Sri Lanka: May Day in Sri Lanka: a "senseless" political showcase

world | May 02, 2012 | By Asia News

Colombo - Fixed-term contracts, dismissals, exploitation and poor wages: in this context, Sri Lanka celebrated May Day, Labor Day, which Anglican bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, retired bishop of the diocese of Kurunegala (North Western Province) described as "senseless" and a "political showcase" in comments to AsiaNews about the situation in which millions of workers in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world live. Yesterday, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and opposition parties organized demonstrations throughout the island to celebrate May Day.

According to Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, chaplain of the Catholic Workers Movement (Cwm), workers are in a "pathetic" condition, because "they are exploited and do not have sufficient wages to support their families. So-called labor standards have not been fully implemented. In Instead, workers have become pawns in the hands of politicians, who use them to stay in power. "

One of the most obvious sign of this situation is the development of mega-project called "Wonder of Asia"wanted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which envisages the construction of resorts and luxury hotels, with the ambitious goal of having 2.5 million tourists by 2016 and revenue for billions of rupees. "The idea of making Sri Lanka 'a wonder of Asia' - says Fr. Reid - is a project in which workers are just tools, but not active participants." The contracts are all in fact entrusted to major foreign multinationals, while the population is not involved in any decision. Although, in most cases, projects affect citizens with forced expropriations and violations of various kinds. "Neither the authorities - adds the priest - nor the private sector, consider the human side of these workers."

Finally Illangasinghe notes that over the years, "the workers have not received benefits," and indeed have "lost the privilege of protesting for their rights." The reference is to the event in May 2011 in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, violently repressed by police and in which a young worker died. "If in this country - he says - there is no more freedom to dissent, then the Labor Day weekend is just a political showcase."

 

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