Tamil parties join hill country protest

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 March 2001, 14:38 GMT]
"Many want the Tamils to be slaves in this country. The Tamils of the north and east have problems and the hill country workers have their problems. We should give a fitting answer to the injustices committed against the estate workers by throwing out those who are trying to oppress us", said Selvam Adaikalanathan MP, the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, addressing the Ceylon Worker's Congress' Satyagraha (fast) campaign in Hatton Saturday. The Satyagraha for a 4.5 Dollar raise in monthly wages has been on for 20 days with no solution in sight. It has snowballed into an unprecedented protest movement in Sri Lanka's tea producing hill country, cutting across party and trade union differences. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, said that the plantations have lost 400 million rupees so far because of the protest movement.

The leaders of five Tamil parties from the north and east took part in the Satyagraha Saturday in a show of solidarity.

tea_plucking.jpgMr. Arumugam Thondaman MP, the leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress, welcomed the leaders of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), the PeopleĂs Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), the Eelam PeopleĂs Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) near the Satyagraha stage in Hatton and presented them with black scarves to worn as a mark of protest. Shops and businesses were closed today in support of the Satyagraha in the hill country towns of Nuwara Eliya, Kandapola and Ragala.

More than a thousand tea estate workers marched from their estates in Wattawala to the Satyagraha in Hatton this afternoon. The leader of the Upcountry PeopleĂs Front, P. Chandrasekeran, MP and CWC MPs Muthu Sivalingam and S. Jegatheeswaran led the protest march.

Workers in Hatton, Bogawantalawa, Saamimalai, Saanjimalai and Puliyawattai refused to cooperate with their managements or declined to work. Workers in Labugala, Wavendon, Ramboda and Wedamulla organised their own Satyagraha campaigns in solidarity with the CWCĂs Satyagraha in Hatton, disrupting work in plantations in these sectors.

"The late leader of the CWC took a very keen interest in the problems of the Tamils of the north and east and spoke up for them fearlessly. Therefore it is our bounden duty to speak out in solidarity for grievances the Tamils wherever they live (in this country). The solidarity we see in the hill country should be sustained and protected. We have had to face losses in the past because of our disunity", said Dharmalingam Sidharthan, leader of the PLOTE, addressing the crowds at the Satyagraha in Hatton.

N. Raviraj, Mayor of Jaffna (TULF) in his speech said, "The problem of the Tamil people has been burning for more than twenty years. We can never give up our struggle. We have to show solidarity in the struggles of the Tamil people".

tea_factory.jpg

 

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