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No move to block trade with south India: Sri Lanka

Colombo, April 4, 2013, (IANS) :

Sri Lanka has rejected moves to block trade with Tamil Nadu and has insisted that economic relations should not be disrupted despite political tensions, an official said Thursday.

"There were reports regarding a protest by a port employees' organization which said their members will refrain from handling or processing Indian supplies due to the situation in Tamil Nadu," Port and Highway Deputy Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardana said.

"I am confident that such a situation will not arise," Xinhua quoted him as saying.The pro-government trade union coalition named the "Organization for Protecting Harbor Solidarity" held a protest campaign before the main gate of the Colombo harbour Tuesday.

Its convener Sanjaya Kumara Weligama told the media that the protest was a severe warning to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and other politicians who have attempted to push the Indian government into taking a tough stance on Sri Lanka's human rights record.

It is estimated that around 40 percent of the $5 billion trade between Sri Lanka and India passes through Tamil Nadu to the Colombo port.

The DMK pulled out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government demanding investigations on allegations of war crimes -- an issue that has been festering since the three-decade war ended in 2009.

Many in Tamil Nadu took to the streets in vociferous protests.

Two Buddhist monks and 16 Sri Lankan tourists were also attacked. This provoked counter protests in Sri Lanka, with groups handing over petitions to the Indian high commission in Colombo.

Jayalalithaa banned Sri Lankan cricketers from playing in the Indian Premier League, a lucrative extravaganza with millions of fans, in Tamil Nadu's capital Chennai.

The Sri Lankan government has steadfastly refused to engage with Tamil Nadu despite worsening relations. Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka are separated by a narrow strip of sea.


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