Sri Lanka’s prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the formation of a committee to examine multi-million dollar deal between Colombo and New Delhi, after pressure from trade unions provoked long-standing anti-Indian sentiment.
Sinhala nationalist groups have longed voiced their objecting to any “foreign involvement” and despite a year having passed since Sri Lanka signed an agreement with India and Japan to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) in Colombo, Rajapaksa announced a committee of five senior officials would examine the deal.
The deal, estimated to be up to $700 million, gave Sri Lanka a 51% stake, with India and Japan holding the remaining 49%. Over 70% of the transhipment business at the ECT comes from India.
"We heard that there is a lot of pressure from India over this project,” Shyamal Sumanarathna, secretary of the Ports, Commerce Industries and Progressive Workers Union told the Nikkei Asian Review. “But we are not a province of India, we are a sovereign nation and we do not need to dance to their tunes.”
"Following our strike, the prime minister assured [us] that he will sort this issue out,” he added.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has also spoken out on the deal, with party general secretary Tilvin Silva stating,
“They say it’s only the operations that will be shared. Have we come to a point where we can’t operate our ports?”
“It was an agreement between former President Maithripala Sirisena and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Rajapaksa told reporters last week. “But we have not taken a decision on it as yet.”