After two decades, Sri Lanka embraces 82’s forgotten textile generation
196 of their comrades are no more. But after more than two decades of repeated efforts by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce -with strong backing from Vasudeva Nanayakkara- Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, 3605 Lankan textile employees who suddenly lost their livelihood during 1980-’82 period and left destitute, finally clinched their monetary compensation and due recognition on 12 February in Colombo.
“Our government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not forgotten about your contribution and in fact, believes Lankan worker-rights to be a main priority” vowed a victorious Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 12 February.
• ‘You are not forgotten’ - Rishad
• $ 2.6 Mn paid to 3605 ex-cadre
• ‘We salute you!’ – Vasudeva
“From the very first day I took over office as the Industry and Commerce Minister, representatives of these helpless ex-employees, once the backbone of our national textile sector, kept on visiting and meeting me with their appeals.
We took on their request promptly and supported by the continuous efforts of my former Ministry Secretary Tilak Collure and Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, we pressed on. As a result, today I am happy to say that, you, the remaining and deserving workers, won at last, and it makes us all very happy” said a smiling Minister Bathiudeen, and added:
“Sadly, some of your colleagues and comrades who came to meet me just a couple of years ago are no more. In fact, we regret that as of now, 196 of your colleagues have died and it is sad that they couldn’t survive to see this day” voiced Minister Bathiudeen.
Minister Bathiudeen, with the participation of Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Minister of National Languages and Social Integration), and Athauda Seneviratne [Senior Minister - Rural Affairs], top officials including Anura Siriwardene (Secretary of Ministry of Industry & Commerce) was addressing more than 100 former state owned textile industry workers who represented 3605 workers who suddenly lost their livelihoods due to privatisation and closure of 64 state owned textile and garment institutions in the 1980-1982 period as a result of the policy measure adopted by the then government.
On July 04 last year, the Cabinet approved compensation for these 3605 helpless, laid-off workers who were not entitled to a pension since their employment was less than 10 years. These workers are compensated by the government at a cost of $ 2.6 Mn (Rs 329.08 Mn), in two stages of payments. Each worker is paid $ 135 per year (Rs 17000.00) of employment, and their final compensation amount is calculated at this rate for the total number of years they served. 12 February’s 100 invited former workers were representing their 3605 total colleagues at the distribution ceremony which made the payments allocated in Stage I.
“We continuously pleaded to government after government that came to power, but there was no result” said Seilin Nona (65) who lost her job at Kaluthara Vyaparaya (Nagoda Division). “We couldn’t be more grateful to you for this assistance. Thank you!” she said.
Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Minister of National Languages and Social Integration), addressing the event, said:
“Today we are not performing an act of mercy but rather, fulfilling the obligation that is owed to you by the country. We salute you! This is an extra budget expenditure item, beyond the routine allocations. The government of HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa respects workers and their efforts. Therefore despite financial difficulties, we are fulfilling our duties to you.”
- Asian Tribune -