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Ex Def Secy Gotabhaya Rajapaksa Explains How he Shifted Army Headquarters to Battaramulla to Make Way for Shangri-La Project

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says that the country is suffering for want of what he calls workable formula to achieve post-war development objectives.

Comparing the period in the aftermath of successful conclusion of the war in May 2009 with that under the current yahapalana administration, Rajapaksa stressed the pivotal importance of swift and bold decision taking.

Rajapaksa was addressing the annual convention 2017 of Viyathmaga, a civil society organisation pushing for larger role for professionals, at Golden Rose Hotel, Boralesgamuwa on Saturday (March 4).In his brief opening remarks, former Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Dr Nalaka Godahewa explained the crises in every sector due to the failures on the part of the yahapalana administration. Viyathmaga convenor Dr Godahewa cited various economic indicators to prove his point that the economy had suffered since the 2015 change of government.

Among the audience were former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, former Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa, former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema, former Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara, MP Gamini Lokuge, MP Pavitra Wanniarachchi and MP Udaya Gammanpila.

Referring to the struggling national economy, with protests in many sectors, controversy involving judges as well as disabled soldiers taking to the streets, Dr. Godahewa said Viyathmaga was exploring ways and means of formulating policies which might assist whichever party in power to achieve objectives.

The former Defence Secretary said that the previous government had acted decisively to attract foreign investment though some such efforts were seemed not feasible. There couldn’t be a better example than the government finalizing agreement with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.

Declaring that red tape shouldn’t in anyway be allowed to undermine investments, Rajapaksa recalled Chairman/CEO of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Kuok Khoon-Ean wanting the army headquarters land for his Colombo project. In fact, the hotels chain at the time proposed to build hotels in Colombo, Hambantota and Batticaloa.

“Khoon-Ean’s request for army headquarters land caused a serious problem for me. It was a serious challenge. How could I shift headquarters of the war winning army? The army had been there for six decades. It had been the nerve centre of war for 30 years.”

Rajapaksa explained how he exploited a decision taken by first executive president JR Jayewardene to shift army headquarters to Battaramulla many years back. “Within two weeks, in consultation with the Secretary to the Finance Ministry Dr P. B. Jayasundera and the Board of Investment, measures were taken to finalise the transaction. Project was launched to shift army, navy and air force headquarters to Akuregoda, Pelawatte in accordance with JRJ plan.”

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts broke ground for its new hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka on February 24, 2012.

The Hong Kong-based group announced the purchase of 10 acres of state land in January 2011. Shangri-La Asia Limited will invest over USD 400 mn on the 30- storeyed star class hotel with 661 rooms.

The hotel will be the second property in Sri Lanka for the leading Asian hospitality group, joining Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa, which opened in June last year.

Rajapaksa said that top Shangri-La executive had referred to finalisation of their Colombo agreement to highlight the business friendly way the then administration handled investment. Shangri-La had no qualms about recommending Sri Lanka as a place for investment.

Rajapaksa lamented that the previous government hadn’t been able to properly inform the public of its post-war achievements and it had suffered the January 2015 presidential polls defeat. The previous administration’s failure, Rajapaksa asserted had helped those all out to oust it.

The former Defence Secretary mentioned the Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS) another private enterprise that exploited the international demand for security services in the face of pirates’ threat. The AGMS had brought in foreign exchange and created employment opportunities though the project went awry after the change of government in January 2015. The law could be exploited, used here to the advantage of those in power, the former Defence Secretary said.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa flayed what he described as the incompetent Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration. The former Commander-in-Chief alleged that the current administration operated on the premise that the country could be governed with the help of the police and the prisons.

The former President vowed not to allow the yahapalana lot to reverse Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE by succumbing to the separatist agenda to divide the country on ethnic line.

Courtesy: The Island

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