Protest continues to cripple work at Colombo Port
By Leon Berenger
Work at the Colombo Port was crippled on 31 July as workers protested for the third consecutive day against moves to hand over the East Container Terminal (ETC) to an Indian company known as the Idani Group.
The protesters belonging to all leading Port trade unions irrespective of political affiliations have vowed to continue their protest indefinitely to press home their demand, Palitha Atukorale with the National Union of Seafarers Sri Lanka (NUSS) said.
He added that some 5,000 workers had participated in this protest that commenced from midday and was set to continue throughout the day.
The protesters are demanding a formal commitment by the Government that it would roll back the agreement with the Indian company prior to calling off their ongoing protest campaign, Ranjan Perera, with the International Transport Federation (ITF) said.
The protesters are demanding that this commitment should be endorsed by either President Gotabaya Rajapaksa or Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, he added.
The protesters blocked all access roads leading to the terminals inside the Colombo Port with container vehicles, crippling normal operations at the facility.
A large Police contingent was later deployed to the area for the purpose of crowd control but the protest remained incident free, Perera added.
Talks between the union representatives and the Port authorities in a bid to reach a solution to the festering crisis ended in a deadlock later in the day.
The Idani group is owned by a multi-billion Indian business tycoon who owns at least three port terminals in India and enjoys a close relationship with the political elite in New Delhi.