Ports employees trade union leaders have requested to be allowed along with petroleum employees trade union leaders to participate at the meeting to be held on August 1 with President Maithripala Sirisena to discuss the amendments to the proposed agreement to be signed between China and Sri Lanka over the Hambantota port.
Meanwhile however, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the amended agreement approved by the Cabinet on July 25 would be signed on July 29. Reports further state that ‘The China Merchants Port Holdings, with a capital of USD/$ 794 million will have a stake of 85% in the Hambantota International Port Group which will oversee the commercial operations of the port and its terminals while the rest will be held by the Ports Authority. The former has agreed to reduce its stake to 65% after 10 years. The Hambantota International Port Group Services Company, which is to be set up with Sri Lankan ownership of 50.7%, with a capital of USD/$ 606 million, will oversee aspects pertaining to security.’
Elsewhere, the Ceylon Petroleum General Services Union (CPGSU) informed that they would be lodging a complaint at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka against the attack on the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), leveled against them by the Police, specifically the Officer-in-Charge of the Welikada Police for custodial brutality, and hired goons on July 26.
The All Ceylon General Ports Employees Union (ACGPEU) and the CPGSU are both opposed to the proposed agreement between a Chinese company and the Government of Sri Lanka, which proposes to give the Hambantota port on a 99 years lease to the Chinese, and the proposed signing of it.
In the case of the CPGSU, their specific demand is that in the event the port is handed over to the Chinese, the bunkering terminal, which is currently on a separate location within the said port, should essentially be demarcated and fenced off and given to the CPC to which it lawfully belongs. The ACGPEU called off a strike scheduled in this regard on July 28.
Secretary of the ACGPEU, Chandrasiri Mahagamage said that Sirisena had admitted to the leaders including conveners of the trade unions affiliated to the CPC that the proposed agreement regarding the said port required amendments. According to Mahagamage, the main issue is with the 99 years lease, which he said would span three generations.
“The Government is attempting to sell off the biggest resource we have. It is of such value. Why cannot the rulers realize this? We are against the proposed move altogether. However, any agreement in this regard can only be pushed forward with essential amendments made to it. We will have to decide the next move based on what is agreed upon on August 1,” he added.
Chairman of the CPGSU, Asoka Ranwala pointed out that the matter regarding the lease, which they were opposed to, along with any amendments to the agreement, were however matters to be discussed by the legislature, the Ports Authority and the employees and relevant trade unions separately in order to arrive at a consensus and an eventual decision on.