By Chamodi Gunawardana
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday lashed out at the Government’s attempts to hand over 85% of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour to a private investor, claiming that it was a project that the Government could make profits on.
Highlighting a Cabinet paper submitted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in this regard, the JVP claimed that the Government was gradually selling all profit-making public entities.
Speaking at a media briefing held yesterday, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake stressed that the Colombo harbour was a central economic hub which the Government could transform into a profit-making entity.
“The Government is taking steps to sell the ECT of the Ports Authority claiming that the institution is running at a loss without drawing up proper plans to turn the situation around. The authority started making losses due to unwise investment projects taken up by the Rajapaksa regime,” Dissanayake said.
Dissanayake alleged that the Hambantota and Oluvil ports and the Suriyawewa ground were the projects chiefly responsible for the decline in profits of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
Highlighting that the SLPA made the investments despite the fact that such projects were beyond its mandate, he said the authority was now making losses due to these projects.
Dissanayake also criticised the inability of the authorities to increase container transactions in Government-owned terminals, when in comparison the privately-owned ones had recorded growth over the years.
“Earlier the SLPA transacted the largest re-exporting container stock, but now it has reduced due to the lack of facilities in the ECT. Shares of the SLPA have dropped to 38% from 86% during the past five years,” he said.
Dissanayake also said the ECT, which has a 440-metre-long, 18-metre-deep quay wall and other facilities, could be developed by using technical and other resources owned by the SLPA without giving it to the private sector.
“The terminal has all the facilities except the cranes necessary to handle the containers. The former Government had already done 95 % of the work to purchase those. The new Government said that the process was flawed and cancelled the purchase of the cranes. What the Government should do is purchase the cranes and get the terminal running instead of attempting to sell it.” Dissanayake stated.
“We say the attempt to sell the terminal should be stopped immediately. The trade unions as well as the people in the country should oppose this move,” he added.