Sri Lanka: port city development needs public referendum

The new portside development faces a legal hurdle.
The new portside development faces a legal hurdle.

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has rules that the China-backed port city project in Colombo requires approval by a public referendum.

Sri Lanka.- The China-backed $1.4bn port city development in Colombo faces a new challenge as Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court rules that the project requires approval through a public referendum.

According to lawyers, the planned development, which is expected to include an entertainment zone with casinos, violates Sri Lanka’s constitution.

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has said that the project needs to receive two-thirds approval in parliament and public approval through a referendum.

The government is likely to get the parliamentary approval to develop the entertainment zone as it has achieved the two-thirds majority approve constitutional amendments in the past. However, the result of a public referendum may not be so certain.

The Sri Lankan government hopes the project could help the country’s recovery after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, opposition parties argue that the project could see Sri Lanka lose control of its territory to China.

Described as the largest single foreign direct investment in Sri Lankan history, the project has been developed by the state-owned Chinese engineering firm China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

The port city development is expected to include an Integrated Resort (IR), a conference centre, residential developments and a financial zone.

The development will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission, which will also regulate gaming activities, determining how gaming activities will be operated and how casino operators will gain a licence.

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