Bengaluru, Feb 28 (PTI) Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa today flayed the present island nation government for the manner in which it privatised Hambantota Port.

“My government had an explicit anti-privatisation policy.

My party does not believe in privatisation. But unfortunately the present (Sri Lankan) government sold everything,” he said.

He was replying to a question from reporters on two Chinese firms owning the port and the invesment zone around it, as stated by officials at a conference at delhi yesterday.

Rajapaksa was speaking after visiting Tirupati to worship Lord Balaji.

“Hambantota port was first offered to India, for I was keen on development work… but ultimately the Chinese agreed to build it,” Rajapaksa said.

“In our case, it was a commercial transaction and we knew how to pay back their loans,” he added.

In December last, Sri Lanka had handed over control of Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year lease,triggering concern here over Beijing’s efforts to expand influence in the region.

Yesterday, a top defence official of the island nation had said in Delhi that Hambantota port would not be used as a military base and Sri Lanka would not engage in any activities in its harbours and waters which may harm India’s security interests.

Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne made the remarks in the presence of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba at the inauguration of the ‘Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue’ here.

Two Chinese firms – Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) managed by the hina Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) – and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority will own the port and the investment zone around it, officials had said.

Rajapaksa, in a statement on August 2 last year, had said not only had his government refrained from privatising any state assets, but also reacquired several important assets privatised by previous governments.

He also had said Sri Lanka would not have any national assets left with it by the end of the term of the present government if things continued in this manner.

Asked what he thought of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajapaksa said “the Indian Prime Minister has a very good international impression and has won many friends globally.”

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.