British FM’s help to win US $3bn for Colombo Port city raise eyebrows.
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): The newly appointed British foreign secretary and former Prime Minister David Cameron helped win US $3bn for the Colombo Port city project which is eagerly waiting for foreign investments.
The former prime minister visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi and lobbied potential investors on behalf of Port City Colombo, a development in the Sri Lankan capital that critics fear could become a Chinese military base.
It is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s flagship foreign policy aimed at extending Chinese trade and military influence, and was unveiled by Xi on a visit to the island almost ten years ago.
The developer’s parent company is China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), a state-run firm blacklisted by America for building military bases in disputed waters, British media reported.
US citizens and companies are banned from holding shares in the Beijing-headquartered company.
Cameron, the newly appointed foreign secretary, became involved in the port during a visit to Sri Lanka in January where he met Yang Lu, director of CHEC Port City Colombo, the CCCC-owned developer that has invested more than $1 billion.
The pair shook hands and posed for photos as part of a tour. Cameron, 57, also accepted a gift from Lu. A source close to Cameron said he could not remember what it was other than a “token with no value whatsoever”.
Speaking at back-to-back events at the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, he implored delegates from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds to pour money into the port
Cameron has said he was paid by the Washington Speakers Bureau, a US speaking agency, which was in turn contracted by the Sri Lankan branch of KPMG.
His spokesman said: “Mr Cameron has not engaged in any way with China or any Chinese company about these speaking events.”
The claims are challenged by Dilum Amunugama, the Sri Lankan investment minister, who was reported in local media last month as saying: “The whole event was handled by CHEC Port City. The government did not select David Cameron. He was selected by the Port City Company.”
The visits were brokered by Nirj Deva, a former Conservative MP and MEP who ran an EU-China Friendship Group and is an adviser to the Sri Lankan president. He said Cameron did “brilliantly”, demonstrating an intimate knowledge of the “clauses, currency controls and tax holidays” designed to lure investors.
A source close to the project said Gulf investors pledged $3 billion off the back of his visit, none of which has been publicly announced. The funding remains subject to legal agreement. Asked if the money could have been raised without Cameron, Deva, 75, said.