Sri Lanka penned two multi-million dollar contracts with Chinese firms for a port upgrade project on Thursday (Nov. 29) in the middle of a political hiatus that has raised doubts over the legitimacy of the government and the legality of the deals.
The debt-saddled island has long been a target of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure scheme to connect China with countries cross Asia and beyond, while regional power India has also been vying for deals to counter China’s influence.
But a political crisis triggered by President Maithripala Sirisena’s replacement of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in turn sacked by parliament, has raised doubts over who can legitimately make decisions in the country.
Foreign countries have yet to recognise the new government and Wickremesinghe’s party has said any decisions by Rajapaksa’s cabinet are illegal.
An official at the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority told Reuters it signed two contracts with Chinese firms worth more than $50 million combined on Thursday after the deals were approved by Rajapaksa’s disputed cabinet last week.
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