a separate fund. Government revenue is added to the Consolidated Fund. Parliamentary approval is required to obtain money from it. But the Port City Economic Commission can maintain a separate fund outside of it that does not require parliamentary approval.

It is common for the Port City Commission to have its funding, just as any other public body and commission has its funds. Although other State Institutions receive public tax money through parliamentary approval, the Ports Commission will operate with a different method of earning its own funds, mainly from foreign investment, and handing them over to the government. The Commission is accountable to the President of the country or a Minister nominated by him, so in the end, it is accountable to the people of the country.

* The Port City Economic Commission has the power to grant various tax concessions. Generally, only Parliament can grant tax relief. But this ‘Province’ has special tax relief.

For any tax relief recommended and formulated by the Commission to take effect, it must be presented to Parliament for approval

* The money received by the state is subject to the supervision of the Auditor-General. But the Port City Economic Commission’s accounts are audited by a private company. It has been removed from the state audit.

Article 154 of the Constitution stipulates the need for an international audit to oversee the audit process. As the final audit report has to be submitted to Parliament, the people’s representatives have the opportunity to study it thoroughly.

* Government Agencies may be summoned before Parliament for COPA (CO) and COPE (CO). But this ‘Chinese Province’ cannot be summoned to Parliament.

There is no mention of not being able to convene. As it is an Institution that is expected to be built as an Institution that does not depend on public funds, it is more directly accountable to the President or a nominated Minister than to the parliament.

* Only foreigners can invest in this Port City. It has indirectly prevented Sri Lankan businessmen from investing. That is by informing that only those who raise those funds from abroad can invest here. In a nutshell, this is a separate state.

If it was possible to raise funds locally or overseas in any way, Sri Lankan Businessmen, as well as active foreign Businessmen from Sri Lanka, would transfer their cash reserves in Sri Lanka to foreign currencies or withdraw money from their foreign currencies into Sri Lankan banks very quickly and would have been transmitted to Port City, but this condition made it mandatory for any local or foreign businessman to bring in foreign reserves from a foreign country, which would inevitably attract foreign investment to Sri Lanka regularly. Even at this moment some local companies are depositing such money to banks in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

The first beneficiaries of the Port City Commission will be these local businessmen who have deposited such foreign reserves abroad.

* It is stated that the salaries of those working in this Port City area should be paid in a designated foreign currency. It could be the Chinese ‘Yuan’.

In the Port City it will be possible to buy and deliver, not only wages but also goods and services in any of the world’s recognised currencies. It can be not only Sri Lankan or Indian Rupees but also Euros, Pounds, Dollars, Yen, Dinars or Rubles.

* Income of employees working here is exempt from income tax. It is stated that the money can be deposited in a foreign currency account in this country.

Early stages of creating an era of earning foreign exchange by pursuing higher careers in Sri Lanka instead of earning foreign exchange abroad.

* Citizens of Sri Lanka can pay for services in the Port City of Colombo but should pay taxes on goods purchased upon departure. This convinces the region is a separate country.

Tax relief is available for tourists or those with temporary residence visas or for use or consumption in the Port City. Otherwise, sales of services and goods provided in other parts of the country may be disrupted. This will enable provision for superior and competitive goods and services to tourists while safeguarding the overall sale of goods and services in the country. And if anyone has any doubts that this Act will create a separate country, they can go to the Supreme Court against it.

* Disputes within the jurisdiction of the Port City Economic Commission should be resolved through international arbitration. For example, the dispute over the hedging agreement with the Petroleum Corporation and the International City Bank was referred to a Singapore arbitration board. That is the way to resolve disputes between states. Accordingly, the power to resolve disputes between the Commission and Institutions and between Institutions and Employees have been vested in an International Arbitration Board established there.

The emergence of such arbitration centres marks the first step in making the Port City of Colombo a developed international city.

Also, several important Acts that have already been passed in Parliament are not being implemented in the state. Urban Development Authority Act No. 78, Municipal Councils Ordinance, Commercial Mediation Centers Act, Urban and Rural Design Ordinance, Strategic Development Act granting tax concessions for various projects, General Contract Agreement Act, No. 78 of the National State Council approving construction, Important Acts such as the Board of Investment Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission Act are not enforced in this State.

The Securities and Exchange Commission Act protects foreign exchange. All powers and regulations on the foreign currency of that country are exercised through this Act. Also, The Government is taking steps to relieve all Acts or amend certain clauses in the Inland Revenue Act, the Value Added Tax Act No. 11 of 2002, the Finance Act No. 11 of 2005, the Customs Ordinance in force on imports and exports of goods, ports and airports related to ports and airports, including the Income Tax Regulations Development Act, Sri Lanka Export Development Act, Betting and Gambling Act, Workers’ Termination of Employment Act, Employment Tax, Foreign Exchange Act, Casino Business Regulation Act.

Therefore, plans are being made to make this Port City a Chinese province. China has a plan similar to the one in Hong Kong for the port city project.

Hong Kong is, according to historical evidence, part of the ancient Chinese Empire.

In 1997, British reluctantly returned the Hong Kong region to China, where they had exploited the region’s wealth and natural resources for more than 150 years like wolves in sheep’s clothing. But Chinese authorities did not try to change the system which was there for 150 years, overnight. Although they did so in the concept of two ways in one country, Britain is still engaged in the brutal act of destabilising the Hong Kong region, constantly inciting the pro-Western modern Hong Kong generation created by the British. It is surprising that China, the supreme example of modern socialism, has been pushed into the role of ultra-capitalist Britain.

The Commission

Also, nowhere does it say that the members of the Commission appointed by the President should be only Sri Lankan citizens. Therefore, it is doubtful whether the members of the Commission are Chinese. This Government came as a patriotic government that protects national resources. The regime that has built up a great deal of criticism of the Liberal economy. A key element of economic liberalisation is the Board of Investment and the Strategic Development Act. The anti-liberal views expressed by the President in the presidential election are to be liberated by abolishing the laws and regulations of the country, turning it into rhetoric about the national economy.

In many parts of the world, we often hear of talented Sri Lankans working in various government and quasi-Government Institutions. It can also be viewed positively as a great opportunity to bring back the lost great intellectuals from such a country.

This is an attempt to break the backbone of the remaining economy of our country and present the economy to powerful states. Therefore, this process must be defeated and the citizens of this country must speak out against it. We are also looking into whether legal action can be taken against this by our legal team. However, the government has turned the judiciary of this country into a centre that can be manipulated according to it.

It is now very clear why. This is why the 20th Amendment brought the President some superpower. These laws are being drafted to build a state for the Chinese government and the Chinese Harbour Company, in violation of all laws applicable to Sri Lanka.

- Anyone who has any doubt that this Act will create a separate country can go to the Supreme Court and seek justice