Chinese investors & their passports! Does it really matter? – By Prof. Samitha Hettige

May, 25, 2023

SL is in an economic crisis. Many say it’s due to the shortsighted financial management since independence. Shortsighted public elected those who promised free delivery resulting in the crisis. The officials also should be held responsible for implementing policies looking only at the pension. The need of the hour is investments from outside. Some think that SL is an investor magnet but it isn’t. Citizens should remember that there are many who doesn’t wish to see SL becoming a magnet at any cost. It includes individuals, media organizations & even other states. Among the shortsighted there were few who could see far. One such was the late Neville Jayaweera of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Germany (West) offered a Black & White TV transmitter (with only 30 mile radius capacity) to cater only to the Colombo district in the late 1960s. Neville had the vision & the wisdom to tell then Minister JR Jayawardena not to accept it. When JRJ told Neville not to miss the German grant, he designed the SW radio stations to widen SLBC reception & got the German grant. Famous VW Beetle vans were gifted by the Germans as part of it. SL didn’t miss the money & the friend (Ref memories of NJ).

It was reported that an investor who arrived with a Guinea Passport and a Chinese Passport had to face issues at the airport. Many were excited as it was a Chinese national. Some even acted as if it was the first time in SL history that a person with two passports arrived in SL. Citizens should remember that there will always be attempts to highlight negative perspectives especially when it is China SL relations & even regarding Indo SL relations. Express Pearl assistance incident is the latest regarding India. Public shouldn’t get carried away with these misinformation. The need of the hour is investments. When one investor is harassed, it will send the wrong message to the world. Those officials who only think of the pension will not be worried about attracting investors but the public should. If there are administrative issues, it should be resolved without antagonizing friends. China donated the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in 1973. It celebrates the 50th anniversary in 2023. During the early 1970s when the BMICH was being constructed, political forces against China SL bond had changed the mindset of the people to a level that a Japanese monk had been assaulted at Borella junction assuming it was a Chinese (Ref. Media).

Fortunately China being the historic friend never isolated SL. Borella is the electorate adjoining Colombo Central. Those from Colombo Central shall remember that President Premadasa worked very closely with China. When President JRJ gifted baby elephant “Jayathu” to President Ronald Regan, PM Premadasa gifted a baby elephant to the Chinese leader. During Premadasa rule, industries recorded high growth rates (approx 7%) with investment attracted from the world. President Ranil W was the minister of industries during the time. It is high time SL attract investors from all over to help the economy breath again. China supported the breathing efforts of even the opposition during the pandemic (Vipakshayen Husmak). It is the duty of all to treat good friends in a respectful manner if SL is to attract the world. Minister Mahinda Amaraweera’s view expressed in parliament in respecting good friends is a message noteworthy. In essence Chinese investments & grants have so far ensured right to life & rule of law in SL (Moragahakanda, Supreme Court, Rubber Rice Pact etc.).


(Views expressed are personal)