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MAY DAY – 2021

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May Day which fell yesterday is the international day of the working people. The history of May Day goes back to the demand for better working conditions by the burgeoning labour movement in 1886 in the United States. Their agitation in May 1886 led to the massacre of labour activists in the Haymarket incident in Chicago setting off a powerful movement of solidarity throughout the world for an eight hour working day. The struggle epitomized the need to mobilize the working class to fight against inequity and safeguard the rights of the working class.

Sri Lanka is back to old times with the current health crisis being used as a pretext to attack labour’s hard fought rights and privileges. At a time when the world of work is moving towards a shorter working day, we are illegally increasing the hours of work with no additional compensation for the extra hour put in, totally disregarding our own labour laws.

The deteriorating conditions of labour has resulted in a significant number of working people being reduced to poverty with no income security. Sri Lanka has the lowest minimum wage in the region and globally only 16 countries have minimum wages that are less than that of Sri Lanka. Real wages are declining day to day as a consequence of inflationary pressures on the Sri Lankan economy. More and more people are in jobs earning incomes which do not guarantee them a decent life. Wage rates trail behind increases in productivity with whatever gains being shifted in the direction of capital. Sri Lankan labour laws and productivity schemes do not endeavour to secure for workers a share of the gains realized by enhanced worker productivity.

Women face multiple discrimination at work. Weekly hours of work are far above the global average. Arbitrary increases in permissible involuntary overtime to 720 hours per year from a previous 100 hours, extended shifts and night work that impact on their health and well-being, the indiscriminate use of surveillance technology invading their privacy and impinging on their fundamental freedoms are current features of the private sector employment which do not provide women with a conducive environment to work.

The traits of a gig economy (a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs) are widely prevalent in the jobs that are now being created. Precarious work and non-standard forms of labour are on the increase with important consequences for unionization, worker representation and their voice and rights at work. Domestic workers and workers in the informal sector for all practical purposes fall outside the scope of the law. The modest safeguards available for employees in contract employment and precarious work have been whittled down, making it crucial for trade unions to concentrate on ensuring decent work conditions in such jobs through implementing measures that improve wages, expanding and enforcing regulations relating to contract labour, their safety and health, strengthening their social security and welfare and ensuring their voice and rights at work.

Grave issues confront workers and trade unions in the coming period. Sri Lanka is already one of the most liberal in flexibility in employment regulations and job quality according to a 2019 World Bank Report. Any further movement towards dismantling the labour law structure of the country would make our workers even more vulnerable to intensified exploitation by local and international capital.

On May Day 2021, the Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL) calls upon organized labour to exert pressure on their leaders not to fall prey to the glib talk, specious arguments and machinations of capitalist employers to rob them of their hard won gains and to march forward in principled unity together with other sections of the working class in defence of their rights and privileges.

The uneven impact of the pandemic sweeping across the globe on the working class the promotion of ethno-religious nationalism and increased militarisation resorted to by the regime in power for its own survival make it even more necessary today to focus on class issues in order to defend, consolidate and advance the interests of Sri Lanka’s toiling masses.

 

Sgd. T. M. R. Rasseedin

General Secretary

Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL)



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BASL calls for independent and impartial probe into killing of ’Uru Juwa’ & ’Kosgoda Tharaka’

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‘Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law’

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) condemned the killing of Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ and Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’, who were taken into police custody.

The State and the Police should have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such person, the BASL said in a statement.

“These deaths have all the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings and we call upon the State to ensure the safety and security persons in their custody, it said.

The statement further said: “On May 12, 2021, an Attorney-at-Law representing Tharaka Perera Wijesekera informed the BASL by e-mail that his client had been suddenly transferred from the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to a special police Unit at Peliyagoda and that he fears that his client will be killed in custody.

“Acting on the complaint of the Attorney-at-Law, between 2000 and 2100 hours, the President of the BASL informed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickremeratne via email to igp@police.lk and also by text message and WhatsApp the apprehensions of the said Attorney-at-Law and reminded the IGP that the Police and the State have a duty to protect persons in their custody.

“The IGP was reminded that the Supreme Court in many decisions has re-iterated the duty and responsibility cast on the State to ensure the safety and security of persons in its custody.

“The Attorney-at-Law concerned had also informed the IGP, the Director CID and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka of his concerns.

“Despite the said notifications by the BASL on behalf of an Attorney-at-Law representing his client, the news media reported that Tharaka Wijesekera has been killed while being detained by the Peliyagoda Special Crimes Division, allegedly “when he tried to attack police while recovering some weapons”. This happened at a time when the Police including the IGP had been notified of the same.

“On May 11, 2021 another suspect named Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ had met his death in a similar manner. We are informed that representations were made to the police as regards his safety, prior to his death.

“The State and the Police have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such persons.

“Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law and will tarnish the image of Sri Lanka. It is an imperative requirement of criminal justice that persons accused of serious crimes including murder are tried by a Court of law and punished for their crimes and that the networks that aided and abetted such activities are prosecuted and dismantled. This requirement is defeated by the failure of police officers to control the unarmed suspect purportedly accompanied by them without the use of lethal force.

“It is incomprehensible how on several occasions the Police have been unable to protect unarmed suspects in their custody.

“The Executive Committee of the BASL expresses its grave and serious concern and condemns the failure of the Police including the IGP to protect persons in their custody.

“The BASL calls upon His Excellency the President and the Government to take serious note of these incidents and to take action to prevent such occurrences.

“The BASL also requests the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these incidents. As far back as 2013 the BASL highlighted the issue of the killing of suspects in the custody of Police and will use all means at its disposal to prevent similar acts of omission and commission on the part of the State authorities in the future.

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Korean Ambassador meets with WFP Representative and Country Director

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Korean Ambassador Santhush Woonjin JEONG met with Abdur Rahim Siddiqui, the newly-appointed United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Sri Lanka Country Director and Representative, at the Korean Embassy last week.

They had a productive discussion about the progress of the ongoing projects on the resilience building and strengthening sustainable livelihoods of communities in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador said he is pleased about the recent project initiated in March 2021, by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to support the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha amid COVID-19.

The Ambassador extended his warm congratulations to Siddiqui for his latest appointment and took the opportunity to renew the partnership between the Republic of Korea and the World Food Program (WFP) in Sri Lanka.

Santush Woonjin JEONG also expressed his confidence that Siddiqui will lead the World Food Program in Sri Lanka to greater heights with his previous experience of over 30 years in the field of nutrition and food security. The government of the Republic of Korea would like to restate its commitment to the global efforts to achieve WFP priorities at all levels. The Republic of Korea and WFP will work together to promote better outcomes in Sri Lanka and globally in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Siddiqui commended the staunch efforts by the government of Korea for the agricultural and economic development in Sri Lanka especially with reference to the continued investment of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in building resilience and ensuring food security in Sri Lanka under the ongoing projects.

The Country Director appreciated the Korean government for its projects in Sri Lanka; funding worth $ 600,000 (Rs. 117 million) to procure maize for the production of “Thriposha” and for continuing the existing partnership to build resilience against recurrent natural shocks by rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in Moneragala, Matale, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Batticaloa districts.

Ambassador Santhush said the Republic of Korea is committed to jointly work with international organisations to achieve the sustainable development goals. The Korean government is working closely with the government of Sri Lanka to achieve our common goals in line with the national objectives through Korean government institutes such as Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA), Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank) and Saemaul Globalization Foundation in Sri Lanka.

Siddiqui further assured that the World Food Program (WFP) is geared to achieve the targets set for 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the country director appreciated the concessional loan of USD 500 million provided by the Korean government under the Framework Arrangement of Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) which is timely as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all countries including Sri Lanka.

The World Food Program will stand in solidarity with the “Stay Strong Campaign”, the anti-COVID19 initiative launched by the Korean Embassy in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador further expressed his admiration towards the invaluable role The United Nations World Food Program plays in providing global food security and building resilience among vulnerable communities which contributed to the great achievement of becoming the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

The Ambassador also invited the Country Director to join the “#Live Together Campaign” which was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea with UNESCO, to raise awareness of and to end discrimination experienced globally during the pandemic.

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18 jumbos felled in Assam’s Nagaon district probably due to lightning

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By Utpal Parashar

Eighteen wild elephants have been killed, most probably due to lightning, in Assam’s Nagaon district, officials informed on Thursday.

“The incident took place at Bamuni area of Barhampur on Wednesday. Our officials got to know about it on Thursday. Teams of forest and veterinary officials are at the spot to take stock of the tragedy,” Nagaon, deputy commissioner Kavitha Padmanabham said.

The deaths took place in an area with small hillocks and forests. Officials suspect the elephants, which were part of a herd, were staying close to each other when lightning struck. While four bodies were found at the bottom of a hillock, 14 others were found at the top.

“Preliminary investigation of the spot suggests lightning could be the reason for the deaths. All the elephants killed were adults and sub-adults,” Vasanthan, divisional forest officer (Nagaon), said.

“We are trying to recover all the bodies and conduct post-mortems. The exact cause of the deaths would be known only after the results are out, most likely by Friday,” he added.

Wildlife experts confirmed that the incident was the single largest instance of deaths of wild elephants in one go. They also suspected that there could be other reasons as well for the deaths.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has expressed shock and anguish at the deaths of the elephants and directed forest and environment minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the spot immediately.

“A tragedy of such scale is unheard of in Assam. It is a big loss. While lightning has been suspected to be the cause, mass poisoning of the pachyderms shouldn’t be ruled out,” said Bibhab Talukdar, noted elephant expert and CEO of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based wildlife NGO.

“Assam has witnessed poisonings of wild elephants in the past, though not on such a large scale. I hope a thorough probe is done to know the exact cause behind the deaths,” he added.

According to a 2017 census, Assam (5719) has the second highest number of elephants in India after Karnataka (6049). Every year, several elephants are killed in man-animal conflict due to electrocution, poisonings etc. In 2019, the number of such deaths was nearly 80.

(Hindustan Times)

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