Unions to start protests islandwide

BY Buddhika Samaraweera 

A number of trade unions representing several sectors have decided to launch islandwide trade union action tomorrow (14) and on Friday (16) in protest over the current Government’s alleged attempt to suppress trade unions and other civil activists.

When contacted by The Morning to inquire about this, National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said a large number of trade unions and civil society organisations have joined together and formed an organisation called the “Trade Unions and Mass Organisations Alliance” against the alleged repressive programme of the present Government.

“This organisation is affiliated with a number of trade unions representing almost all sectors – government, semi-government, and private. Accordingly, several of these trade unions decided on 11 July to launch islandwide trade union action tomorrow and on 16 July,” he added.

Jayasinghe further said that this move would be supported by a number of trade unions representing the health, education, and estate sectors, and also a number of institutions such as the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB), the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT).

He also said that if the Government continues to implement this allegedly repressive programme, it would take steps to further embark on stricter trade union action.

Meanwhile, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) politburo member Wasantha Samarasinghe, addressing a media briefing held recently, alleged that the present Government is suppressing trade unions and other civil activists under the guise of enforcing quarantine related laws, regulations, and guidelines.

“A number of trade union actions are planned to be launched within this week and we will announce other trade union actions from time to time,” he added.

Also, JVP politburo member and NTUC Chairman K.D. Lalkantha, speaking at a media briefing on 11 July, said: “Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) Secretary Joseph Stalin and Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Member Duminda Nagamuwa, who were arbitrarily directed to quarantine following their arrests during recent protests in Colombo, should be subject to a PCR testing and be released if they don’t test positive for Covid-19.

“All unions will stand against the Government if the said duo is not released tomorrow after the conduct of PCR tests. This is not the way to quarantine people. This is more like detention. There is no rule in the country to support this system.”

However, when contacted by The Morning, Stalin said that on 11 July, he had undergone a PCR test and they are presently awaiting the results. However, he had not been notified as of yesterday (12) that he could leave the quarantine centre.

The Police had, on 8 July, arrested a total of 31 suspects including Stalin for allegedly staging a protest at the Polduwa Roundabout in violation of the Covid-19 health regulations. The Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF), the CTU, and the FSP too had organised the demonstration against the proposed General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill.