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Protests against likely Indo-Lanka deal

Renewed protests have begun against a bilateral trade agreement between India and Sri Lanka days before President Mahinda Rajapaksa is slated to fly to New Delhi.

world Updated: May 27, 2010 00:57 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Renewed protests have begun against a bilateral trade agreement between India and Sri Lanka days before President Mahinda Rajapaksa is slated to fly to New Delhi.

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) — which would take forward the current Free Trade Agreement between the two countries — would benefit India at the cost of domestic industries, protesters said.

A large number of entrepreneurs including doctors, lawyers and engineers gathered at busy junction in Colombo and urged Rajapaksa not to ink the deal during his visit beginning June 8.

The main opposition, United National Party, has also asked for amendments to CEPA.

UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake told reporters that the government should focus on ways and means to protect Lankan exports and on service sector. He said CEPA should not allow the Indian doctors and other professionals to come into the Lankan market.

The Island newspaper reported that Rajapaksa assured the protesters, when a delegation met him later, that he would not take any step that would harm the country’s interests.

The CEPA was pushed to the background after the 2008 SAARC summit in Colombo when it was expected to be signed but was deferred after political opposition mounted.