ECONOMYNEXT – Wholesale vegetable traders from the recently relocated Manning Market in Pettah are engaged in a protest near the Presidential Secretariat since this morning, claiming that space allocated for them at the new location in Peliyagoda is not sufficient.
Gathered at the state-sanctioned demonstration site in close proximity to the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, the protestors claim that their appeals to authorities in this regard have fallen on deaf ears.
The largely peaceful protest, organised by the Movement to Protect Manning Market, saw traders earnestly displaying placards that read “Manning Market vendors out, minister lackeys get shops” and “reduce the rent that was increased 10 times”, among others, and shouting slogans like “give us our shops!” in a chorus of agitation.
One protestor told reporters that some traders have been treated unfairly and were given half a stall each at the new market complex in Peliyagoda, which was declared open on November 20 by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The new, Rs 6.9 billion market is spread over 13.5 acres, dwarfing the previous 2-acre location in Pettah. According to the Urban Development Authority (UDA), the building features 1,192 stores and a parking lot that can accommodate 600 trucks. Restrooms, medical facilities banks, cold rooms are among other facilities added to the complex.
A news report on the privately owned Sirasa TV showed Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Colombo district MP Patali Champika Ranawaka arriving at the site to speak to the protestors. The state-run Daily News reported last month that preliminary plans to relocate the Pettah Manning Market to a 15-acre land in Peliyagoda were drafted before the change of government in 2015 under the guidance of then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In 2016, Ranawaka, as then Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, sought cabinet approval for a project to move some 1,2000 Manning Market traders to UDA-owned land in Peliyagoda at an estimated cost of Rs 4 billion. In the news footage today, the former minister was heard recalling that his government had promised to give shops to the traders for free.
Meanwhile, former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Sunil Handunneththi speaking at an event yesterday (06) charged that plans were underway to turn the Manning Market that was once the marketplace of the people into one that belongs to multinational corporations. (Colombo/Dec07/2020)