Prominent Sinhala Buddhist monk and academic, Medagoda Abhayatissa, has attacked the development of the East Container Terminal as an attempted invasion of India.
Comparing the development of the port to the battle between Rama and Ravana the monk claimed
“If Sri Lanka loses the East Container Terminal, the government will never be able to raise its head again”.
He further contested that the port project was an attempt to “make Sri Lanka an Indian state”.
Whilst the development of the port was initially agreed in May 2019 by the previous Sri Lankan administration, with Sri Lanka retaining full ownership and India and Japan holding a 49% stake in running the terminal, there has been met with fierce backlash from Sinhala nationalist groups wary of “foreign involvement”. In 2020 the Rajapaksa administration announced the formation of a committee to establish the $700 million dollar agreement following pressure from trade unions and long-standing anti-Indian sentiment. It should be noted, over 70% of the transhipment business at the ECT comes from India.
Abhayatissa has raised concerns over Sri Lanka’s demographics in the past, urging Sinhala families to have at least 5 or 6 children so that the Sinhala Buddhist population grows. He has further attacked the Tamil diaspora, insisting that the government should write a ‘victory’s history’ and rejecting calls to disband the military occupation of the Tamil homeland.
Responding to the port project Akmeemana Dayarathana warned the government that they must not act in a way that would “force the Maha Sangha to step out onto the streets in protest”.