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Sri Lankan unions oppose oppressive new laws

7 May, 2019The Sri Lanka IndustriALL Council of unions is calling on the government to protect fundamental human rights in the wake of the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed more than 250 people and injured over 500.

The Council, which consists of unions affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, expressed deep concern with the proclamation of emergency rule in Sri Lanka, and the near unanimous political consensus in calling for stringent laws and harsher punishments.

The unions believe the new laws will invariably restrict freedom of expression and freedom of association.  

“While we accept security forces should have powers to arrest suspects, legally detain and interrogate them, we firmly believe the government has a responsibility and a duty to ensure fundamental rights of the people in establishing stability and normalcy in society,” said the statement.

The unions are alarmed by the replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act with the more drastic Counter Terrorism Act, which they say will be further used to crackdown on unions, rights activists and opposition politicians.

The unions are also worried about a new all-in-one labour law currently being prepared by the government, which is set to benefit employer investors but which they fear will be used to discipline society under the pretext of national security.   

The Sri Lanka IndustriALL Council expressed its deepest condolences to victims of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, which include its own members, and called for the immediate distribution of compensation. They said political instability in Sri Lanka negatively affected the functioning of the state and contributed to security lapses.

The Council called on the government to ensure a peaceful and stable society, and to stop the escalation of religious tension, particularly against Muslims.

In a solidarity statement to the Sri Lankan unions, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“We condemn the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka in the strongest terms.  Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.

“We truly hope that these heinous attacks will not generate more violence, and that instead, the government will respond firmly but strictly within the rule of law and in full respect of fundamental human rights.