Cameron criticised after speaking for Sri Lanka’s Chinese-backed port project
The former prime minister travelled to the Middle East twice in September to speak at investor events
FORMER prime minister David Cameron has drawn criticism for participating in events linked to investment in the Chinese-backed Colombo Port City, media reports said.
The main developer behind the Sri Lankan port project is CHEC Port City Colombo Ltd, which is ultimately controlled by the Beijing-based state-owned company China Communications Construction.
Unveiled in 2014, the project came under Chinese control as Sri Lanka struggled to meet its debt repayment obligations to Chinese companies. This sparked global concerns that it would give Beijing a foothold in the Indo-Pacific.
Cameron travelled to the Middle East twice in September to speak for the port project at investor events held in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Sri Lanka’s investment minister, Dilum Amunugama, told Politico he believed Cameron was enlisted for the events at the request of the Chinese company involved in the development.
He said Cameron was trying to stress that it was “not a purely Chinese project” but “it is a Sri Lankan-owned project”.
“That is the main point I think the Chinese also wanted him to iron out,” Amunugama said.
Cameron’s spokesman said the former prime minister had no direct contact with the Chinese government or the Chinese firm that funded the port and his involvement was organised by the Washington Speakers Bureau.
“The contracting party for the events was KPMG Sri Lanka and Mr Cameron’s engagement followed a meeting he had with Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier in the year,” he said.
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said he was “disappointed” by Cameron’s participation.
“Given that China is a real threat to us all David Cameron should not have chosen to do this”, the MP who has been sanctioned by Beijing, said.