ECONOMYNEXT – Seventeen ships en route to the Colombo Port had turned back as a result of a recent anti-tax protest organised by port unions, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said, claiming that one protesting port worker earns over 170,000 rupees a month.
The minister told parliament on Wednesday March 08 he held talks with all port unions whose demand was that the government stop taxing their pay.
“I explained to them that the government cannot change the agreement it has reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Please also note that a port worker’s salary is over 170,000 rupees,” he said.
Hundreds of port workers held a protest on January 30 against an IMF-prescribed progressive tax policy. The protest was part of a series of agitation campaigns organised by trade unions and professional associations representing various sectors demanding that the government revoke the gazette that announced the new taxes.
Minister de Silva was responding to a statement by main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Thushara Indunil Amarasena who told parliament that the government was not interested in resolving the root cause of the protests.
“You complain about the outcome that is protests. But protests rise as a result of selling useful and profitable assets cheaply. It would be more prudent to treat the cause rather than the symptom,” said Amarasena.
Minister de Silva claimed that 17 ships had turned back as a result of the protest.
“Neighbouring ports are waiting to attract our business. The result of the protests will be the strengthening of those ports and the collapse of ours,” he said. (Colombo/Mar08/2023)