Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sri Lanka president announces wage hike for troops

Sri Lanka's president has announced an immediate salary increase for all members of the country's armed forces amid plans to boost the strength of the security services.

President Mahinda Rajapakse granted the unspecified salary increase during a visit Wednesday to the island's northern regions, which were recently wrested from Tamil rebel control, his office said.

"The president stated that this decision was taken while considering the great sacrifices the security forces made for the country for which he is extremely grateful," the office said in a statement.

It said Rajapakse was addressing troops for the first time since the army crushed the leadership of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May and ended a near 37-year separatist conflict.

The government's pay hike announcement came on the heels of plans to recruit another 40,000 to 50,000 troops for the 200,000-strong army and the government's decision to suspend salary increases for other public servants.

The wage freeze and rising living costs have prompted a wave of trade union action in recent weeks and led to street protests by university students and unemployed graduates.

Police used tear gas to disperse dozens of jobless youngsters in the heart of the capital on Wednesday and have been using similar tactics to break up a wave of student protests in recent weeks.

The social unrest comes amid government plans to call early presidential and parliamentary elections next year.


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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Trade unions flex muscles, warn Goverment

By Hemanthi Guruge - Eight trade unions representing workers in the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the Water Supply and Drainage Board, the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Colombo Port have written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa urging a salary increase for the workers, which if not given, a continuous trade union action would be launched.

The unions are those affiliated to both the main Opposition UNP and the JVP.

Combined unions spokesman Ranjan Jayalal told the Daily Mirror that although the President had promised to increase salaries of public servants next year, it is not certain if the increase would apply to workers in corporations and statutory boards.

He said that the President had not mentioned a salary increase for the CPC, the CEB, the Water Supply Board and Port employees, during a recent speech where he promised a pay hike for public servants.

“Our salary increases are made once in three years,” he said.

Copies of the letter have been sent to the Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources, Minister of Power and Energy, Minister of Ports and Aviation and Minister of Water Supply and Drainage.

The unions have decided to launch a work-to-rule campaign from November 11 until the Government meets their demand for a salary increase, he said. He said that members of the trade unions in the petroleum, water, electricity and port sector would not work overtime and undertake any additional work during the work-to-rule campaign.

He said that the unions had decided to go for trade union action because of the failure of the Government to increase their salaries. He added discussions have already been held with the relevant subject ministers on a salary increase but the Government has so far failed to take any action.

(Photo courtesy: lankaenews)

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Police disperse protesting grads with tear gas, rubber bullets

by Dasun Edirisinghe - Police anti-riot squad yesterday fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at undergraduates on a protest march attempting to enter the Finance Ministry demanding jobs. About 35 undergraduates were arrested. Traffic came to a standstill for nearly five hours. Many school children who were in Fort at that time were among those tear gassed.

Thousands of unemployed graduates who were on a hunger strike opposite the Fort Railway Station, marched to the Finance Ministry. The police anti-riot squad barricaded the road leading the Ministry near Lake House. But the protesters did not disperse. They sat by the road demanding a discussion from the Ministry or the Presidential Secretariat.

When they were told that an unscheduled meeting was not possible, the graduates tried to enter by trying to remove the police barriers. The police then fired fired rubber bullets and tear gas and water cannon to disperse the graduates.

Police spokesman Senior DIG Nimal Mediwaka told The Island that there were 35 graduates in the custody of the Fort police. Police said that those in custody would be released only after recording their statements.

The Convener of the Combined Union of Unemployed Graduates (CUUG), Sujith Kuruwita said that if President Rajapaksa was unable to give them a meeting, he must provide them with jobs before the next Presidential or General election.

The Convener said that there were 25,000 unemployed graduates in Sri Lanka. According to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s mandate ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’, he had promised 10,000 jobs for graduates. The Rajapaksa government had also promised 8,000 jobs in the 2007 budget and 15,000 in the 2008 budget, but the promises had not been honoured.

(Photo courtesy: Daily Mirror)

© The Island

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Political parties and human rights organisations protest

By Kassapa Ellepola - Several political parties along with some human rights organisations yesterday (04) gathered in front of the Fort Railway station to protest against the police on the alleged attack on a mentally unstable youth in the shallow seas near the Bambalapitiya Railway station recently.

The Democratic People’s Front, United Socialist Party along with mothers and daughters of Lanka and the Platform for Freedom organisations gathered in numbers shouting slogans and demonstrating banners against the police claiming that the Sri Lankan police had undermined the democracy and the human rights of the country.

United Socialist Party spokesman Sirithunga Jayasuriya said that this attack should be considered another event of a chain of attacks that the police had conducted on innocent civilians.

“The person, who was attacked, pleaded for his life and the police kept on assaulting him in the midst of a large number of onlookers and it is great disappointment that no citizen who witnessed the incident has come forward to provide evidence for the investigation,” he said.

He added that the attack was an image of the state terrorism in practice and it is time that everyone despite political parties, race or religion in hands to stop the government from putting the democracy, human rights and media freedom of the country in danger.

Meanwhile Human Rights activist Nimalka Fernando who was present at the occasion said that political parties, religious leaders and various people were condemning the violations of human rights and breaching the democracy of the country.

“Only the judiciary has the authority to punish wrongdoers and the police have no authority or right to punish people like this,” she said.

Father Sathyawel of St. Michael’s Church Kollupitiya commenting on the incident said that if this violation of human rights took place in the Capital while hundreds were watching it is optimistic that there would have been more human rights violations in Mullivaikkal, Mullaitivu where 30,000 people died.

A mentally unstable youth who was pelting stones at people and trains near the Bambalapitiya Railway station was chased away by two policemen to the shallow seas using poles while he was pleading for mercy. The person was drowned and his body was washed ashore near the Kollupitiya Railway station at around noon the following day.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

US House pressures Sri Lanka on camps

The US House of Representatives urged Sri Lanka's government Wednesday to guarantee the safety and quick release of some 300,000 Tamils and other war-displaced people currently held in camps.

By an overwhelming 421-1 vote, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution that calls on the authorities in Colombo to help the populations of widely condemned, tightly guarded camps return to their homes.

The measure urges Sri Lanka's government to turn over the operation of the camps to civilians, and allow day-to-day access to the camps for the Red Cross, non-governmental groups, and others who care for internally displaced people.

It also calls on the government to allow an independent assessment of charges of large numbers of deaths, rampant disease, poor sanitation and poor health care in the camps and a plan to remedy the issues.

The proposal also asks the government to establish "reasonable conditions" to allow non-Sri-Lanka agencies access to the inhabitants and to ensure reconstruction of areas devastated by the country's internal strife.

And it urges the Tamil people "to continue to be patient while the government reestablishes normalcy" and calls on the government to make headway on political reforms to address the Tamils' "political concerns."

Sri Lanka says it needs time to weed out suspected Tamil Tiger fighters from the camps to prevent a revival of the rebels' four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland, one of Asia's longest and bloodiest conflicts.

The government has vowed to re-settle all people displaced during the decades of war by January, but international aid and human rights groups have questioned its commitment to the welfare of Tamil civilians.

Sri Lanka has also restricted access of aid agencies and journalists to the camps.

The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May with the annihilation of the rebel leadership.


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