Election alliances harmful to upcountry leadership - UPF
[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 May 2003, 14:08 GMT]
"In other parts of the world, ruling governments fear the leaders of labor unions that determine the economic welfare of the country more than they do opposing politicians. In Sri Lanka, since the Upcountry leadership have traditionally worked in consort with the ruling parties upcountry people are denied the respect and power enjoyed by the Muslim or Northeast leadership," said M. Sivalingam, Secretary General of Upcountry Peoples Front (UPF), addressing the opening ceremony at Ragala Labor Union Building, upcountry press reports said.
"Political leadership in Colombo routinely ignores employment related activities of the Upcountry labor unions. The importance of the Labor Unions which serve as safetynets for the employees of major estates is being continually eroded.
"Leaders of Labor unions have transformed themselves into politicians. This is the main reason for the sorry state of the upcountry workers.
"The ruling governments from the time of independence have seldom regarded estate workers as a nationally important labor force. They were instead treated as coolies of Estate management.
"The Sri Lanka Governments want to keep the future generations of the estate laborers confined to Tea and Rubber estates. No attempt is being made to provide employment training in alternate fields such as agriculture and animal husbandry. Areas where there is a concentration of upcountry tamils are routinely excluded from Sri Lanka Government's development plans.
"The reduction in retirement age for estate workers, harmful labor laws, use of estate laborers pension fund for loans for outsiders, and the sorry state of Madilayam housing scheme for estate workers are destroying the social fabric of the upcountry estate worker community.
"It is imperative that the upcountry political leadership reviews its stand on joining national parties in election alliances and avoid being absorbed within the national party politics in future elections. Only by showing our independent strength from the labor power of our people and posing a challenge to our adversaries can we expect our leadership to be accorded the due respect," said Sivalingam in concluding his talk.