Rivals join to pressure Sri Lanka's tea companies

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 06 March 2001, 22:16 GMT]
Long time political rivals in Sri Lanka's plantation sector, Mr.Arumugam Thondaman, leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress and Periyasamy Chandrasekaran, the leader of the Upcountry People's Front, joined forces Tuesday in a march from Holbrook Bazaar to Agarapatana in the Nuwara Eliya district in the island's tea producing central province.

plantation_protest_1_060301.jpg
Arumugam Thondaman MP, leader of the CWC (right) and Periyasamy Chandrasekaran MP, leader of the Upcountry People's Front, addressing the crowds at Agarapatana junction Tuesday afternoon.
More than six thousand tea workers marched to the Aagarapatana junction where the two leaders addressed the crowds about the progress of the Satyagraha campaign.

Mr.Arumugam Thondaman said that the tea companies have agreed to start negotiations with the plantation trade unions regarding the four hundred-rupee wage hike Wednesday in Colombo.

thondaman_arumugam.jpg
Arumugam Thondaman.
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The protest campaign has brought Sri Lanka's tea sector to a virtual standstill since it began sixteen days ago.

Political analysts said that the coming together of Chandrasekaran and Thondaman, if cemented beyond the current protest campaign, could be become major political force in the Tamil politics of Sri Lanka's plantation sector.

Chandrasekaran emerged as a powerful regional youth leader of the CWC in the mid eighties.

He left the CWC in 1986. He formed the Up Country People's Front (UPF) in 1990 and was elected to Parliament at the 1994 general elections, becoming a key coalition partner of Chandrika Kumaratunga's government.


plantation_protest_2_060301.jpg
The leader of the CWC's Women's Wing, Ms. Christy Anthony, addressing the crowds at the Satyagraha Tuesday afternoon. She charged that the tea estate companies were deliberately showing losses and thereby denying the workers their due wages.
His relations with the ruling People's Alliance soured after the CWC crossed over to the government and secured a powerful cabinet position for its late leader Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman.

Chandrasekaran joined the UNP on the eve of the general elections last year and was elected again.

Influential lobbies in the CWC and the UPF have opined that the political power of the plantation sector Tamils has been undermined over the years because the loyalties of the population is divided between the two parties.

Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara MP, the leader of the Democratic Leftist Front, a Marxist firebrand, addressed the Satyagraha this afternoon. He lambasted the tea companies, accusing them of robbing the plantation workers.

Please click on the images for larger photos (clockwise from top left)

Protesting plantation workers The protest march entering the Agarapatana Bridge A trade union group with its banner near the Satyagraha stage Women tea workers in a procession near the Satyagraha venue in Hatton.



Plantation protest 3 sm Plantation protest 4 sm
Plantation protest 5 sm plantation protest 6 sm


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