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Labour Commissioner General denies FTZ union allegation

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Commissioner General of Labour Prabath Chandrakeerthi yesterday strongly denied allegations made by the Free Trade Zone and General Workers’ Union regarding the spread of COVID-19 in factories.

In a statement, the Commissioner General of Labour said the Department of Labour paid continuous attention to the problems of not only the employees of the garment factories but all employees of the private sector and will intervene whenever necessary.

Following is the statement issued by the Commissioner General of Labour.

First of all, I reject the incorrect and malicious statement made by the Free Trade Zone and General Workers’ Union that the Department of Labour should be held responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in factories throughout the country.

Recently, an investigation was conducted in the Thulhiriya MAS Fabric Park on the instructions of the Labour Minister, as a large number of employees were found to be COVID–19 positive. Accordingly, it had been reported that the institution had complied with the health guidelines of the Department of Labour and that the Health Committee had met once a week and had paid constant attention to the health of the employees.

Furthermore, they had followed health security measures, such as wearing masks, using sanitizers, inhaling steam and sanitizing the sewing machines after each roster. However, it has been reported that not only the employees but also the higher management of the institution have also become victims of the disease.

Therefore, it is apparent that the statement made by Anton Marx that the COVID-19 virus has spread throughout the Thulhiriya MAS Fabric Park as a result of the non-establishment of health committees is a statement without scientific basis. The Department of Labour has provided necessary instructions to factory owners for the establishment of health committees and constantly created awareness through the Employers’ Federation as well as Media.

Further, I would like to mention that in spite of the fact that Anton Marx had been informed to notify the Department of Labour of factories that have not established health committees, he had not informed me of any such institution up to now. In addition to this, a request was made from the owners of private establishments to ensure pregnant mothers are not called into work, which had already been provided to the pregnant mothers of the public sector.

Furthermore, a request had also been made to give priority to the employees of the private sector who contribute immensely towards the economy of the country in the vaccination programme.

All employers and employees are requested to adhere to the health guidelines issued and to be issued in future by the Health Services Department.

Accordingly, I kindly inform you that the Department of Labour pays continuous attention to the problems of not only the employees of the garment factories but all employees of the private sector and will intervene whenever necessary.

Therefore, I would like to point out that it is essential for all of us to cooperate with one another and eradicate this pandemic rather than making accusations against others.



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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up

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State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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