Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sri Lanka: Army camps changing demographics?

By Ranga Jayasuriya | Lakbima News

Bitterness over High Security Zones continues to poison post war reconciliation. Especially, since Keheliya Rambukwella, the Defence Affairs Spokesman rhetorically responded to a media question that High Security Zones were going to stay, faint hope among the displaced Tamils for the magnanimity of the victor evaporated into thin air. When the Cabinet met in Kilinochchi, early this month, 2000 odd families petitioned the President requesting that they be allowed to return to their original land, where the military has now built a camp.

Four thousand acres of land have been taken over in Murukandi and Kilinochchi to build a new military cantonment. The inhabitants of three villages have been displaced.

When the petition by displaced Tamils was handed over to the president, he promised that Tamils would be resettled in their original lands. But, still, they languish as displaced persons.

The government has formulated a new security strategy of ‘force concentration’ in Jaffna. According to the blue print of the new security strategy in the Jaffna peninsula, the Security Forces Headquarters of Palali, the Naval harbour in KKS and the Palali airstrip, which is part of the Jaffna Security Forces Headquarters would be brought under one complex called the Security Complex Jaffna. The plan also includes the development of the Palali airstrip to enable increased civilian air travel, funded by India. As one military official put it, “the new runway would enable anyone to take a ticket from anywhere and fly to Jaffna.” There will be a separate exit for civilian passengers at Telippalai, circumventing circuitous travel routes that civilians now have to take through the High Security Zones.

However, the new military plan necessitates acquiring land in the KKS area, a fact which has already caused ripples in Tamil circles.

The military says the High Security Zones are shrinking and at the end of the day, HSZ would be confined to KKS and Telippalai DS divisions. The worst fear of the Tamils is a rapid change of the demography in the region, courtesy military expansion. Suresh Premachandran MP recalls that the commander of the army meeting the Malwatte Maha Nayake Thera, had assured that the army would set up permanent cantonments in the North East, which could also accommodate family members of soldiers.


“There are 100,000 soldiers in the North-East. If everyone comes with their wives and two kids, there will be 400,000 new people in the Wanni. That would change the demography of the North overnight,” he says. Tamils would lose their representation, he adds.

It was under the pretext of the demographic change in the North-East, that old school Tamil agitators opposed the colonization programmes --- and the LTTE massacred Sinhala settlers in those farming villages in the past.

Meanwhile the renovation of ruins of ancient Buddhist places of worship is viewed with suspicion. But, travelling along the A 9 road to Jaffna a couple of months back—during the alleged introduction of Buddhist presence in the form of temples along the A 9 road was in full force, as reported largely by the Tamil media— this correspondent could hardly see any trace of creeping Buddhist influence as was alleged. However, given the strongly held notion, prevalent among articulate sections of Tamils of the homogeneity of the North East as a Tamil homeland, the bitterness of Tamil sentiment could well be understood. However, whether such sentiments would help the Tamils to come to terms with post war reality is open to question.

The government has formulated a long-term security strategy, under which the security forces presence in the North East would be continued and permanent military instalments would be set up. That, according to the government is, in order to face future security challenges. Tamil militancy rose from rag tag groups of youth to a full blown semi conventional army, mainly by strangling military camps and police stations in the North East. By dislodging the military by a series of attacks in the 80s, the LTTE secured a rear base to plan, recruit and execute attacks, a key element in the success of guerrilla warfare. The army has learnt from past mistakes. However, interestingly enough, the architect of the strategy of permanent military camps is none other than the now discarded former chief of defence staff General Sarath Fonseka, who planned to expand the army to 400,000 and instal a permanent military camp in every village. Security concerns apart, logistical imperatives demand permanent camps in the North. The Sri Lankan army has expanded over 200,000 and added with other branches of the security forces, it surpasses 300,000. Since the government has ruled out the option of downsizing the security forces, permanent bases are an imperative to accommodate the increasing numbers of troops.

On Thursday, in line with the government’s security strategy, a new Headquarters complex for the 68 Division at Sugandirapuram, Puthukudiyiruppu was declared open by the commander of the army Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya.
Gen Jayasuriya addressing soldiers said that the setting up of new permanent camps would expedite the resettlement process as it would enable troops to vacate civilian properties they have been occupying.

The commander of the army said: “These types of permanent buildings were made possible due to pre-fabricated technology, donated by China. The government wants us to vacate all buildings, belonging to the civilian sector, so that owners of those buildings could reclaim them and help bring normalcy to the area.Civilian life should be restored and facilitated in the area. In future, once married quarters of the officers and the other ranks are set up in the respective areas, they would be able to live with their families as well while serving the areas.”

However, in contrast to the popular view that the High Security Zones would stay, senior military officials dealing with civil military affairs say they are, in fact, shrinking.

“We handed over (to civilians) Nageswaran Kovil, Thelippalai Government Hospital, Mahajana College (leading school in the are).” He said the Gnanam Hotel was handed back to its owners last week and Subash Hotel would also be handed over in two months time. He said 160 civilian properties in Jaffna are under the control of the military and 40 have already been handed over to their owners since the end of the war. He listed a number of roads which were opened for civilian travel.

Uninterrupted supply of electricity has its success story, he said adding that in two Jaffna schools - Chundikulam Girls School and Jaffna Hindu College - the pass rate at ordinary level examinations surpassed 99 per cent.

Slow pace of demining

According to military figures, he said, the number of internally displaced, who live in camps in Jaffna are 2115 persons (640 families). The delay in their resettlement is attributed to the slow pace of demining in the Wadamarachchi Eastern sector. But, where are those thousands of families who were uprooted from the land now considered as High Security Zones?

He says population data of the district suggests that the majority of them had left the peninsula or comprehensively migrated. According to the population census of 1983, it was predicted that the population in the Jaffna district would hit the one million mark by the year 2000. However, according to current figures, Jaffna population stands at 627,000.

“Majority of those who left Jaffna were the former residents of High Security Zones, who were from well -to- do families, and could afford to migrate,” he said.

Recently a family came from Canada after 30 years and wanted to visit their old house in the HSZ.

“I asked them why now, after so long?” The lady said she buried some gold in the land when she left the house,” said the military official. “We took them to the area; not even they could locate where there land was. The entire area was a thick jungle.”

© Lakbima News


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

These Retrogressive Times

By Tisaranee Gunasekara | The Sunday Leader

“Stupidity has come back as a king – no; as an emperor, as a divine Führer of all Aryans.”
— Aldous Huxley (Eyeless In Gaza)

Twenty Seven years ago, “Black July” burst upon Sri Lanka with the sudden ferocity of a flash flood. The omens of this bloody deluge was evident in the ‘language of contempt’ and the ‘dismissive atitude’ vis-à-vis Tamils which was de règale in Sinhala polity and society.

Black July, like most disasters which befell independent Sri Lanka, was a preventable tragedy. Had President Jayewardene honoured his 1977 election promise to come up with a political solution to the Tamil question, the Black July and the subsequent civil war could have been avoided. The UNP in 1977 was up to that task, objectively. It had a clear parliamentary majority; the SLFP was in retreat subsequent to its electoral trouncing; the JVP was of negligible import; and in the TULF, the regime had a moderate Tamil partner it could have worked with.

But President Jayewardene’s authoritarian agenda made him equally inimical towards demands for democratisation in the South and devolution in the North; both sets of demands were categorised as ‘subversive’ and handled with unmerited severity. A historic opportunity to settle the ethnic issue in its infancy was thus lost, rendering most subsequent disasters, including the Black July, inevitable.

That failure to solve the Tamil question, together with the unjust proscription of the JVP, was JR Jayewardene’s greatest historic error. (Contrary to public perception, the B-C Pact was abandoned by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike not because of Jayewardene’s infamous Kandy March but because of the protest by Buddhist monks, the first pillar of his Pancha Maha Balavegaya). Those twin and related errors plunged the country into concentric cycles of violence and destroyed Jayewardene’s dream of a third presidential term.

Post-war, Mahinda Rajapaksa could have moved swiftly to devolve and democratise, two necessary preconditions for consensual nation-building. He did not, partly because of his Sinhala supremacist mindset (he does not believe in the existence of an ethnic problem) and partly because he abhors sharing power with anyone outside his family. Just as J.R. Jayewardene’s authoritarian project impeded a political solution to the Tamil question, the Dynastic project of the Rajapaksas are rendering impossible a consensual peace based on reconciliation.

The APRC Final Report

Mahinda Rajapaksa has a completely organic blueprint he can work on, if he wants to seize the moment and settle the ethnic issue. The APRC appointed by the President to come up with a political solution to the North-Eastern problem has prepared a Final Report and presented it to the President. According to Parliamentarian Kariapper, “the APRC expected that President Rajapaksa would commence a dialogue with the main opposition United National Party and the Tamil National Alliance, based on the final report of the APRC with a view to formulating a new constitution” (The Island – 20.7.2010). The President did the opposite; he tucked away the Final Report out of the public eye, to gather dust in the darkness of obfuscation.

Last week several parliamentarians decided to un-closet the Report, releasing it to the media and tabling it in parliament. The regime’s frenzied reaction to the latter action, and its demands that any reference to the Final Report be expunged from the Hansard prove that the Rajapaksas acted with mala fide. The regime interred the APRC Final Report because the Rajapaksas, as non-believers in an ethnic problem, are committed to sabotaging a political solution to the ethnic problem.

The regime waged and won the Fourth Eelam War (launched by the LTTE) on a Sinhala supremacist platform, premised on denying the existence of an ethnic problem (this entailed massive human rights violations which are beginning to haunt us now). When the ethnic problem was reduced to a terrorist threat, a political solution was ruled out, by definition. The APRC was appointed not with a sincere intent but as a time buying devise, to appease Delhi and the West, until the Tigers were defeated. That is why, whenever the APRC produced some concrete result (such as the Majority Report of the Experts Committee), the Rajapaksas moved to negate it, often with the help of their Sinhala supremacist allies.

The APRC Final Report seems a very moderate document, which circumvents controversial issues (such as the nature of the state) and tries to combine devolution with safeguards against separatism. But even such a moderate formula has no place in the vision of an unequal Sri Lanka, in which the Sinhalese are the rulers and the minorities are the ruled, fated by birth to lead a subordinate existence. If the Sinhalese are the hosts and the minorities are the guests, they have no intrinsic rights and no structural grievances. That was the vision which premised our ‘nation-building’ efforts since 1956.

The Rajapaksa Presidency gave a new lease of life to that old vision which was discredited by the war and abandoned after Indian intervention. Post-victory, that vision is informing and propelling the Rajapaksa ‘nation-building’ project. The past has become the present. Before long the majority will feel (again) that this or that minority has too much of something or the other. Economic malaises, caused by Rajapaksa incompetencies and the prioritising of guns over butter, will make the need for scapegoats even more acute. Vocal demands to protect the patrimony of the Sinhalese by tipping the playing field in their favour will follow, to counter either the Tamil Nadu factor or the Middle Eastern factor or the Western factor or some other factor eternally working to undermine Sinhala-Buddhists and promote minorities!

According to this worldview equality is ‘unfair’ because the dice is permanently ‘loaded’ against the Sinhala Buddhists (so we had to have Sinhala Only and standardisation etc, and Black July as a last resort). As the fear of being overtaken and overwhelmed by the minorities consumes us, we will become more irrational and intolerant, more prone to excesses and violence. And when the Tamils or some other minority resist these blatant injustices, they will be branded traitors and treated as such. That was the path to Black July.

A nation-building project premised on Sinhala supremacism (and the hosts and guests concept) will be as unsuccessful the second time as it was the first time. Fortunately a complete retrogression is still avoidable. The mere fact that the APRC managed to produce a Final Report is a minor miracle. The Rajapaksas must not be allowed to bury it, again. The Report must be studied and debated, including in the parliament. The UNP must place it on the agenda in its discussions with the President about constitutional reforms.

India and the international community must be lobbied to put pressure on the regime to implement the Final Report of its own APRC. Here is a realistic cause, an organic solution, for the minority parties to champion (especially the EPDP and the CWC) and the Tamil Diaspora to promote, if they are serious about a just and a consensual peace. If we fail, retrogression will be our fate; the past will return complete with old and new horrors, including the psychological plague bacillus which enabled that abomination, the Black July.

© The Sunday Leader


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sri Lanka: Living in the 'shadow of the total lie'

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene | The Sunday Times

When Otto Rene Castillo (1934-1967), the Guatemalan poet and revolutionary reflected on the ultimate interrogation of the apolitical intellectuals by the 'simplest of our people' as to what they did 'when the poor suffered, when tenderness and life burned out of them' he was stating a powerful truth relevant not only to his country and in that period but across space and across borders.

Castillo's ruthless denunciation of those preoccupied with abstract intellectual theory but who were silent either through lack of courage or self interest when their 'nation died out slowly like a sweet fire, small and alone', is a classic statement of our times. Their preoccupations are termed harshly but most aptly as justification of the unjustifiable, 'born in the shadow of the total lie.'

Contradiction between abstract principles and concrete reality

These reflections are directly applicable to Sri Lanka, most particularly within the past decade when this country's institutions, including the judiciary, were systematically undermined externally (by the executive) and internally (by the unwavering hubris and political ambitions of former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva which were revealed best after his retirement). During this period of tremendous stress and strain, there were many intellectuals, distinguished both nationally and internationally, who should have spoken out but who did not.

What we saw therefore was a contradiction of the most basic if not obscene kind. On the one hand, we saw learned discussion of profound legal principles, for example, on the independence of the judiciary, hosted in luxurious settings while on the other, we saw the law being twisted to suit a political purpose, benches being fixed to obtain particular verdicts and lower court judges being threatened to rule in favour of government politicians. We saw the functioning of the Judicial Service Commission deteriorating to the extent that lower court judges were abused, demoted or fired without adherence to the rules of natural justice with two members, both Supreme Court judges resigning following differences with the Chairman, the former Chief Justice. Let us also not forget the weapon of contempt of court wielded against critic and litigant alike with one notable example of a teacher of English being sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment for talking loudly in court.

Relevance of the past to the future

This visiting of the past is not without reason at this time. Once the precedent has been set, it is indeed insuperably difficult to reverse this trend. To a large part, the furore that Sri Lanka is currently facing in terms of the lack of confidence in the domestic systems of justice is a direct result of these recent travails.
At another level, this past has its distinct irony. For instance, when we hear that former judge of the High Court of Australia and former President, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Michael Kirby AC CMG had spoken this week in Colombo on 'Universal Principles of Judicial Integrity' co-hosted by the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research and the Australian High Commission, much of Otto Rene Castillo's ruthlessly unsparing denunciations come to mind.

This is, not to reflect in any way, on the key note speaker, whose impressive judicial and academic credentials are without doubt but rather on the audience. Particularly so when, (as has been reported), the invitees also included former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former Chief Justice Sarath Silva, best of friends in the early days and worst of enemies in the final days. Justice Kirby's expositions on judicial integrity would, no doubt, have been received quite stirringly by them. It would also have been delightful to have heard some whispered 'mea culpas' but this was obviously not to be.

The misconduct of judges

But to veer away from this irresistible tendency towards sarcasm that visits one in these contexts and to focus on the real issue that is before us, are our safeguards and systems in place in regard to the judiciary all that they should be? So, for example what about a judge who continually disregards that most fundamental of the Bangalore Principles on Judicial Independence (2001 as revised in 2002), namely Principle 1.6, that a judge shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the judiciary, which is fundamental to the maintenance of judicial independence?

To take one possible situation, what are the remedies in place when a judicial officer engages in bribery or corruption or when that officer engages in violent sexual abuse of another? Where the alleged offender is a lower court judge, then the remedy is in the hands of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Even at this stage, this is far from satisfactory as we witnessed in ample measure in past years when the JSC became a law onto itself. It is therefore still necessary that the decisions of the JSC in respect of the transfers, disciplinary control and removals of the subordinate judiciary be made transparent and accountable.

However, the problem is even greater when it comes to the appellate judiciary. The remedy here is in the hands of Parliament. Yet as we have seen most recently in 2001 and 2003, this is a fundamentally deficient process governed more by the politics of those who comprise the House rather than on considerations of respect for judicial institutions.

Proper legal and investigative process to be followed

Where judicial misconduct is concerned, it is a first principle that the law and proper investigations ought to be allowed to take its course. No one can be above the law, whether it be the President, the Chief Justice or a judge.

That said, our systems of final disciplinary control and dismissal of judges should be reviewed far more thoroughly and subjected to systematic reform that does not posit Parliament or the Executive Presidency as the ultimate forum for redressal.

It must not be forgotten that though contempt of court may be used to deter criticism, (following in the trend that was evident post 1999), decrease in public confidence in the judiciary cannot be stopped merely by suppressing dissent. That decrease will be evidenced anyway and will have tremendous repercussions on the integrity of the institution as we already saw in the decade behind us. These lessons from the past must surely be learned at least now?

© The Sunday Times

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

A 'Stupa' made of empty cartridges from the Sri Lankan civil war attracts tourists

ANI | One India

A unique mound-like structure called 'Stupa' made of empty cartridges from the Sri Lankan civil war has turned a major draw for tourists in Bodhgaya.

The Stupa was established in Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya this February to spread message of peace among the people in the world.

"A military group from Sri Lanka donated a Stupa made of empty cartridges. Like there was a war situation in Sri Lanka for the past 30 years and everybody all over the world was worried because of it. So we pray, that such kind of war never takes place, not only in our country but also no where in the world and peace prevails in the society," said Bhante Sivli Thero, a priest at Mahabodhi temple.

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, which is located in the temple complex.

It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick and still standing. It is 52 meters high and has a 24 meters high Buddha statue.

The 1949 Bodhgaya Act recognised the site as a Buddhist holy place and in 2002, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared the Mahabodhi Temple. By Surya Pratap Singh

© One India News

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Zero plans to offset GSP losses of 300,000 workers

By Rathindra Kuruwita | Lakbima News

Senior government officials have admitted that the government has no contingency plan so far to offset the difficulties faced by industries or to provide assistance to thousands of workers who will lose their jobs with the discontinuation of the GSP + trade concession, said National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) convenor Wasantha Samarasinghe.

“We met the director of the department of commerce on July 20th at the National Labour Advisory Council.He had to admit that the government has not yet prepared a contingency plan, they haven’t even met factory owners,” Samarasinghe said. 300,000 workers will be directly affected by the loss of the GSP + concession and this will affect millions indirectly, NTUC convenor said.

© Lakbima News

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sri Lanka: Crisis brews in factories over GSP Plus stalemate

By Leon Berenger | The Sunday Times

At first, they took the milk away and it was followed by sugar. Thousands of factory workers at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone are now served with only black tea and their bosses are describing it as a ‘cost-cutting’ exercise.

Even before the real effects of losing the GSP+ tariff concessions could start hitting Sri Lanka’s export sector, the workers are already being dished out with what they could expect in the coming days and anyone found complaining will be shown the door.

Chandi Dissanayake, a young mother of one, is among the many thousands of apparel workers who is currently forced to sip black tea during the allocated breaks, since her employer no longer supplies milk or sugar, citing hard times as a result of the global economic meltdown earlier and the upcoming GSP+ crisis.

It is not only the milk and sugar that have been taken away from the workers but many other incentives as well such as overtime payments, attendance bonuses, subsidised meals, transport facilities etc, says Dissanayake, who has put in 12 years of hard work into the zone. Her monthly wage at present is Rs.12, 500.

“When our wages are raised by a mere Rs50 or 100, those in the supervisory capacity and above receive increments starting from Rs 2,500 upwards. This creates a lot of heartburn among most of the staff.

“Complaints of this kind of unfairness is outlawed by the management, and the employee risks being sacked or singled out for harassment,” she alleged.

“But, since I am a senior hand, I have taken the fight to the management, largely with the help of the trade unions who have remained supportive to our cause from the start and their presence is encouraging to all of us.

“Many of us would have been thrown out by now if not for the intervention of the trade unions which have a wide understanding of the country’s labour laws and related regulations forcing the respective managements to give a hearing and even redress,” Ms. Dissanayake pointed out.

Despite all this, the management still maintains a bias attitude towards the workers, known to be active with the trade unions. Such workers are given difficult shifts and their overtime hours are also slashed, she said.

Earlier, each worker was provided with a minimum of 60 hours’ overtime which brings an additional payment of a little above Rs 4,000 depending on the individual’s net salary and years of service.
“This has now been slashed to a mere 20 hours which is a pittance in terms of our earnings,” Ms. Dissanayake added.

Her views were endorsed by several other factory workers who spoke to The Sunday Times, and one of them, A M P Sujatha Navaratne, plans to quit the zone and migrate West Asia.

“We are ignorant about all these GSP Plus issues and whatever they call it. But the damning ground situation is that matters have not been that worse during my 20 years of employment in the zone,” she said.

“At first they provided us with free meals on duty, but now they are charging us Rs 8.50. This price may sound very little and affordable but when one considers our paltry salaries this Rs 8.50 is felt right down the line,” the mother of two said.

“Another saddening experience was during the recent floods that hit the area, a large number of boarding houses rented out by the workers, mostly females, were inundated and they lost their belongings to the swirling waters.

While relief such as cooked food and tents were given to the people of the area, thousands of factory workers were overlooked as they were from outstations and not registered residents.

“This is how the local officialdom, from the Grama Niladharis onwards treated the FTZ workers during the floods, and to make matters worse even our employers had little or no sympathy towards our plight,” Ms. Navaratne said.

She said workers, who could not turn up for work because of the deluge, were later forced to work extra hours to avert pay cuts.

“Many workers are also jittery over the shift in attitude among the regional banks in the area and other money-lending institutes who are reluctant to approve soft loans owing to the looming uncertainty in the zone,” adds Sumana Wanigabada from Tissamaharama.

She said that even the in-house ‘Seettus’ (monthly draw) among the workers were on a steady decline because future work could not be guaranteed anymore, with employers poised to retrench staff at any moment.

Sisila Kumaratunga, attached to a factory turning out fishing equipment, said that the management had been faltering in payments over the past few months, with monthly wages being doled out in stages.

“They (the management) say that this was due to a drop in overseas orders but work goes on as usual at the factory with the same quantity being turned out daily.

“The management has also informed us that the factory was facing financial difficulties with banks refusing to provide incentives. Whatever the truth may be at the end of the day it is us the workers who will be affected,” Mr Kumaratunga, who has been with the factory for the past 18 years, said.

Board of Investment (BOI) spokesperson Dilip Samarasinghe said that there might be issues affecting the workers but refused to elaborate saying he needed time to check the facts on the ground.

“There are several legal issues and other industrial regulations and these will have to be checked out before commenting on the matter,” he said.

And concerns at the FTZ come just days ahead of a planned visit to the country by a high-powered US team to look into the welfare and living conditions of the workers before deciding on extending the GSP tax concessions on exports to that country.

Trade unionists are upbeat on the visit because they are convinced that the employers will be forced to have a “serious re-think” about their attitude towards employees.

Anton Marcus of the Free Trade Zone and General Services Union warned that the government was maintaining a relaxed attitude to convince the US delegation with more false promises as they had done in the past.

“This time it will not work since we have compiled a comprehensive dossier that will force the Government to have a re-think on their current position taken towards the workers rights if it does not want to face a similar crisis like the European Union (EU) issue,” Mr. Marcus said.

“Palitha Athukorale, president of the Progressive Union, warned that unlike the EU conditions the US concessions are tied up with workers’ welfare and their rights a damning report from the visiting delegation to the State Department could harm future trade between the two countries.

The US delegation is led by Michael J Delaney, Assistant Trade Representative for South Asia, and the visit comes after Washington accepted a petition from the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) to review the standards of workers’ rights in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Labour Ministry Secretary Mahinda Madihewa told The Sunday Times that the government had already briefed the US officials on workers’ rights and welfare. The issue is a pre-condition for more tax concessions and he was confident that the talks would be successful.

“Sri Lanka can boast to be one of the very few countries in the Asia Pacific region with a clean record on workers’ rights. The US visit and their subsequent finding will not be a threat to future US trade concessions,” Mr Madihewa said.

Employees anxious as ‘nuts and bolts’ plant shuts down

A group of 117 workers attached to a BOI company that turns out nuts and bolts is anxious over their future employment after the management decided to shut down the factory, citing financial difficulties.

The workers, who are currently on paid leave, fear that the employer will slip out of the country without paying any compensation.

S H A Wijeysiri, a spokesperson for the group, said the management had begun dismantling the heavy machinery and planned to take it out of the FTZ in three stages.

“This is the single largest factory of this nature in the whole of South Asia,” he added. “The fear is that once this is done we will be dumped minus due compensation etc. We have already taken the matter up with the BOI and the Labour Department but there has been no response,” he said.

A BOI spokesperson said he was not aware of this particular case. But he said the board would look into the issue.

© The Sunday Times

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sri Lanka: Deadly dengue claims 164 lives in 7 months

The Island

The deadly dengue outbreak has claimed 164 lives so far this year, health officials said.

The number of cases reported during this seven-month period is 22,159.

The highest number of deaths of 45 was reported from Colombo district followed by Gampaha district with 21 and Jaffna district with 16.

Twenty deaths out of the 45 from Colombo district were reported from the Colombo Municipal Council limits while the other 25 were from areaa including Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia which was declared Dengue high risk zone last week.

July this year has recorded the highest number of dengue patients compared to previous months with 3,341 cases by the 24th.

© The Island

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