Workers’s of Sri Lanka’s state-run petroleum firm are set to launch an indefinite strike from tomorrow against the government’s proposed deal with India to jointly operate an oil storage facility at the strategic eastern port town of Trincomalee. Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Trade Union Collective workers have threatened to cripple entire transportation sector in the country.
Lanka and India are expected to sign an agreement to jointly invest and develop the Trincomalee Port and establish a petroleum refinery and other industries there. The workers have three demands which include getting the government to stop granting outright ownership of some 14 World War II oil storage tanks in the eastern port district of Trincomalee.
The Petroleum Joint Union Alliance says it opposes the proposal to transfer operations rights to oil tanks to India since the agreement would benefit the Lanka IOC, Indian Oil’s subsidiary, allowing it to expand further and the CPC, which is already in debt, will incur further financial losses. They also asked the government to shelve plans to build a new oil refinery with Chinese assistance in the southern port of Hambantota and to immediately begin repairing the existing refinery near Colombo.
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“We will be striking from tomorrow and stop all fuel distribution in the country,” Bandula Saman Kumara a spokesman for the trade unions told reporters today. He said by mid-week the Colombo international airport would face the danger of becoming non-operational due to fuel sector strike.
At least 73 of the 99 storage tanks in Trincomalee is to be managed under a new equity arrangement between the two countries, Lankan Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody had said earlier. The union has taken the decision to strike after President Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly turned down a request for a meeting to discuss the issue. Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who will visit India on April 25, had said yesterday the development of eastern port district of Trincomalee will be discussed during his visit.