6/01/2011

Normalcy of Katunayaka Free Trade Zone of Sri Lanka marred by police violence

(June 01, 2011,  Lanka PolitySri Lanka's local media reported that a young man injured in the clash between the police and the agitators on Monday in Katunayaka Free Trade Zone is in critical condition.

Sinhala daily The Divaina newspaper reported that 22 year old Free Trade Zone employee Roshen Shanaka has sustained gun shot injuries near his waist.

The man's kidneys are not functioning and his right leg has been amputated, says the newspaper. The patient depends on life saving machines, some other media reported.

The patient Roshen shanaka is a resident of Minuwangoda. He is the fourth of the five siblings of the family and joined an employment in the Free Trade Zone four months ago, family sources said to media.

Meanwhile, BBC Sinhala service reported that another Free Trade Zone employee who pleaded to police not to harm him because he had undergone a by-pass surgery has also been attacked by police.

A left oriented News Service UPU said based on ground sources, "The problem started on Monday 30 June, with the arrival of several ministers including Sarath Gunaratne and Priyadarshani Fernando claiming to distribute leaflets to the factories to make the workers aware of the benefits of the proposed pension scheme. They have come with a large group of security personnel. NSSP leaders of the area informed UPU news that the arrival of these ministers at a time when the government has announced that the pension will not be applicable to the free trade zones is quite strange. Workers were provoked into hooting and work stoppage. Police who came with the ministers wanted to stop hooting and that started the clash which ended with one worker critically injured. Trade union activists of JTUA shut down free trade zones after clashes between police."

Health Services Trade Union Alliance Chairman Saman Rathnapriya said that over 300 employees of the Free Trade Zone were injured and treated in hospitals. Of them, around 20 are critically injured, he said.

The employees of Free Trade Zone agitated against the government proposal to set up a pension fund for private sector employees with additional deductions from their salaries and other benefits.

Chairman of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka Jayanthi Bandaranaike said to media that the Free Trade Zone of Katunayaka that was closed since yesterday would be reopened as usual since tomorrow.

Several factories have sustained damages, a foreign manager of a factory said to BBC Sinhala Service appearing anonymous. The Chairman of the BOI said that out of the 50,000 workers of the 84 factories of the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone, 4500 employees of six factories joined the agitations. The unrest was spreading to other factories, the official said.

The Joint Trade Union Alliance that comprised of 26 trade unions including powerful Lanka Bank Employees' Union, Ceylon Mercantile Union and Free Trade Zone General Employees' Union says that they have decided to launch a token strike in protest of the proposed private sector pension fund.

The Joint Trade Union Alliance is to hold an agitation today noon before the Colombo Fort railway station to protest the police attack at the Free Trade Zone employees yesterday.

Joint Trade Union Alliance says that it has also taken measures to file a fundamental rights petition against the assault that took place on Monday in Katunayaka Free Trade Zone.

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