SLEB employees demonstrate against passing of amendment motion, in Colombo

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 04 March 2009, 03:39 GMT]
Sri Lanka Electricity Board (SLEB) employees staged a protest demonstration in front of Fort Railway Station in Colombo Tuesday against the SLEB amendment bill being passed in Sri Lanka Parliament, sources in Colombo said. The bill, which has been a subject of controversy and vehemently opposed by the opposition United National Party (UNP) and Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), was presented on Tuesday by Sri Lankan Minister of Power and Energy, John Seneviratne, in the parliament where it was debated on before allowed to vote on.

Police authorities had denied permission to SLEB employees to demonstrate elsewhere other than the Fort Railway Station venue despite their attempts to do so in several parts of Colombo.

Traffic in Fort area remained congested for nearly two hours due to the demonstration in front of the Railway Station.

The demonstrators accused the government of pushing the people into poverty and for brushing aside the views expressed by the workers.

The SLEB trade unions have extended a call for their members to launch a struggle in the form of continuous medical leave.

Vijitha Herath, the JVP trade union leader and parliamentarian said that the passing of the SLEB amendment bill will pave the way for the privatizing of SLEB.

The protestors continued to demonstrate even when Kotte police shouted above the din saying Fort Railway Station area had been declared High Security Zone (HSZ) in view of Liberation Tiger attacks.

At the end of the demonstration the protestors set fire to the banners they carried.

The SLEB amendment bill, following the debate, was presented for voting by Speaker V. J. M. Loku Bandara around 4:00 pm who said that votes are to be indicated by the voters name in keeping to the request of the opposition parties in the parliament.

109 members voted for the bill while 40 voted against it.

UNP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and JVP voted against while Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs were not present in the House during the voting.

The coalition partners of the United Peoples’ Alliance Front (UPAF) including Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), Upcountry Peoples’ Front (UPF), National Freedom Front (NFF) led by Wimal Weerawansa which sits with the opposition, voted in favour of the bill.

Ravi Karunanayake, UNP Colombo district parliamentarian warned during the debate in the parliament that the electricity price will rise by 30% due to the passing of the bill.

Meanwhile, Vijitha Herath, the trade union leader of JVP said that the government had not paid the wages for 300 employees of the National Paper Factory in Empilipitiya, for the last two months.

This has resulted in the production of the factory being affected, causing many workers facing the risk of loosing their jobs, he added.


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