The Planters’ Association of Ceylon today condemned yet another brutal mob attack that resulted in two more Regional Plantation Company (RPC) employees being hospitalized in critical condition.
They requested Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene and halt the ongoing breakdown of law and order in upcountry tea estates.
“This is now the third instance this year alone where the lives of RPC employees have been placed in serious and immediate danger. We are concerned that an organized campaign of violence and intimidation is being unleashed by thugs who are inciting workers and non-workers in order to sabotage RPC tea production.
“We wonder how such a catastrophic breakdown of law and order is being allowed and why no meaningful action has yet been taken against those who are inciting violence on the estates,” Planters’ Association Secretary General Lalith Obeyesekere said.
The most recent outbreak of violence which took place on Alton Estate, under the Hayleys Plantations Group, is connected to high level discussions taking place on worker earnings, between Trade Unions and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, on behalf of the RPCs and initiated by the Ministry of Labour.
When strike action was declared by Trade Unions in order to force RPC’s to limit daily worker earnings to Rs. 1,000, individuals on Alton Estate while avoiding work, ganged up to block factory operations from being conducted, resulting in a total of 7,000 kilograms of green-leaf plucked before the strike, being declared as wasted and thrown away.
They then forcibly prevented a consignment of tea, ready for dispatch and to be sold at the auction, from being transported out of the factory. The entire consignment, valued at LKR 6 Mn to an international buyer was already paid for. The company, legally obligated to complete the transaction, instituted a police complaint.
The statement further said that trade union sponsored vandalism and arson is becoming systemic, with worker gangs breaking into and damaging manager’s homes, destroying furniture and personal belongings, disconnecting water and electricity supply to factories and physically assaulting the managers, assistant managers and their families, cannot be ignored.
“Unfortunately the bigger picture of losing foreign markets and foreign exchange revenue to the Country by blocking the produce to the auctions, will not only cripple the industry but cause an economic dent as well”, Obeyesekere said.
“Ours is in industry which continued to operate throughout the pandemic, while taking every possible measure to ensure that everyone residing on the estates were given food, medicine, and essential supplies, as well as a source of income, all while providing absolutely essential foreign exchange to the nation at a time of deep economic turmoil”.