Priests and nuns join fishermen and environmental activists in an April 4 protest against the government's decision to go ahead with the Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project. (Photo by Quintus Colombage)
Catholic priests and nuns joined hundreds of fishermen and environmental activists on a protest march through Colombo April 4 against the Sri Lankan government's decision to go ahead with a controversial port project.
As they marched through the Sri Lankan capital, the protestors urged the government to halt the US$1.4 billion Chinese-backed Colombo Port City, which was initiated during the former Rajapaksa regime in 2014.
"This project will create various social problems and many industries will be affected and the entire economy will suffer," said Father Sarath Iddamalgoda.
"The project is anti-democratic and unfair to the people," said Father Iddamalgoda, a member of the People's Movement Against Port City, a collective of environmental and civil society organizations.
It is feared that the port's construction will also displace about 50,000 families living on the coast.
Protesters criticized the current government led by President Maithripala Sirisena for reneging of an election pledge to do away with the project.
Police stop a march by protesters who urged the government to halt the Colombo Port City project, which was started by the former Rajapaksa regime. (Photo by Quintus Colombage)
The project was suspended in March last year due to regulatory and environmental concerns but the government announced last month that the project would resume.
Aruna Roshantha, the president of the All Island Fishermen's Trade Union, said that a large amount of sand has already been excavated from what is one of the best fish breeding grounds near the city.
"Fishermen have been prohibited from operating in the excavation area and are losing money," said Roshantha who added that fishermen had fished in that area for generations.
Around 50 police halted the march as it neared the office of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and demonstrators sat on the road to continue their protest.
Demonstrators handed over a document to officials addressed to Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which called for an immediate cancellation of the project.
Wickremesinghe was heading on three-day official visit to China beginning April 6.
Watch this ucanews.com video of the march as it nears the office of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.