Talks should raise Plantation Tamil issues- Chandrasekaran

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 September 2004, 10:01 GMT]
''During negotiations on rights to self-determination of NorthEast Tamils, problems faced by the plantation sector Tamils too should be raised. Plantation Tamils will lose if it is claimed that there is no link between the NorthEast Tamils and the plantation Tamils and that any connection between the two sectors could trigger tensions in the hill country as asserted by a certain organisations,'' said Periyasamy Chandrasekaran, leader of Up Country People Front (UPF) speaking at the opening of the Badulla District centre of the UPF, Monday, sources said.

The meeting was presided by UVA province UPF organizer, Arunasalam Aravintha Kumar.

ChandrasekaranChandrasekeran added, ''All parties in parliament including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) gave their support to the parliamentary motion submitted by UPF regarding wage increase for the plantations workers. TNA parliamentarians Mavai Senathiraja and M.K Eelaventhan voiced concerns of our community. Plantation minister too agree to grant a wage increase. But Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) leaders still maintain that they would secure a wage increase by bargaining with the Employers' federation (EF).''

Chandrasekaran also said that there is rampant corruption within the EF and that UPF is carefullly watching.

He added that UPF is determined to secure a wage increase this time at any cost.

''The Collective Agreement (CA) deals with not only a wage increase but includes other unrelated provisions, which are detrimental to estate workers. The UPF will even go to courts for legal remedy. The 1.5 million people in the plantation sector have enough political and economic power to fight for their rights.

''For the 1.5 million people we do not even have a reputable national school. There are only name boards. The few big buildings we have are all constructed by foreigners. Sri Lanka government does not allocate funds even to maintain them.

''We are not demanding a separate state or an Interim Administration. We want to live with freedom, dignity and justice. Leaders of Muslim people are fighting for their rights. The late leader Ashraff obtained a university for them. His successor, Rauf Hakeem, Srilanka Muslim Congress leader, has secured another university. Now they have demanded proportionate admissions for Muslims at the Sri Pada College of education. Our upcountry leaders should fight for and earn similar facilities for the estate workers,'' Chandrasekaran said.

''Plantation area villages are in the same condition as they were 50 years ago. The people's representatives have plundered even the roofing sheets donated by the Indian government for the plantation people. This situation should be changed,'' Mr. Chandrasekeran further said.

Meanwhile, D.Aiyadurai, vice-president of the plantation workers Front in a statement regarding the salary increment and CA issued to the press, thanked UPF leader P.Chandrasekeran for submitting a motion in parliament on wage increase for the plantation workers.

The Collective Agreement was signed on 30 September 2001, between plantation owners association and the trade union. Only the CWC took part in CA. This agreement expires at the end of this month and is expected to be renegotiated. All estate trade unions are demanding to participate in the renegotiations.

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