Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has issued a special gazette banning strikes by employees related to essential services following threats by trade unions that they would launch a protest against an energy deal with a US company.
As per the gazette, all services related to supply and distribution of all fuels, including petroleum products and liquefied gas, freight transport by the Sri Lanka Railway Department and all public transport services carried out by the Sri Lanka Transport Board for passenger transport, government administration, insurance services, functioning of food services agencies and the postal services have been declared as essential services.
The order followed threats made by utility trade unions, warning of strike in protest against a power sector deal entered with a US agency.
The government also faced internal dissension from representatives of a smaller party of the ruling alliance.
The ruling party members from allied parties had sought a meeting with Rajapaksa to discuss the matters concerning the proposed agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy Inc. on the Yugadanavi Power Plant just outside the capital Colombo.
In late September, the US-based New Fortress Energy had announced that it had struck a deal to supply state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) 1.2 million gallons of liquefied natural gas a day through a 310 MW combined cycle power plant and another 700 MW of plants to be built in Kerawalapitiya.
According to the deal, the New Fortress will initially provide the equivalent of an estimated 1.2 million gallons of LNG per day to the government.
The petroleum trade unions alleged that the country stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars through this liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with the US firm which could be worth up to $6 billion.
At least two ministers in the Cabinet have threatened to forego their positions in their bid to stop the deal. They vowed to stop two more agreements that are due to be signed.
They claimed the deal would create a monopoly in the hands of a foreign ownership and thereby endanger the island’s national security.