The Trade Union Confederation (TUC) has scheduled a crisis meeting next Thursday with all trade unions in the Government sector to discuss issues of political victimization in the aftermath of the Presidential election.
The unions claimed that large numbers of their members who lent their support to General Sarath Fonseka in the recently concluded Presidential polls had become the latest targets and had been transferred, sacked, intimidated or assaulted.
They said employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the Board of Investment (BOI), the Education Department, the Health Department, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) were the most affected.
Saman Ratnapriya, General Secretary of the TUC, which comprises 14 active trade unions and has a strength of nearly 125,000 employees, said Thursday’s meeting had been arranged to discuss the crisis situation. “Democracy has been affected by such moves. The way these transfers are made goes against the Establishments Code. It is definitely political revenge. The authorities are trying to punish people who have different political views.
“We have complained to the authorities. We hope to take legal action. In some cases, employees have been forced to worship a picture of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and to join pro-government trade unions. Those who refused to do so are being punished in this manner,” he said.
Some 160 employees at the Colombo Port had been transferred to Galle, Oluvil and Trincomalee, another union official said.
Most of these employees were either members of the UNP-backed Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS) or the JVP-backed National Trade Union Centre.
National Trade Union Centre Chairman and JVP parliamentarian K.D Lalkantha said his union would resort to legal action to stop “this political witch-hunt”. “We don’t want to talk to anyone to make complaints because there is no use in talking to ministers who are already behind such a political witch-hunt. We have complained to the Human Rights Commission and the Labour Commission. We hope to file fundamental rights applications in the Supreme Court,” he said.
He said the worst affected sector was the Ports Authority where a large number had been transferred. Ports Authority Chairman Priyath B. Wickrema was unavailable for comment despite several attempts by the Sunday Times to contact him.
The situation was also bad at the SLTB where 49 employees were reported to have been transferred while another 200 had been either assaulted or intimidated and in some cases the pro-Fonseka employees were not even allowed to report to work, JSS union officials said.
They said they had identified depots in Teldeniya, Udadumbara, Moneragala, Badulla, Nittambuwa, Jaela, Kurunegala and Matale as places where JSS members were being harassed and not allowed to report to work. JSS Secretary Srinal de Mel said most of the members who chose not to comply with the demands made by SLFP union employees were either transferred or prevented from reporting to work. SLTB Chairman Dammika Hewapathirana said he had not received any complaints of employees being intimidated or not being allowed to report for work. He denied the charges of political victimization taking place.