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ECONOMYNEXT – The participation of a group of independent members of the Sri Lankan parliament in a ceremony marking the controversial arrival of a Chinese tracking vessel at the port of Hambantota has been criticized by a prominent government member.

The Yuan Wang 5 vessel, at the center of an apparent geopolitical standoff between India, Sri Lanka and China, was finally docked at the Chinese-built port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka’s deep south on Tuesday August 16 after much back and forth amid raging controversy over its implications for the region. This was after the governments of India and the United States failed to provide ‘concrete reasons’ why they opposed the boat’s arrival.

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Chinese tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka

Among the guests at a welcome ceremony held Tuesday morning for the ship and its Chinese were MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Vasudewa Nanayakkara, both staunch former supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who later quit his government as the Sri Lanka’s economy was beginning to collapse.

Both MPs, along with their former cabinet colleague Udaya Gammanpila, are widely seen as critical of the West and have expressed pro-Russia and China views.

Weerawansa and Nanayakkara spoke at the event in language that was unambiguously critical of the developments that led to the controversy around Yuan Wang 5.

Government MP and former head of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Dr Charitha Herath took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to express his displeasure with his former colleagues in the Rajapaksa cabinet.

The MPs’ political engagement ‘in an issue as sensitive as this’ was ‘totally unnecessary’, Herath tweeted.

Speaking at the event, MP Weerawansa, who leads the National Freedom Front (NFF), said the Indian Ocean region must remain a region of peace.

“Although this land is Sri Lanka, it is the sky and this ocean that connect us to the world. There is a part of this sky and this ocean which belongs to us and which is our sovereign right.

“We strongly believe that the Indian Ocean region should be a region of peace. It cannot be a region of conflict, nor a region of enemy camps. Whether we are economically strong or weak, we must not abandon this position,” he said.

“The leaders of our [independent parties] have always been of the view that the ship – which some called a spy ship but which we call a communication and technology ship – should be allowed to dock at the Port of Hambantota,” the MP added.

MP Nanayakkara, who leads the Democratic Left Front, said the controversy surrounding the ship was due to “American machinations”.

“The presence of Yuan Wang 5 is a symbol of the independence and sovereign power of Sri Lanka. A controversy was unnecessarily raised over the arrival of Yuan Wang 5 and it was also a machination of the Western powers led by the United States.

“We hope that the lasting friendship [of China and Sri Lanka] cannot be torpedoed by any mechanism of imperialism,” he said.

Former Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (rtd) Sarath Weerasekara, MP for the ruling party still in government now led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, China’s support is important for the island to recover from its crisis economic.

“We are asking our long-time friend China to help us restructure our debt and sort out an IMF bailout and provide us with bridge financing,” he said.

Meanwhile, cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena maintained that Sri Lanka has remained neutral in its stance on the Yuan Wang issue 5 loyal to Sri Lanka’s “non-aligned” foreign policy.

“Sri Lanka has remained a neutral country and we will remain so with everyone. The ship has been delayed due to issues raised by India,” he told the cabinet’s weekly press conference in Colombo on Tuesday morning.

“We have granted the Chinese government the same facilities that we provide to anyone else. We follow a neutral path and we treat everyone the same, whether it is India, Pakistan or even China. ‘America.

“Each country is important to us. They have helped us in the past, and the Foreign Ministry has taken necessary measures to maintain friendship with all nations,” he said.

Gunawardena recalled that Sri Lanka had previously allowed warships from various countries to dock in its ports as long as their arrival did not affect any third party or create any other problem.

“We had warships from the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries,” he said.

Speaking at the ceremony in Hambantota, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong said the port call at Hambantota was a success despite some “bad weather” in the Indian Ocean. It was unclear whether he was making a thinly veiled reference to concerns raised by India and the United States over the vessel’s arrival.

“This shows not only your courage, your tenacity, but also a deep-rooted friendship between our two countries,” he said.

Yuan Wang 5, a third-generation satellite tracking vessel, will be anchored at Hambantota Port for seven days from August 16 to 22 for resupply purposes.

The Sri Lankan authorities had first authorized Yuan Wang 5 on July 12 to call at the port of Hambantota from August 11 to 17.

However, after the United States and India raised concerns about its expected arrival, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry asked China to postpone the stopover until “further consultations”.

Much diplomatic back-and-forth ensued, with the scout ship becoming a subject of controversy both in Sri Lanka and abroad, prompting President Ranil Wickremesinghe to take a personal look at the matter according to at least one report. a great newspaper.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally allowed the ship to dock at Hambantoa where the ship will be anchored until August 22.

The ship arrived in Sri Lanka a day after India celebrated its 75th Independence Day, in commemoration of the island nation’s air force receiving a surveillance plane.

Related:

India donates Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft to Sri Lankan Air Force

(Colombo/August 16, 2022)


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