Japanese Finance Minister Suzuki meets Harsha De Silva

Japan wants Sri Lanka to pay, if LRT project is to resume

Japan has urged Sri Lanka to assume responsibility for the expenses associated with ending a $1.5 billion light rail transit (LRT) project funded by Japan. This was conveyed during visiting Japanese Finance Minister Suzuki Shunichi’s meeting with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) delegation earlier today. 

The Japanese officials stressed the importance of covering these costs in order to resume the suspended projects, according to SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva’s message on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

He echoed the Japanese Finance Minister’s message, underscoring the necessity for Sri Lanka to promptly address debt restructuring, adhere to the IMF program, and repay obligations related to the canceled LRT project. This is seen as a crucial step to facilitate the resumption of stalled initiatives.

In September 2020, the Cabinet under then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa cancelled the LRT project, citing environmental and financial considerations. 

The project was first initiated under the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MMWD) during the previous administration, and Cabinet approval for its implementation was granted back in 2017. 

Subsequently, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, jointly conducted by a Japanese and a Sri Lankan company, was finalized in April 2018. Following public consultations and the resolution of any concerns raised, the EIA for the project received official approval.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has since held various dialogues with the government of Japan on the possibility of resuming the project.