Plantation protest spreads

[TamilNet, Friday, 02 March 2001, 17:55 GMT]
Shops and businesses were closed in Hatton, a main town in Sri Lanka's tea producing central province, Friday in support of a spreading protest by plantation workers demanding a long due wage raise of four hundred rupees. More than 2000 tea workers in Kandy district went on strike Friday and held protest fasts in local Tamil temples, a spokesman for the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) told TamilNet.

The CWC, a major coalition partner of Sri Lanka's ruling People's Alliance government, began a protest fast (Satyagraha) led by its leader Mr.Arumugan Thondaman in Hatton 12 days ago demanding the wage increase. The Satyagraha has evoked widespread support among tea and rubber workers and threatens to shut down the plantation sector. Mr.Thondaman is a cabinet minister.

Mr. Arumugam Thondaman, the Minister for Livestock and Estate Infrastructures Development, (centre) and other CWC leaders at protest fast by Sri Lanka's plantation sector workers demanding a Rs.400 increase as a devaluation allowance. Photo:TamilNet
A round the clock sit in protest by workers has blocked a management office of an estate in the Nuwara Eliya district from functioning sources said. In several estates of the district protesting workers have prevented the transport of packed tea chests to Colombo for export.

The Deputy High Commissioner of India in Colombo visited the CWC leaders in Hatton Thursday at the venue where they are on Satyagraha. He spoke to Arumugam Thondaman, Mr. Muthu Sivalingam MP and Mr. S Jegatheeswaran.

Meanwhile, sources said that the CWC is expected to discuss further action with Mr. P. Chandrasekaran MP and Mr. M.S Sellasamy MP of the United National Party who are also politicians and trade union leaders of influence among Tamil plantation workers. Thirteen trade unions, including the CWC, are engaged in the protest action currently.

MP for Nuwara Eliya electorate Muthu Sivalingam are seen at the Satyagraha in Hatton with other party leaders.

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