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Sri Lanka oil strike ends as govt gets tough

Jul 26, 2017 21:32 PM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT - Police detained at least 20 striking oil workers Wednesday as the government took a tough line and ordered troops to restore supplies and end fuel shortages across the country. With the authorities demonstrating willingness to use the full force of the law to ensure essential supplies, the striking unions called off their action by Wednesday evening. The unions said they were "suspending" their action till Tuesday after a meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, but they had previously insisted that they wanted a written undertaking on their demands. The unions backed by the Rajapaksa-faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the JVP want the government to stop joint ventures with Chinese and Indian companies to develop storage facilities in Hambantota and Trincomalee. Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the strikers were not making trade-related demands, but wanted the government to change its politicies and that the demands were totally unacceptable. "Rajapaksa is behind these strikes," Senaratne told reporters in Colombo referring to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. "They think they can bring the government by stopping the Hambantota deal with China and the Trincomalee development with India." "We will defend the government. We will not allow them to damage our relations with China, India and the investing community." Police said they arrested Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers who defied President Sirisena's essential services order which effectively outlawed the strike. The military said it deployed armed troops to guard two wholesale oil distribution depots at Kolonnawa and Muthurajawela and ensure gasoline and diesel were distributed. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament that a tanker train carrying aviation fuel was also despatched to the airport despite attempts by strikers to block it. "The army has assisted the police in providing security to two oil distribution centres," military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said. "We also provide security to those who have reported for work to restore supplies." Photos released by the military showed that strikers had sabotaged several tankers and caused extensive damage. Police said they will pursue those who caused millions of rupees worth of damage to the state although the strike action was called off by Wednesday evening. The strike triggered fears of a fuel crisis on the island, with long queues of cars and trucks building up outside petrol stations across the country during the night. (COLOMBO, July 26, 2017)


 

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