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Police storm teachers’ protest at Galle Face protest area

a year ago

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BY Buddhika Samaraweera Police clad in riot gear yesterday (27) stormed a Satyagraha campaign at the Government designated “Demonstration Site” at the Galle Face Green, which was organised by several teachers’ trade unions, including the Sri Lanka Government Teachers’ Union (SLGTU), demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue for the second consecutive day yesterday. Several teachers’ unions, including the SLGTU commenced a Satyagraha campaign at the site on Tuesday (26) and the Colombo Fort police officers had, on the same day, removed a hut which had been set up by the protestors. Accordingly, they had set up another temporary tent at that place yesterday as well and a group of officers from the Colombo Fort Police Station had arrived and removed that tent too. Speaking to the media at the time, SLGTA General Secretary Shehan Dissanayake stated that a group, including the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the Colombo Fort Police Station, had come and taken away the hut on Tuesday. “Is this the way the Police enforces the law? Today, they have unashamedly taken away the tent we had set up to keep our food. We ask what law is the Police enforcing without any court order? Are they going to govern this country as a Police State by suppressing the voices of these teachers?” he queried. The protestors further stated that if the Police continue to act in this manner, they will have to take more severe action in the future. “The Police can never stop this ongoing Satyagraha against our salary anomaly issue,” they stressed. Meanwhile, when contacted by The Morning to inquire about this, Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Jagath Alwis said: “Anything can be done at the Demonstration Site, but tents cannot be set up there. It is not a place to set up such. It is a beautiful place and the setting up of tents is also a security threat. Those who attend the Satyagraha were informed of this very clearly.” Claiming that it is an important place in the country, Alwis said that it should be maintained beautifully. “Even the grass there could be destroyed because of this. Ask them to go near the Colombo Fort Railway Station. It doesn’t matter if they sit there even in a well-built hut. However, they can’t be allowed to set up tents in front of the President’s Office,” he said. Nearly 30 teachers’ and principals’ trade unions have embarked on a number of trade union actions, including withdrawal from all physical and online teaching activities and examination-related duties, demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue since 12 July 2021. However, they have now relaxed some of these trade union actions including by returning to physical teaching in schools under a work-to-rule campaign, but have announced that they hope to implement a variety of trade union actions from time to time in the future.

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