In January 2015, when Maithripala Sirisena surprisingly defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential election, the country was seemingly turning over a new chapter in its bloody recent history. In October 2018, President Sirisena’s decision to suddenly oust his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, replacing him with former strongman Rajapaksa, threw the country into a fresh constitutional crisis.
Throughout the country, particularly in the south where Rajapaksa comes from, he enjoys new widespread support. In virtually every village, dozens of large posters positively portray Rajapaksa. While president, one of Rajapaksa’s key controversial projects was the building up of Hambantota port at a cost of close to $1 billion. In December 2017, after Sri Lanka was not able to pay its debts, it agreed to hand over the port to China on a 99-year lease.
For this piece, I went there to take a look at things that were already built and what state they are in, and what is being built, and a look at the highway that will connect to the Hambantota port.