SAR at Arugam Bay
Innovative MoU signed in China
President Srisena has this week signed a MoU (Memo of Understanding) at the Annual Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in Boao, Hainan, China. Agreement has been reached for the creation of an experimental Special Administrative Region (SAR) in the Deep South East of Sri Lanka.
The area around ARUGAM BAY, reaching from PottuVille to Panama has long been regarded by international observers and experts as an ideal location. Arugam Bay rests in a very safe and easy controllable position. Perfect in fact to become a model project.
The plan is to grant AbaY (as it is internationally known) Sri Lanka’s first ever autonomous Administrative region status and allow special privileges. Some forward thinking members within the new S.L Government seem to have realized that the SAR approach has worked wonders elsewhere, such as HongKong, Singapore, Macao, Dubai etc.
Tourism wise Sri Lanka is well below expected targets. It’s neighbour, directly opposite (Burma / Myanmar) had far less arrivals a few years ago. But with clever politics Burma -also a former British Colony – has now reached out to nearly 5 Million arrivals. This needs to be addressed Government insiders have long argued. Arugam Bay SAR is seen to be the perfect solution.. Even a ferry service between Burma, Thailand and India and AbaY’s beautiful East Coast should be considered.
Everyone agrees that the new SAR project will boost investments, tourism, personal freedom, integration and promote many innovative developments.
The region decided upon in this – old fashioned convention breaking – MoU includes the already existing, but controversial huge ‘Buckingham Palace’ cum ‘International Convention Centre’ (depending on which report you believe) build by the previous Government just a few miles South of the main Bay at ‘Peanut Farm’. Proposed is a full Duty free status and unrestricted imports, lower interest rates, relaxed immigration and excise rules and an innovative visa on arrival facility. Other proposals include relaxed night club, party and recreation facilities. However, a decision to allow Packer style casinos and similar activities has not been reached.
During his visit President Srisena held talks with China’s leadership, seeking to smooth ruffled feathers after scuttling Chinese-funded projects and seeking stronger ties with regional rival India.
Sirisena has unnerved China by suspending a $1.4 billion “port city” project in Colombo that India considered a security risk, and ordering a review of other Beijing-financed projects and loans amid allegations of corruption. China has warned of consequences for future investments and relations have looked to worsen. Yet for China, Sri Lanka has never been more important. With its man in Colombo out of the picture, Beijing is under pressure to move quickly to find new ways to engage a country where its strategic interests remain just as vital, yet its diplomatic clout is on the slide at a time when competing powers are circling.
Political analysts and Government insiders suggest that the AbaY SAR project has been decided upon to please all sides and the three Nations involved.
The remote Arugam region never presented any strategic importance. Not even the LTTE or the GOSL forces found any reason to fight or protect indigenous fishing folk, a few foreign surfers or the odd pot-smoking drop-out.
During his state visit to Sri Lanka, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mogli pledged US$380 million under an Indian Line of Credit for the development of the railway sector in Sri Lanka. Both India and China have invested in railway projects in Sri Lanka.
India in turn has agreed to connect the AbaY SAR with the North of the Island, proposed a ferry Service from Tamil Nadu to Olluville’s existing but not used deep sea harbour and extend rail links from Jaffna to Matara via Batticaloa. The old British Colonial plan of PottuVille Central Railway station has also been considered.
China seems to have agreed to fund the extension of the Southern Highway to link up with the proposed Eastern Motorway. Which would run from Matara to connect Mattala Airport and continue past Siyamalanduwa to connect with Batticaloa.
The AbaY SAR agreement is seen as a compromise, pleasing both India and China. If SAR is successful, the controversial and now shelved Colombo Port project will also be shifted to the East Coast.
Existing environmentalist studies indicate that there are no objections. A future connection with Hambantot deep sea Harbour as well as Mad-Mattala International Airport would bring huge benefits to this remote and very underdeveloped area.
This is seen to be an olive branch towards the former Rajapack Governement, who invested Chinese fortunes into fairly hopeless and now dormant projects. Rajapack-Matatla International Airport would become a Charter only as well as a Low Cost Airline hub under the existing plans.
Location and Community relations
Arugam Bay occupies a unique, but also very remote location. Amazing statistics show, that they enjoy 333 days sunshine/ each year. A perfect resort in every aspect. Combining Sports, Surf, Wild Life, amazing Historical places (some 5,000 years old!) with totally non-commercial, unspoiled, untouched village life. AbaY basically has everything the entire island has to offer: But this is just in a tiny, condensed corner of the Nation.
The only access is through thick jungles and National Parks. Via one single road. Crossing one single bridge. Continue reading ‘SAR at Arugam Bay’