Workers in Colombo walk out against privatisation

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 March 2003, 19:23 GMT]
Hundreds of workers in state run banks and major public enterprises walked out of their offices in Colombo Wednesday to protest against plans by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Front government to privatise their institutions. The protesting workers also demanded better wages.

Colombo’s effort to sell off cash strapped and loss incurring banks and public enterprises has been running into heavy resistance from powerful trade unions and political parties, including President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA), which charge that the UNF regime is selling ‘national economic assets’ according to the “unscrupulous dictates” of the World Bank and the IMF .

Workers protest
Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratna, the leader of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP), a pro-peace marxist group, leading a section of the demonstrating wrokers in downtown Colombo Wednesday.



However, in contrast to recent demonstrations against privatisation spearheaded by the Sinhala nationalist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna and the PA, Wednesday’s demonstration did not condemn the peace talks between the Liberation Tigers and Colombo.

The JVP and the PA say that Mr. Wickremesighe’s government is colluding in an “Western imperialist plot to divide Sri Lanka”.

But a spokesman for the organisations behind the protest said that one of the major demands of the workers was to “stabilise the peace in a way that is acceptable to the people of Sri Lanka”.

Workers from the govt. sector including state banks, railway, Govt. press and the health sector launched a token strike and joined a well attended demonstration in Hyde Park, Colombo. The demonstration was jointly organised by the Committee for Pay Hike in the State Sector and Coalition for Safeguarding National Assets and Human Rights. Over 50 trade unions from the govt. as well as private sector participated.


Workers protest
A section of the large gathering of workers at the demonstration and rally in Colombo.

 

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