Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa yesterday criticized the government alleging that it is holding off public transportation development projects initiated by the previous government.
Raising a question under Standing Order 27 (2), the Opposition Leader requested the government to explain how it is planning to fund the said projects if it is to terminate the initial agreements signed by the previous government.
The Opposition Leader observed, “Traffic congestion has become one of the major socio-economic crises in Sri Lanka. It has resulted in direct and indirect impacts, including wastage of manpower and time on the highway, rising foreign exchange costs for fuel, pollution, and increasing road accidents.
The previous government took a number of significant steps to address this issue, the most important of which was the establishment of an advanced public transport system.
In addition to modernizing bus transport in the development of public transport, the “Light Rail Transit Line Systems Project” (LRT) as well as the modernization of the Kelani Valley Railway were major projects. When this government came into power, it had completed the feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments of these projects and was ready to implement them.”
Premadasa also observed, “The first phase of the LRT project was planned to cover a distance of 16.7 km from Malabe to Colombo Fort with 16 stations. It was proposed to be implemented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at a concessional interest rate of 0.1%, with a grace period of 12 years, subject to repayment over a period of 40 years.
However now it has been decided to abruptly suspend the LRT project without any study or justifiable reason, and it is reported that this action was taken unilaterally without proper understanding with the Government of Japan.”
Premadasa questioned, “Has the Government decided to suspend the Light Rail Transit Line Systems Project (LRT) proposed to be built with the financial assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)? Has the Cabinet approved it? If so, will you inform this House of the grounds on which that decision was made? If not, why? Is the government planning to finance this project in some other way, instead of the long-term loan assistance received at a very concessionary interest rate? If so, will the relevant facts be presented to this House? If not, why not? Does the Government acknowledge that the unilateral decision to cancel the LRT project could have a serious adverse effect on the long-standing bilateral relations between Japan and Sri Lanka? Is the government unaware that this project could affect other projects as well? Has a decision been taken to suspend JICA assistance for the second phase of the Greater Colombo Transmission and Distribution Reduction Project? If so, what are the reasons? Are there any other ways to raise funds for this project? If so, what are the ways in which those funds will be raised? If the government fails to implement this project, what steps will be taken by the government to avoid future problems? Has the government rejected the proposed Asian Development Bank (ADB) assistance for the Kelani Valley Railway modernization project? If so, why? Has the government decided to suspend the project? If so, what are the reasons? Who made that decision? Based on any report or study? Will the Government take steps to submit to this House the names and qualifications of the persons who prepared the study or report? If not, why?”
(Source: Daily News – By Sandasen MARASINGHE, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawaarachchi)