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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Sri Lanka opposition charges Bharat-funded MRCC is a threat to security

Sri Lanka’s opposition has charged that Bharat-funded Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) is a threat to the country’s security and might lead to geopolitical clash with China.

Main Opposition, United People’s Power (UPP) MP Harin Fernando claimed that under the project, entire Sri Lankan airspace is sold to Bharat under the guise of a security system.

Sri Lanka Cabinet announced on Tuesday that approval has been given to build a MRCC in Sri Lanka with a grant of $6 million from Bharat. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is also the Defence Minister has presented the proposal and a MoU is to be signed between Lanka government and Bharatiya Government-owned aerospace and defence electronics company, Bharat Electronics.

Claiming that the government was selling national resources to foreign countries, MP Harin Fernando said the proposed MRCC would be set up inside the Sri Lanka Navy Headquarters and eight other sub-units will be positioned around the country including one in Hambantota, where the China-run harbour is positioned.

“While Hambantota harbour is given to China, a MRCC has been set up in the same area. This is a foolish decision that would lead to a war,” Fernando claimed.

The MP also said under the agreement Bharat is to provide three Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka, while the Sri Lanka Navy is to receive a 4,000 MT floating barge from Bharat.

Responding to the Opposition’s allegation, Joint Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Ramesh Pathirana denied selling of national resources to Bharat and said the agreement will focus on increasing bilateral relations and training programme between Bharat and Sri Lanka. He said the agreement is would be submitted to Parliament before it is signed.

Meanwhile, MP Fernando also alleged that allowing Bharat to have the digital identities including biometrics of all Sri Lankans with the project Unified Digital Identity Framework is a threat to all Sri Lankans. “The digital identities of all Sri Lankans will be in the hand of India,” he complained.

The Cabinet on Tuesday announced that an MoU is to be signed between Bharat and Sri Lanka with regard to implement Sri Lanka Unified Digital Identity Framework on Bharat’s grant of Indian Rs 300 million.

Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition MP Lakshman Kiriella in Parliament accused Finance Minister Basil Rajapksa of signing agreements with Bharat secretly while keeping the parliament in the dark.

“Basil Rajapaksa who has not attended parliament for last three months is selling resources to Bharat to buy food,” MP Kiriella said in Parliament on Tuesday.

However, addressing the Parliament, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that it was fortunate to receive such amount of money from Bharat at this difficult period but government has a responsibility to be transparent.

“This is special as this is the first time that India has helped Sri Lanka in this way. However, there are various stories that are spread about this. There is a responsibility on the part of Finance Minister or the Foreign Minister to clarify on this,” Wickremesinghe said.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)

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