Sri Lanka deploys military to maintain fuel supplies after strike

Slideshow ( 5 images )

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka deployed its military on Wednesday to help distribute fuel after tens of thousands of employees of the state-run firm that controls the bulk of supplies in the island nation went on strike, officials said.

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation said it called the strike to oppose the government’s efforts to lure foreign companies in the oil sector.

On Tuesday, the Sri Lankan cabinet cleared a revised deal with China to run the Hambantota port in the south which has an oil bunkering facility along with container terminals.

The workers are also demanding the government take back oil tanks given to the Indian Oil Corporation on a 30-year lease in eastern Trincomalee on grounds the firm is not using them, said D.J. Rajakaruna, senior official at the CPC trade union.

Supplies were affected across the country and there were long queues of motorists at petrol stations.

The military was helping restore fuel supplies after President Maithripala Sirisena declared it as an essential service, military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said.

But Rajakaruna said soldiers had forcibly entered oil storage facilities in two storages near capital Colombo and thrown out workers who were picketing peacefully.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Louise Heavens