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CHR condemns the police attack on Katunayake FTZ protesters

Guarantee the constitutional right to peaceful protest

by Surangi Ariyawansa

(May 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) condemns the Police attack on the protesters from the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) who were demonstrating against the proposed pension scheme for private sector.

Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that ‘every citizen is entitled to - (b) the freedom of peaceful assembly; (c) the freedom of association; (d) the freedom to form and join a trade union.’ Therefore the government and its agents do not have the right to oppose/suppress trade union action of the workers. In addition Sri Lanka has signed several international agreements which guarantee workers rights including peaceful demonstration and trade union action.

Yesterday (May 30) the Police charged and tear gassed FTZ workers who were leaving their factories in a peaceful manner. When the workers resisted the Police fired at them using rubber bullets and live ammunition, this is accepted by the IGP himself. Over 240 workers were wounded and many were arrested. There is also evidence that those who were arrested were assaulted by policemen.

Workers have a right to be concerned about their earnings and they have been against the proposed ‘pension scheme’ from its inception. Due to their ceaseless trade union action the government has decided to temporarily suspend the implementation of the scheme and have decided to revise it.

Whether you agree with the workers or not, everyone who believes in democracy should accept the right to peaceful assembly and protest. CHR demands the Police and other law enforcement authorities to guarantee the constitutional rights of workers.

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