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Sri Lanka port workers protest India investment, demand written guarantees

A Sri Lanka port workers union protesting a planned investment into a container terminal by India has demanded a written guarantee from President Rajapaksa before elections that no privatization will be permitted, a minister said.

Wimal Weerawansa, Minister for Industries and Udaya Gammanpila, another party activist met representatives of a worker union calling itself the alliance to protect the East Terminal who do not want the terminal given to foreign or private parties.

“They want a written guarantee from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” Weerawansa told reporters outside the port.

“We will convey it to the President.”

A meeting had been promised for August 06, but protesting workers were demanding that the terminal be developed by state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority in writing.

Sri Lanka’s ousted Maithripala-Wickremesinghe administration led by the United National Party had struck a deal with India and Japan to complete the port terminal without equity and the SLPA taking responsibility for the debt in an unorthodox deal.

However there is a proposal to go for a standard Build-Operate-Transfer deal which will make private developers responsible for financing and the port agency will end up owning it at the end of a concession period which is usually 30 to 40 years.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had earlier met the port workers.

His son Namal Rajapaksa, a former member of parliament was quoted in local television saying the port workers made no protest when the earlier agreement was signed.

He said if workers aligned to the United National Party had supported him when he protested port deals such as the sale of Hambantota port to China, the situation would not have arisen.

It is not clear why the last administration abandoned a BOT deal to develop the East Terminal which was considered a ‘low hanging fruit’ to push Sri Lanka on the path of being an Indian Ocean hub, as the port’s last terminal built by China’s CM Ports was reaching capacity.

It is not clear whether infighting between then President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe or policy fright by Wickremesinghe was responsible for the debacle.

Author: TELO Admin