We would take measures with the participation of the trade union movement and the general public to commence struggle action against the ‘selling process’ of the government. We have already decided to launch a massive agitation campaign connected with the port on 1st February with the participation of trade unions in the port and with the collaboration of other trade unions. We would mediate in this task as a political party and the people should rally to halt the destructive move of the government. We would commence awareness programmes, black band campaigns, agitations. The government has speeded up its selling process of people’s assets. Hence, we too should speed up our struggle campaigns against such moves. We invite the general public to join the struggle against government’s selling process,” said the Leader of the JVP Comrade Anura Dissanayaka.
He said this speaking at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP today (23rd). The Member of the Central Committee of the JVP Comrade Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa MP also was present.
Speaking further the Leader of the JVP said, “The East terminal of Colombo Harbour has become one of the main centers of the government’s selling economic policy. In deciding economic strategies of a country, its geographical location is very important. As such, harbours are important for our economy as a naval center, for import and export of goods and for transshipment.
Colombo Harbour occupies an important 26th position in all harbours in the world. Among the 26 main harbours are 8 Chinese, 2 Japanese and 2 Malaysian harbours. As such, among countries that have harbours, Colombo is placed 14th. Why does Colombo Harbour occupy such an important place despite Sri Lanka being a small country? Ours is not a big market as we are a small country. Our import expenditure is US$20 billion. The export income is US$10 billion. Due to the breakdown of the production economy we get only a small export income. As such our total import – export transaction is a meager US$30 billion. As such, the harbour in Sri Lanka is involved in meager trading. However, we are in the 26th position due to being a transshipment center. Harbours in India, a large state near us, do not get involved in exchange of goods. Colombo Harbour gets an important place as a center for transshipment.
The location of a country is important for shipping routes. As such, the most important harbour in Sri Lanka is Colombo Harbour. Of course Galle and Hambanthota harbours should be developed. Trincomalee is considered as the deepest natural harbour. We also have small harbours at Oluwil, KKS and Pt Pedru. As such, we have a potential to develop our country as a naval hub. However, already plans have been made to sell Hambanthota harbour. The agreement has got delayed due to the opposition of the people, our opposition as a political party and the opposition at the party leaders’ meetings. Also, a dialogue has commenced that the relevant agreements should be presented to parliament. Meanwhile, Minister Sarath Fonseka has stated that discussions have commenced to give Troncomalee Harbour to India. Sarath Fonseka as a minister has come out with what has been discussed in the cabinet. We know that the cabinet spokesman doesn’t announce all the decisions taken in the cabinet. The government announces what people would like and the bad ones are concealed.
Troncomalee, as a natural harbour is an important harbour. It is important in developing that area. Due to its importance there were foreign interferences in the past. During JR Jayawardene’s time the development of the harbour was to be given to the USA. India, making use of the conflict in the North, mediated to sign Indo-Sri Lanka pact. There were destructive points regarding Trincomalee Harbour in the agreement. It was stated that no other country should be allowed to carry out any task in the harbour. Also, Pentagon had named Trincomalee Harbour in its military map. As such, Trincomalee Harbour is a very important center economically as well as militarily. It is such a harbour that is being earmarked to be given to India.
It is in such a background that the government is getting ready to sell the North terminal of Colombo Harbour. Colomboo Harbour has five main terminals. Among them are Jaye Container Terminal, Unity Container terminal, South Asia Gateway terminal, Colombo International Container Terminal and East Container Terminal. During Chandrika Kumaratunga’s time one terminal was given to P & O company. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time South Terminal was given to China. The East Terminal was developed by Ports Authority spending Rs. 10,800 million. By 2001 86% of containers were operated through Jaye Container Terminal. Only 14% was operated through the terminal owned by P & O. By 2016 the 86% operations carried out by Port Authority came down to 38%. The 14% operated by P & O company increased to 28%. Within 3 years operations by the South terminal owned by the Chinese went up to 34%. Why do container operations by the Port Authority decrease? Now the number of ships that are 30 meters long and 14 meters deep have increased. However, Jaye Terminal and Unity Terminal cannot accommodate those ships. Those ships could enter only the East Terminal. It is this terminal that was developed spending Rs. 10,800 million that is to be sold by the government.
Ranil’s economic development committee decides to keep 15% of the East terminal for the government and sell the remaining 85%. The only deep jetty owned by the Ports Authority is the East Terminal. The government states it has no money to fix cranes to this terminal. The Port authority that states it has no money to fix cranes to the terminal spent Rs. 5027 million to construct Sooriyawewa stadium. Rs.6000 million was spent to construct a breakwater for Galle Harbour. The contract was given to a Chinese company and already Rs. 547 million has been spent. However, construction work has been stopped since 2006. When Ashroff was the Minister a loan of Euro 46 million was taken to build Oluwil Harbour. Port Authority spent Rs. 531 million for the project. Also, Rs. 800 million was spent to build a naval training school. Not a single student studies in this school. Not a single ship has arrived at Oluwil Harbour though it was declared open 5 years ago.
It is the inefficiency and wrong procedures of the government that has made the Port bear this burden. The loss incurred by Hambanthota Harbour for 2015 only in Rs. 37,000 million. There is no development strategy for this harbour. The government disowned several terminals. It operates only the East terminal. Expenditure of all harbours is from the income of the Colombo Harbour. Ranil Wickremesinghe is preparing to sell the most important portion of Sri Lanka’s economy to companies. During Chandrika’s time one terminal was given with 49% to the government and 51% to the company. With 49% ownership the government could not mediate in administration. As such, the government with 15% would not be able to get even dividends. Selling people’s assets, which are like a wish-conferring cow, should be halted. As a political party the JVP is prepared to do so. We ask journalists to use their pens against this act. This sordid act of the joint government should be stopped. We ask Arjuna Ranatunga, the Minister of Ports not to be the most disgraceful minister of ports by getting involved in this selling process. We ask him not to lose his glory of being the cricket captain of the World Cup winning team by getting involved in selling the port.
We would take measures with the participation of the trade union movement and the general public to commence struggle action against the ‘selling process’ of the government. We have already decided to launch a massive agitation campaign connected with the port on 1st February with the participation of trade unions in the port and with the collaboration of other trade unions. We would mediate in this task as a political party and the people should rally to halt the destructive move of the government. We would commence awareness programmes, black band campaigns, agitations. The government has speeded up its selling process of people’s assets. Hence, we too should speed up our struggle campaigns against such moves. We invite the general public to join the struggle against government’s selling process.”
Responding to questions from journalists Comrade Anura Dissanayaka said, “The signing of the agreement to sell Hambanthota Harbour has been stalled at present. What the government has done so far is to lay a foundation stone in the land taken over by Mahinda Rajapaksa regime by evicting 1100 families to establish an industrial zone. Taking over 15,000 acres has been temporarily shelved. This should be stopped forever. What are left to stop it are agitations, protests and struggle actions. Of course there are other means of stopping these acts. The people should bring to power a government that would not sell people’s lands.
There is no reason for ships to arrive at a port when it is owned by a company and not to arrive when it is owned by the government. For, the ownership of the harbour is not considered when entering it. A harbour that would incur losses would never be bought by a company. For, the priority of a company is profits. As such, the government’s intention is to sell resources. These rulers suffer from impotency. They have no economic plan. Ranil Wickremesinghe lives in the 80s. He is another ghost of JR Jayewardene.
Understanding the difference between us and the joint opposition of the likes of Mahinda Rajapaksas is very easy. They steal, we don’t. They protect thieves, we appear for apprehending thieves. They talk of pseudo patriotism; we genuinely love the people in this country. They destroy democracy, we protect it. They steal state assets on behalf of the family; we expect to distribute assets for the people. They attempt to amass people’s assets between a clique; we use people’s wealth to serve the people. They slash education to limit it for their children and have healthy lives only for themselves while we appear for free education and healthy lives for all. They lead gluttonous lives while we work for the people. Hence, the difference between them is as wide as the Earth and the sky.
Recently, Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa brought a proposal that a list of names of persons that had been branded as traitors should be declared as national heroes. However, Weerawansa’s name was not on this list. If Thunmulle Padme, Kudu Nihal, Malu Nihal, Soththy Upali and a list of plunderers and thieves are entered as a list of patriots, Weerawansa’s name could be added on the top of that list. How could a plunderer become a patriot? This is the voracious politics that is present in our country today. They conceal their knavish stealing with patriotic shawls. How could those who have robbed billions of people’s money talk of patriotism? Wimal Weerawansa’s name could be included in a list of names that include Mervin Silva, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Yoshitha Rajapaksa.
Responding to another question by a journalist Comrde Anura Dissanayaka said, “Today the headline in ‘Dinamina’ newspaper is about a complaint to Supreme Court regarding the Central Bank bond scam. The complaint is made by Thiniyawala Palitha Thero. Now a situation has come up where various Bhikkus come forward at various stages. Bengamuwe Nalaka Thero ties ‘pirith’ thread when Wimal Weerawansa is remanded for illegally using state vehicles. This Bhikku was a consultant to Mahinda Rajapaksa and was given a vehicle and a salary of Rs.60,000. A Bhikku from ‘Rawana Balaya’ too comes forward in such instances. He is one person who had used several state owned vehicles given by Weerawansa. He was also a member of a director board of an institution under Weerawansa’s ministry. Earlier, when a Bhikku makes a statement we refer to Lord Buddha’s teachings. Now when a Bhikku makes a statement we look for the director board he serves in. Thiniyawala Palitha Thero is a member of the director board of Lanka Hospitals Ltd. It seems that he has a good knowledge regarding Central Bank bonds. He has filed a case stating Central Bank bonds transaction was a legal transaction. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe should have made Thiniyawala Palitha Thero the Governor of Central Bank instead of his membership in the director board of Lanka Hospitals Ltd. Tomorrow (24th) a debate is to take place in parliament regarding the COPE report. It was proposed by our party. Now the case has been filed and it becomes the leading news in Dinamina’ in a bid to stop the debate. Tomorrow Kiriella would propose to the Speaker that according to standing orders the debate cannot be held as a case has been filed. This is a script by Ranil Wickremesinghe. We would never allow this deceitful strategy to be successful.”