Colombo Port workers end strike against proposed deal with India

Workers at the strategic Colombo Port called off their strike on Sunday following a meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, a day after they demanded a “written pledge” from the Sri Lankan President that the country’s largest port’s Eastern Container Terminal would not be handed over to India.

At least 23 trade unions launched the strike on Friday demanding the sale of the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) to India be terminated, and its operations are taken over by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

The previous Sirisena government signed a “memorandum of cooperation” (MOC) with India and Japan for a tripartite effort to develop the ECT which is located just next to the USD 500 million Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT).

Although the MOC was completed last year, a formal agreement for the terminal’s development is yet to be signed and the trade unions are pressing the government to abandon the MOC and develop the terminal as a 100 per cent Sri Lankan venture.

A special discussion was held with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Carlton House in Tangalle on Sunday regarding the relevant trade union action. The trade unions said they had decided to suspend their protest as the talks were successful.

There report, however, did not elaborate on what prompted the workers to end their strike.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa and former parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila met the protesters on Friday and sought an end to the strike. However, the attempt was futile.

As the protest continued, the police on Saturday obtained a court order preventing the protesters from blocking access routes to the port, the Colombo Gazette reported.