Millennium Post

Lanka govt seeks report from Navy over dock workers protest

Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry on Sunday sought a report from the Navy over a clash between security forces and striking dock workers who had held up a Japanese vessel at a port demanding job security.

“The ministry of defence has called for a report from the Navy on alleged attack against protesting port workers,” Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said on Sunday.

“The Navy had done their job to provide security to vessels. The ships were held for days,” Hettiarachchi said.

Sri Lankan navy on Saturday fired warning shots to disperse the striking dock workers who had prevented a Japanese vessel from leaving Hambantota port for four days by placing gantry cranes to block its path.

The Navy said it acted within the law to prevent a sea piracy situation. Opposition legislators told parliament yesterday that eight workers were wounded when the navy stormed the main pier, but the government denied there were casualties.

The Joint Opposition in Parliament carried out a demonstration accusing the government of allegedly using Navy personnel to “assault” employees of the Hambantota Ports authority who were conducting a strike. 

The temporary port workers at Hambantota port have been striking since Tuesday demanding that they be taken on as permanent employees of the state-owned Sri Lanka Port Authority after a move by the government to lease the port to China. 

Some 483 temporary workers are demanding that they be made permanent before the lease. Navy Commander Ravi Wijegunaratne was accused of threatening a television reporter during the protest.

Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, has dismissed the allegation, Hettiarachchi said.

Hettiarachchi said he personally looked into the matter after media reports alleged that the Navy Commander had allegedly threatened the journalist. The government is in talks with a Chinese company to sell an 80 per cent stake in the loss-making $ 1.3 billion Hambantota port. 
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