Sri Lanka World News

Trade unions in Sri Lanka launch massive hartal today

With a large number of trade unions expected to join in support, organisers of today’s island wide “Hartal” promise to bring Sri Lanka to a standstill while demanding the government to “go home”.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Police has said they would take legal action against those who forced others to participate in the hartal.

Issuing a statement, the senior police media spokesman stated that the police respect the right of the people to enjoy the various rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and that they will not be impeded.

Senior Police Media Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said that it has been revealed that certain groups are pressuring various businessmen and individuals into participate in the hartal campaign.

Many trade unions including the Restaurant Owners’ Association, the Railway Station Masters’ Union, the United Postal Trade Union Front, the Government Medical Officers’ Association, Ceylon Teachers’ Union, All Ceylon Common Fisheries Association, All Ceylon Agrarian Federation have pledged support for the Hartal campaign.

However, several trade unions including the progressive trade unions affiliated with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have decided not to support it.

Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to withdraw from public transport services across the island today (May 06).

Addressing a media briefing yesterday, the chairman of the association Gemunu Wijeratne said they will be compelled to suspend their services in the coming days as well.

“We cannot operate buses without fuel. There is a shortage of diesel at filling stations.”

The Sri Lanka Railway Station Masters’ Union (SLRSMU) has also announced that they will participate in the nationwide strike on Friday.

The All Ceylon Transport Workers Union (ACTWU) also said that they had asked all the employees of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) to join the nationwide strike today.

Accordingly, the Union will refrain from all the services from midnight yesterday in view of their participation in the mass strike.

General Secretary of ACTWU, Sepala Liyanage said that all the employees have been requested to participate in the strike to establish the people’s government.

He further said that the SLTB chairman and the Labour Department Commissioner General have also been notified about this.

Meanwhile, the Inter-Provincial Private Bus Owners’ Association (IPPBOA) refused to participate in the nationwide strike but has given the freedom to the bus owners to decide whether to join the strike or not.

Meanwhile, the Railway Trade Union Alliance (RTUA) announced that a 24- hour countrywide railway trade union action will start from midnight, to show solidarity to the nationwide hartal on Friday.

Reportedly, over 40 railway trade unions will join the strike while above 1000 trade unions will join the railway trade unions. In addition, there will be zero trains running in the island country during the strike as well, said the Co-Convener of the union.

Sri Lanka is struggling with acute food and electricity shortages, forcing the country to seek help from its neighbours. The recession is attributed to foreign exchange shortages caused by a clampdown on tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is unable to buy sufficient fuel and gas, while the people are being deprived of basic amenities as well.

The economic situation has led to huge protests with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the entire government. 

A mass strike action of 24 hours, organized on the 28th of April, also received the support of many sectors in the country including plantation, agriculture, electricity, fisheries, banks, health, ports, economic centres, teachers and principals. It was reported that approximately 1,000 trade unions had pledged support for the one-day strike.

However, as public demands for the government and the President to resign fell on deaf ears, the trade unions announced that they would resort to an island-wide strike again tomorrow.

[Various News Agencies]

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