NPP calls for Colombo Port ECT to be developed domestically

Friday, 3 July 2020 00:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 Pic by Ruwan Walpola


  • 21 port trade unions to meet PM this morning to discuss ECT issue
  • Says Govt. incapable of developing only Sri Lankan-owned port terminal in Colombo
  • Charges Govt. was handing over strategic infrastructure, assets to foreign powers
  • Tilvin claims Govt. has caved in to Indian pressure
  • Opines if gantry cranes are fixed, SLPA staff will run terminal efficiently
  • Claims UNP sold off Hambantota Port; contrary to President’s election manifesto, he seems to want to do the same
  • PM says no final decision has been made regarding ECT

By Asiri Fernando

Talks between the Government and trade unions yesterday regarding the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port led to the unions temporarily removing a roadblock installed in the premises, following the Ports Minister arranging a meeting between the TUs and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to be held today. 

“The discussion with Ports Minister Johnston Fernando got us a meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday (3 July). We will meet him in Hambantota and discuss the matter, however our go-slow campaign continues at the Port,” JVP trade union activist Shamal Sumanarathna told Daily FT. 

Twenty-one Port Trade Unions will attend the meeting, with some calling for sterner action if the talk fails to deliver positive results. 

The National People’s Power (NPP) yesterday charged that the Government has failed to domestically develop the only port terminal under Sri Lankan ownership, and pledged support for the trade union action begun by a group of port workers on Wednesday (30 June), calling on the Government not to allow foreign countries to take over local strategic infrastructure. 

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva, representing the NPP, called on the Government to develop the Colombo Port ECT without handing it over to foreign powers. 

Silva charged that the Government had caved in to pressure from India and is not allowing several gantry cranes which have been imported for the Terminal to be unloaded from a cargo vessel in port. 

The allegations come in the backdrop of the Prime Minister stating that a final decision has not yet been taken regarding developing a deep-sea container terminal of the country’s largest and busiest port. 

“Today the Government isn’t allowing the gantry cranes imported for the East Terminal to be unloaded, the demurrage charges for keeping the cargo vessel unloaded has cost over Rs. 10 million. Port workers have begun trade union action calling for the cranes to be unloaded and installed. We support their actions,” Silva charged. 

Silva opined that the reason the Government was not allowing the cranes to be unloaded was that they feared that once the cranes were fixed, the Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) workers will run the terminal efficiently, thereby making it difficult for the Government to hand over the terminal to an Indian firm. 

“The workers are calling for the cranes to be installed, but the Government has caved in to Indian pressure and is not allowing it. Why is that? Because they know if the cranes are fixed, the workers will run the terminal efficiently, and it will be difficult to sell the terminal to India. An Indian company called Adani is planning to take over the Terminal,” Silva argued. 

The JVP General Secretary stated that the United National Party (UNP), when in power, had ‘sold off’ the Hambantota Port, and that the present Government is trying to ‘sell off’ what is remaining in the Colombo Port.  Silva charged that the Government was weak and unable to develop the few strategic assets that were left in Sri Lankan ownership. 

“Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power on a national security mandate, his henchmen cried foul over foreign investments being rife with hidden geo-political agendas. But today, the Government is yet again planning to hand over one of the most valuable strategic assets, vital to national security, into the hands of a foreign power on a platter,” Silva added.