Port trade unionists call off fast
By Nabiya Vaffoor and Eunice Ruth
The fast-unto-death campaign launched by trade unionists affiliated to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) demanding the unloading of three gantry cranes at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port was called off, after a meeting was held with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 3 July.
At the discussion held between the Premier and trade unionists, the former had approved the unloading of the three gantry cranes at the ECT and ordered to start operations as soon as possible.
Previously, the protesters had demanded that these three cranes that were imported from China be unloaded at the ECT and that the SLPA commence work without further delays by paying demurrage to the agent that imported those cranes.
However, the main demand of the 23 trade union leaders who went ahead with the fast unto death was based on vesting the overall control of the ECT with the SLPA and a solution to this particular demand is pending.
Addressing the protesters, the Secretary of the Ports, Commerce, Industries and Progressive Workers Union, Shamal Sumanaratne claimed that if the nation has to suffer a major loss due to this trade union action, the responsibility of it should be borne by former Parliamentarians Arjuna Ranatunga, Sagala Ratnayaka and Mahinda Samarasinghe, and all SLPA officials who supported their decisions. Fielding a question raised by a journalist, Sumanaratne noted that they have faith that the present Government will respond positively to their pending demand upon the conclusion of the 5 August Parliamentary Poll.
“Handing over the overall control of the ECT to the SLPA is not a task that can be fulfilled overnight. The present Government will fulfil our demand as soon as they get the power in the Parliament after the Election,” said Sumanaratne.