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Colombo Port City Bill frontal attack on working people T.M.R. Rasseedin



General Secretay, Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL)

The Colombo Port City Bill establishes an all-powerful Colombo Port City Economic Commission (CPCEC) in the newly extended territory of Sri Lanka known as the Port City. The economic policy it seeks to pursue is directed first and foremost to the attraction to Sri Lanka in a major way of big foreign capital. The CPCEC would administer the territory and through exemptions and the power to modify laws would render them nugatory in the Port City. It will in effect be a separate government with its own legal, economic, administrative and political system functioning independently from the rest of the country.

What is worse is that there is provision for the Commission during the first five years, probably extendable if we look at past history, to permit companies operating outside the Port City area to become part of it and enjoy the benefits of the Bill. Laws which are or can be made inapplicable by the Bill or the Commission are those which private Capital, especially foreign, regards as being fetters on their super profit seeking activities. They include laws covering labour, citizenship, banking, exchange control, Inland Revenue Act, the Customs ordinance and the Monetary Law Act all of which can be made inapplicable, modified or provided with exemption by the Commission.

The right of unhindered exploitation of local labour and local resources; the right to take away their proceeds and when there is no more to be got to take away their capital. All this and more to mobilise foreign capital for economic development of Sri Lanka !

The Bill provides for a reduction in environmental safeguards, freedom from taxes, provisions for freehold sale of land to foreigners/foreign companies through a Land Grant by government of the area to the CPCEC, openings for money laundering through lax regulation for offshore companies and banking and for casinos and gaming. It allows loosely defined “businesses of strategic importance” to be identified by CPCEC and given tax and other benefits for 40 years on approval by Cabinet, not Parliament. It also requires all government institutions including courts to give priority to Port City work, hampering day-to-day requirements of our citizens, whose future access to resources will also be impacted by provision of water, electricity and garbage disposal facilities to meet Port City needs.


Policy of Hire and Fire

The Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL) is particularly perturbed by the attempt being made to exempt such companies from the provisions of the Termination of Employment of Workmen (Special Provisions) Act No.45 of 1971 (TEWA). As the organization that successfully thwarted the attempt of the JR Government of 1978 to deprive workers of the Free Trade Zones of labour law protection through the Greater Colombo Economic Commission Bill, the CFL is alarmed by the attempt of the present government to follow the footsteps of JRJ and deny employees security of employment by singling out the TEWA for exemption. It is worth remembering that of the many protective labour laws operative in Sri Lanka, the TEWA is the singular piece of legislation for whose repeal, employers, the trade chambers and international lending institutions have been persistently agitating.

The TEWA was enacted at the behest of the JCTUO in which the CFL played no mean role by the SLFP-LSSP-CP United Front Government to counter the intentional termination of workmen on the grounds of lack of raw materials and business losses. Under its provisions, no employer was allowed to terminate any workman without (a) the prior consent in writing of the workman or (b) the prior written approval of the Commissioner-General of Labour, except on disciplinary grounds.

The provisions of TEWA taken in its entirety ensured security of service of employee by curtailing the employer’s right to terminate at his/her will and pleasure. The protection it affords against non-disciplinary termination is laudable. The critics of this protective net for workman have tried to make out that this is unique to Sri Lanka. It is not so. In fact the International Labour Organization (ILO) as far back as 1963 adopted Recommendation 119 laying down the basic criteria related to the requirement of a valid reason for terminating the employment of an employee. It suggested periods of notice, income assurance through severance allowance, etc and provided for the right of appeal against termination to bodies empowered to award appropriate relief when termination was not justified and for a certificate of service.

This position was greatly strengthened in 1982 with ILO Convention 158 and Recommendation 166. Today, most countries offer legislative protection against unjustified dismissals, lay-offs and retrenchment in one form or other. In most countries the authorities must be notified in advance of workplace reductions. Several countries require prior approval for dismissals, for whatever reason, by an authority external to the undertaking.

TEWA is essential from the standpoint of workers as it provides some relief in the present environment where employment is vulnerable to market forces and increased external trade through liberalisation of trade and investment. The present employment climate is such that the unilateral discretion of employers to dismiss employees must indeed be subject to neutral review.

This vital piece of labour protective legislation has come under threat in the territory coming under the CPCEC and to companies outside approved by it. Should this Bill be enacted, we will be going back to an era when “hire and fire” ruled employer-employee relationships. Investors appear to enjoy such an environment and the very fact that TEWA is the sole Labour law listed as being amenable to exemptions in Schedule II of the Bill suggests that the move has been made to placate their interests. Thus will begin a pincer movement against the labour laws of the country.

Labour attained its current level through a long march involving immense sacrifices, bitter fights, bloodshed and even loss of life but in actual practice, still remains relatively disadvantaged compared with employers. Meddling with the TEWA in the Port City will only intensify this inequality in employment relationship and should be defeated. The CFL succeeded against the JR regime in 1978 under conditions very different from today as the CFL petitioned the Constitutional Court created by the 1972 first Republican Constitution. Today, the objectives of the authoritarian JR regime are being facilitated by Rajapaksa’s 20th Amendment enabling a tighter grip over the affairs of the people, governance, defence, law and order and justice. In such an environment justice and fair play falls by the wayside.

The CFL calls on the workers of Sri Lanka to prepare for the worst, while struggling for the best. The last say will be with the people although the Government tries to persuade itself that the General Election result is for all time. The centre of politics has shifted from Parliament to the outside very much faster than perhaps anybody expected. This Government has shown itself to be incapable of finding a solution to our problems, but pandering to foreign capital will neither provide a solution nor contribute to enhancing its popularity.

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Prez to unveil plan on 13 A



SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session

By Saman Indrajith

The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.

Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.

Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”

All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.

TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.

Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.

Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.

A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.

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MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT



Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander, exchanging plaques to mark the occasion (pic courtesy Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry

MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).

The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.

MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.

On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.

MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.

The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.

According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.

To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.

Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:

“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”

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Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group



The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).

A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.

Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.

Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.

The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.

Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.

9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.

10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.

10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.

5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.

6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.

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