Sri Lanka Labour News

Electricity Worker's Fight



Armed police officers raided the Columbo headquarters of the NSSP, the Nava Sama Samaja (or New Socialist) Party, section of the Fourth International in Sri Lanka in Colombo on the first of June 1996, while the Party Central Committee was in session.

About thirty policemen armed with automatic rifles, grenades and sub-machine guns broke into the building, saying that they suspected illegal activities.

The actual reason for this is that the NSSP is the key organisation supporting the electricity workers strike commenced on 29 May, which resulted in a total blackout for 4 days. The strike was called by the movement to safeguard the electricity board. The whole 14,000 strong workforce went on strike demanding that the government give up its plan to privatise the Ceylon Electricity Board.

This is the second time the government has tried to intimidate the NSSP within a short span of one month, the first being the police attack on the May Day demonstration.

The President, Chandrika KUMARATUNGA, addressing a press briefing vowed on Friday May 31 that she will resort to any means "short of killing" to get the workers back to work. She declared the strike illegal and ordered mass arrest of the strikers.

Within hours of her threat, unidentified gunmen shot at the main telecommunicationsunion leader J.B.P. DISSANAYAKA. He escaped unhurt, but it was clear that the attack was clearly aimed at intimidating other public sector trade unions which have expressed solidarity with the striking electricity workers.

DISSANAYAKA is also a leader of the public sector trade union movement opposing priovatisation.

Several leading members of the NSSP have also received death threats.

There had been attempts by pro-government sinhala (Sri Lanka's ethincal majority) forces, including some members of Parliament to rouse chauvinism among the masses by staging anti-strike demonstrations depicting strikers as a hindrance to the war effort against Tamil separatist forces. It is interesting to note that Major General Anuruddha RATWATTE, a maternal uncle of the President, is both the Deputy Minister of Defence and the Minister for Power and Energy.

These acts of intimidation are likely to deter the workers, or many of them at least, from carrying on their strike action.

The NSSP is calling a campaign against state terrorism, war and privatisation. A picket will be held in the heart of the capital, Colombo, on 05 May.

The NSSP appeals to all SOCIALISTS and TRADE UNIONISTS to write or fax the President of Sri Lanka:

1) To protest and condemn the raid against the NSSP headquarters

2) To protest and condemn all forms of intimidation against the Electricity workers and the Public sector workers in general.

Please write or fax: The President of Sri Lanka, H.E. Chandrika Kumaratunga, Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka. FAX (941) 333 703 Please send copy to the NSSP fax (941) 334 822.