Chinese aircraft firm also gets Galle Face land

Gotabaya says billions from three hotel developers will be used for security forces headquarters

By Bandula Sirimanna

A Chinese aircraft manufacturing company will be the second of three successful bidders for star class hotels to be built on the area around the Galle Face Green to be vacated by the Ministry of Defence and Army Headquarters, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times.

This follows the sale of a six-acre property to build a multifunction complex comprising a classy hotel and a shopping mall, adjoining another six-acre property where the Shangri-La hotel chain is putting up a hotel complex.

The company, the China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), is to pay US Dollars 125 million (for the land), Secretary Rajapaksa said and added that the company was expected to give it out to experts in the hospitality trade for management.

CATIC owns a small hotel in China — the CATIC Grant Skyline Hotel near the “Birds Nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing. Mr. Rajapaksa said the Government intended to build three hotels in the Galle Face Green area that houses the Army Headquarters and the Defence Ministry and raise US Dollars 325 million (more than Rs. 3.8 billion) from the sales. The third bidder has yet to be finalised, he added.
Sri Lanka has purchased transport and fighter jets from CATIC to fight the separatist war that ended in May 2009.

Mr. Rajapaksa said the money raised from the sale of these properties would go largely to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art headquarters for the three military services, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and the Ministry of Defence at Mattegoda. He said plans to shift the Army headquarters to Mattegoda originated during the time of President J.R. Jayewardene's administration when Parliament and the capital city was to be shifted to Sri Jayawardhanapura, Kotte.

These plans were later submitted to the Urban Development Authority. The Army headquarters at Galle Face Green thus vacated was to be used for commercial purposes. "I am only implementing these plans", he added.

He admitted that the Government of Sri Lanka still owed money to Chinese weapons and ammunition manufacturers for purchasess during the three decades-old northern insurgency, but dismissed reports that the sale of the Galle Face area to CATIC was in lieu of the monies owed to it. The company would pay the US$ 125 million (over Rs. 1.37 billion) in "ready cash", he said.

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