World TUs’ Federation calls for protestors’ release 

  • Global body condemns arrests and quarantining

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), while condemning the arrest and subsequent forcible direction to quarantine the protestors including trade unionists during the recent protests in Sri Lanka, has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all the arrested protestors.

In a release issued on 14 July, the WFTU has stated that it strongly condemns the repression of the recent demonstrations against the proposed privatisation of education under the General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill and the insufficient supply of fertiliser for crops and plantations.

“We denounce the illegal arrests of trade unionists and activists who struggle for the rights and interests of workers, peasants, and students. The international class-oriented trade union movements support the demands of the trade union movements in Sri Lanka,” it added.

Emphasising that the violation of the democratic and trade union rights will never be tolerated, the WFTU, in the release, stated: “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested protestors and the satisfaction of their requests.” 

The Police had, on 8 July, arrested a total of 31 suspects for allegedly staging a protest at the Polduwa Roundabout in violation of the Covid-19 health regulations. The Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) had organised the demonstration against the proposed KNDU Bill.

CTU Secretary Joseph Stalin, Ven. Rathkarawwe Jinarathana Thera affiliated to the IUSF, and another Buddhist monk were also among the arrestees. The arrestees were produced before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court under the provisions of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance and the suspects were released on a personal bail count of Rs. 25,000 each by the Colombo Additional Magistrate on the evening of 8 July.

A tense situation had also been reported in front of the Colombo Magistrate’s Court as Stalin and the others who were released on bail refused to undergo quarantine, and the Police, however, had taken them to a quarantine centre in the Mullaitivu area.

The WFTU was established in Paris, France, on 3 October 1945. The first World Trade Union Congress (held in Paris from 3 to 8 October 1945), which voted to establish the WFTU, was attended by delegates representing 67 million workers from 56 national organisations from 55 countries and 20 international organisations.