Good Governance & Port City

Port-cityBy Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda, Colombo Telegraph, March 6, 2015

Two days after the protest against Colombo Port City, there was in the morning an announcement that the Port City Project was suspended. On face value, this will bring happiness to many. But is a mere statement to the press by a Minister or two sufficient grounds to believe that the statement contains the truth? In spite of the statements of the Ministers, it was reported by the media that work on the project was going on even at 6.00 pm that day.

My reflection here is about the event that took place on the 3rd of March. We of the “People’s Movement against the Port City”, staged a protest in front of the Fort railway station on this said issue and then proceeded to the Presidential Secretariat to present a petition.

But the civilian unarmed group of people was met by a strong police force and riot police with tear gas and so on, and our way was blocked. I do not blame the Police because they only carried out the orders of the higher authorities. What then is the issue there? As a participant, my concern is on what grounds did the authorities prevent an unarmed group of civilians to walk up to the Presidential Secretariat to present a petition?

My feeling is that it is a sign that the two leaders are gradually getting alienated from the people. I would like also to question whether this behavior reflects good governance or whether these are signs of dictatorial governance that is to come in a short period of time.

Port cityAnother reason to doubt the validity of today’s statement of the Ministers is the assurance given by President Sirisena to the Indian government that since 25% of the ground work on the Port city is already completed, he would not able to stop the project. Further he has decided that the 80 acres to be given to China will be given on the basis of a 99 year lease.

This promise made to the Indian government says that the project will not be stopped. This compels us to question whether the Maithree and Ranil government have taken that decision on the information received from the EIA report of the committee recently appointed or have decided independently without any reference to the report of the environment committee. Does it mean also that this government also does not follow the normal procedures?

Therefore it is becoming clearer that both Maithri – Ranil, although they made promises to do away with it during the election campaign, they are not prepared to drop this Port City plan. At the same time, Ministerial statements are not sufficient proof that the project is going to be stopped. We know the behavior of the politicians. The practice of bluffing and misleading people is their second nature.

Therefore, all talk about good governance has now been proved to be mere empty words. They are valid only during the election period to deceive the gullible and naïve voters.

So people ought to know that the project will definitely move ahead. That is the truth about it. It will be useful to remember the origin of this idea of constructing mega cities was first found in the concept of “Regaining Sri Lanka”. Later it was found in the “Sri Lanka National Physical Plan of Mahinda Chintanaya”.

Therefore, year by year many more such projects will be introduced whoever holds the political reins of the country. It is therefore of paramount importance that people continue with their resistance to the project. At the same time they have to be prepared to face disaster when it comes. If not, catastrophe will fall on them quite unawares as it happened to the people affected by the Uma Oya project.

As a result of this Port City project, the coastal land, sea and lagoon and the fish breeding grounds, will be damaged and the livelihoods of the fisher people will be heavily affected. The houses in the coastal line will be in danger of being washed away into the sea due to erosion.

In the interior of the country, hillocks will be cut down and rocks will be blasted to provide close to 16 million metric tons of granite, impacting on the lands in the Western province and the water level in those areas will drop and the paddy lands will go dry. When blasting of rocks take place, the walls of nearby houses can crack or collapse. This is already happening in the areas such as Waga, Bomiriya and Padukka.

Further politically, we are getting more and more convinced that the government is now on its way to forget the people who voted them into power but better committed to serve the capital of the Chinese business community.

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