News

East Container Terminal: Prez-unions talks fail

  • Irate unions to rally public outrage

  • Assurances of sovereignty inadequate

 

By Hiranyada Dewasiri

 

Port employees’ unions are to conduct further protest action, as a discussion held between 11 unions and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (13) regarding the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port had concluded with no shift in the Government’s stance, The Morning learnt.

Speaking to us following the conclusion of the meeting, All Ceylon General Port Employee Union Chief Secretary Niroshan Gorakanage said that the Government’s stance left no option for the collective of port employees unions but to resort to a trade union struggle.

“The discussion with the President was a failure. We are losing a national resource and this leaves us with no option but to launch an employees’ struggle,” he said.

The President had told the union representatives that the plan was to develop the ECT as an investment project that has 51% ownership by the Government of Sri Lanka and the remaining 49% as an investment by India’s Adani Group and other stakeholders, according to a press release by the President’s Media Division (PMD). The demand of the port employees’ unions is that ECT shares be kept entirely with the Government via the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

The press release went on to state that the ECT would not be sold or leased and that all investments will be made safeguarding Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and that the President has invited the employees’ unions to submit their ideas and suggestions for the development of the ECT.

However, Gorakanage said that the President’s invitation for unions to provide suggestions will not change the fact that 49% of the shares are being given to India.

He said that the President also agreed to give the 23 unions a discussion with the government-appointed committee to look into the development of the ECT, but that this was merely a “strategy”.

“We requested this discussion earlier but we were not granted it. There is no point in having this discussion now, as the committee cannot change anything that even the President can’t. It is just a strategy to contain the unions and go ahead with the Government’s plans,” Gorakanage further claimed.

Gorakanage claimed that the President had stated that “the Government has no choice, as India is expecting the ECT because of its geopolitical importance for India and the region’s security”.

In addition to port employees, the planned struggle by the unions would involve concerned members of the public who would rise up against the Government’s stance, according to Gorakanage.

A national organisation for the protection of the ECT was formed this week in protest of the selling of 49% of the ECT’s shares to the Adani Group of India. The organisation consists of trade unions, civil society groups, and political parties.