New Delhi: Sri Lankan police arrested Namal Rajapaksa, the legislator son of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday for leading violent anti-India demonstrations over alleged plans to sell an airport built and named after his father.
According to the police spokesman, MP Namal Rajapaksa was a member of an unlawful assembly outside the Indian consulate in the southern town of Hambantota on Friday.
Rajapaksa accused the government of trying to sell the airport named after his father to an Indian company at a rock bottom price.
The Hambantota airport is near the deep-sea port developed by Beijing and the Sri Lankan government wants to handover the operation to an Indian company.
The government has denied it was planning to sell off the $210 million international airport, but according to Colombo Indian companies are interested in a joint venture to make the facility commercially viable.
One of the world’s emptiest international airports servicing just one flight a day, Mattala Rajapaksa Int’l Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota was built by China but the Lankan government is finding it hard to manage its day-to-day operations. Colombo has to pay back dues to China’s EXIM bank and this move can be seen as a way to maintain the power balance in the Island nation.
Hambantota lies in southern Sri Lanka and is key to China’s One Belt One Road initiative. There are reports that India could invest $205 million into MRIA for a 70 percent share for 40 years.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was toppled in January 2015 elections had raised some $8 billion in loans from China to develop infrastructure, including the ports, which do not generate enough revenue even to pay the staff.