The next general elections will be held in three years and those attempting to destabilize the country and disrupt public life through protests and strikes must realize they will not be allowed to change this government until 2020, President Maithripala Sirisena said today.
Delivering the keynote address at the 38th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), the President said the government had permitted trade union activities as they were integral parts of a democratic country. But it is sad to witness the strikes, protests and trade union action in a destructive and indecent manner almost daily inconveniencing public life not aimed at winning demands but carrying out politically motivated acts of sabotage.
“This government will never deprive the right to vote and right to engage in trade union action. We have introduced legislation to strengthen the right of franchise and workers rights by constituting Independent Commissions. But all those who enjoy the new found freedom must learn to use them not only for their benefit but that of the country as well,” he said.
President Sirisena said the framework agreement for the Hambantota Port Development Project (HPDP) was signed on September 4th, 2014 during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in which he was also a Cabinet minister.
“After this government came to power, through hard negotiations with the Chinese Merchant Port Holding Co (CMPHC) we were able to persuade them to bring down the extent of land sold to the Chinese company by Rajapaksa government by 50% and change the sell out to a lease agreement. Under that agreement, the security of the Hambantota Port and surrounding area including the proposed. The Rajapaksa regime had also given outright 240 acres from the Port City to the Chinese. Under the agreement entered on Port City Project, the Head of State should have got prior permission from the Chinese management of the Port City to land a chopper there. We changed all these clauses,” the President said. “Unfortunately we were not able to retake the highly valuable 6 acre land sold to Shangri-La Hotel Project as it had been sold in deed. A long as I remain as the President of this country I will not let any one to sell a single inch of land or assets of Sri Lanka to any country or foreign company.”
The President said the farmework agreement on HPDP was submitted to the Cabinet once again yesterday because he wanted to further amend the agreement to ensure there was no an iota of negative impact on Sri Lanka from it. It will be presented in Parliament at the next session for the members to suggest their own proposals if any and the government was ready to incorporate any worthwhile suggestion.
He said Sri Lanka was known in the world because of its ports from ancient times. The ports in Sri Lanka are also closely involves in its victories and defeats as foreign powers arrived in Sri Lanka through ports. Therefore, Sri Lnkans cannot talk about our history, wars. invasions and the foreign influence without talking on ports located round the country. The SLPA and its employees contribution to the economy and the national development is immeasurable. Now that, with agreement of the HPDD signed the SLPA must not incur Rs. 9.1 billion to maintain loss making Hambantota Port and the employees of the SLPA are to benefit immensely, President Sirisena said and added at the discussion he had with leaders of the trade unions of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEYPETCO) yesterday, they realized the importance of signing this agreement.
The SLPA employees are to receive a huge benefits in the form of pay rises, big bonuses, enhanced health and insurance schemes and more welfare facilities as a result of the agreement, President Sirisena said.
Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe also spoke. (Sandun A Jayasekera)