Expressway still stalled: Crucial talks this week

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Crucial talks are set to take place this week as attempts are made to resume work on sections of the stalled Central Expressway Project (CEP), The Sunday Morning learns.

Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and the Road Development Authority (RDA) are to hold talks this week to discuss issues related to the project, sources said.

Sources also said that Japanese officials had met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week and discussed issues related to the project.

The full project involves funding and expertise from China, Japan, and Sri Lanka in four phases.

The 34 km-long Section III from Pothuhera to Galagedara which was to be constructed by a Japanese contractor at an estimated cost of around Rs. 135 billion with a loan obtained from Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank (TMB) Japan, is still under discussion.

However, the contract agreement for the construction of Section III was signed in 2016. The construction of Section III was delayed for almost four years as the two parties, Sri Lanka and Japan, could not agree on the conditions of the deal.

Explaining the present situation of Section III of the CEP, a senior official of the RDA told The Sunday Morning that the loan agreement with Japan can be signed only once clearance from the Attorney General’s Department was obtained regarding some legal issues pertaining to the agreement.

“A decision is expected to be taken after the meeting with Dr. Jayasundera,” the official added.

The Sunday Morning learnt that the conditions related to the loan from Japan, based on jurisdiction and bribery, were still being discussed by the two parties.

“At the meeting, the present situation of all four stages of the CEP will be discussed and measures will be taken after the meeting to expedite the ongoing construction of Section I and II, after clearing the present issues. Possible measures will also be taken to expedite the process of obtaining necessary loans to begin construction,” he noted.

Last week, Japan was reported to have held discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the purpose of reviving projects that had been delayed, including the construction of the Pothuhera-Galagedara stretch of the CEP.

Initially, the Government plan was to complete the construction of the CEP which consists of four phases at the end of 2019. The construction of Section I, 37.3 km from Kadawatha to Meerigama, had stalled due to the delay in finalising the loan agreements between Sri Lanka and China. Section IV was to be funded by China but an agreement has not yet been signed.

When contacted, the Director General of the RDA Kamal Amaraweera told The Sunday Morning that talks with the relevant parties had taken place, adding that he expected the project to be expedited.