COLOMBO, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has denied allegations which appeared in a recent New York Times report about Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka, stating Colombo was never under pressure to hand over the management of the port to a Chinese company.
Making a special speech in Parliament, Wickremesinghe said that the management of the port which is presently under a joint venture between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchants Port Holdings, was extremely beneficial for Sri Lanka, local media reported Friday.
"I must say that the Chinese government never pressurized Sri Lanka on this matter. What the Chinese government wanted us to do was to get proposals from Chinese companies to run the port initially. The proposal from China Merchants Port was most beneficial for Sri Lanka," Wickremesinghe said.
"This agreement is a victory as far as the people in this country are concerned. Hambantota would be a developed port in the future," he added.
The prime minister also refuted allegations in the New York Times report that the transfer of Hambantota port had given China the control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of India and strategic foothold along a critical military waterway.
"The port will not be used for any military activity," he said.
Wickremesinghe said last week that Hambantota port would stimulate much needed economic development of backward districts in the island country.
In a statement released by the prime minister's office, Wickremesinghe said the agreement over the port deal is beneficial to both Sri Lanka and China and there was no need for concern as the security of the port is under the control of the Sri Lankan Navy.
Sri Lanka's Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasingha has also stressed recently that the agreement on port management between China and Sri Lanka was purely commercial and refuted allegations that the port would be used for military purposes.