Sri Lanka troops fire warning shots at dock workers' protest

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2016 7:38 PM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan naval troops fired warning shots to break up a protest by striking dock workers who have held up a Japanese vessel for four days at the island's southern international port.

Troops entered Hambantota port from the sea Saturday and fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, considering their action an "act of piracy," navy spokesman Akram Alavi said.

The protesters had prevented the Japanese vehicle carrier Hyperion Highway from leaving the port.

No casualties were reported.

After the navy's intervention, the Japanese ship sailed Saturday afternoon toward its next destination, Oman, Alavi said.

Temporary workers began striking Tuesday, demanding to be made permanent employees of the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority, which manages island nation's ports. The workers fear they may lose their jobs as the government is planning a deal with a Chinese firm — the China Merchants Ports Holding Company — to hand over a 80-percent stake in the loss-making $1.4 billion port.

The Chinese firm says it will invest $1.12 billion to revive the port, which was built with the help of Chinese loans and contractors.

Tressel Silva, the general manager of ABC Shipping, said the Japanese ship was carrying 5,000 vehicles and had left some of them at the port. He said the shipping line was losing $100,000 per day due to the protest.