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Govt. to develop ECT fully, remaining terminal on paper open for foreign investment

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ECT: Prez accepts trade unions’ formula, crisis resolved

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has accepted a proposal by 22 port trade unions aimed at resolving a crisis over the proposed handing over of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour to India’s Adani Group.

The unions have accepted external investment in the proposed West Container Terminal (WCT) while the government undertook to fully develop the deep water ECT now in operation. 

Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, who intervened in the dispute on behalf of ‘Viyathmaga’ yesterday (31), told The Island the trade unions’ proposal was in line with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement at the last presidential election in Nov 2019.

The trade unions and the President reached consensus on this latter on Friday (29) amidst several political parties in the ruling SLPP objecting to the deal on the ECT. National Freedom

Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the protest by seeking a common stand on the port issue. Among those who supported the initiative were Yuthukama MP Gevindu Cumaratunga and the SLFP that had been involved in the original plan to involve the Indians at the ECT.

Responding to another query, Godahewa explained that ‘Viyathmaga’ Executive Committee member Dr. Priyath Bandu, who had served as Chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority during previous Rajapaksa administration, too, joined discussions with trade unions in the wake of them resorting to ‘work to rule’ as part of their strategy to discourage the incumbent government from going ahead with the tripartite agreement on the ECT finalized during the previous yahapalana administration.

 Dr. Godahewa said that ‘Viyathmaga’ intervened as the outfit felt the continuing failure or the delay on their part to address the issue at hand could cause irreparable damage. Dr. Godahewa said that only the trade union affiliated to the JVP refused to reach consensus on this matter.

Asked whether the government was really serious about accepting the trade unions’ formula, Dr. Godahewa said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa accepted workers’ call for one Cabinet paper on the ECT and the proposed WCT. There couldn’t be any further issues in this regard as no less a person than the President gave his go ahead, Dr. Godahewa said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed port minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena to take necessary action in this regard.

The State Minister explained that initially about 16 trade unions had accepted the proposals. There had been some delays as a result of some of the seven remaining trade unions

raising objects, Dr. Godahewa said, adding that finally six more trade unions declared their support. The State Minister emphasized that he along with Dr. Priyathbandu intervened after having received President Rajapaksa’s blessings. The President felt that progress couldn’t be made unless the government reached a clear understanding with port trade unions.

Dr. Godahewa said that in terms of the original ADB approved plan, three terminals at the Colombo port were to public-private partnerships. Dr. Godahewa said: “The ADB plan covered three terminals. China managed Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) is one such terminal, the partly operational ECT run by the SLPA and WCT, a facility which is only on paper.” The SLPA, according to Dr. Godahewa developed the ECT after the previous Rajapaksa administration secured ADB’s consent to develop two of three terminals with external investments whereas it retained the ECT.

Dr. Godahewa said that the previous administration finalized a Memorandum of Corporation (MoC) with India and Japan in spite of specific decision taken by the government to develop the ECT on its own.

Dr. Godahewa said that the public shouldn’t be confused with the agreement on South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT) in the Colombo port finalized way back in 1999. The SAGT investment partners comprised John Keells, Evergreen, A.P.Moller Group and SLPA. The SLPA owns only 15 per cent shares. In the CICT operation, too, the SLPA’s stake is 15 per cent.

Dr. Godahewa said that the government could engage those interested in investing in the proposed WTC as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the trade unions were on the same page as regards the port issue.

In the wake of successful Viyathmaga intervention several political parties met at Minister Weerawansa’s Colombo residence on Saturday (30) where they vowed to oppose Indian investment at the ECT under any circumstances. A senior NFF spokesperson told The Island that of the 14 political parties and groups in the SLPP, the participated in the discussion. Among those present were Ven Atureliye Rathana, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, Minister Udaya Gammanpila, Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Prof. Tissa Vitharana, MP, State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera, Weerasumana Weerasinha, MP, Asanka Navaratne, MP and SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga.

Dr. Godahewa emphasized that their decision not to accept foreign investment at the ECT shouldn’t be misconstrued as opposition to external funding of local projects.



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Supreme Court Judge, President of the Appeal Court, Appeal Court Justice took oath before President

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(pic PMD)

Justice K. P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (06) at the President’s House in Fort.

Court of Appeal Justice Mr. Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne took oath as the President of the Court of Appeal while High Court Judge M.A.R. Marikkar was also sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeal before President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Commanders of the Tri Forces and other officials attended this event.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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