Several trade unions including the government led Nidahas Sevaka Sangamya, other plantation sector unions and several plantation sector based NGOs yesterday called for granting wide powers to Pradeshiya Sabhas to enable them to develop the plantation sector and provide the needs of the plantation Tamils.
They also called for the amendment of the Pradeshiya Sabha Act No: 15 of 1987 enabling the Pradeshiya Sabhas to take over plantation sector settlements which were currently under estate companies. They also called for the setting up of several new Pradeshiya Sabhas and divisional secretariats for the estate areas to enable active development.
One of the participants of the joint lobby group, the Institute of Social Development (ISD) Director P. Muthulingam told a news conference that the demands would be put forward to all political parties at this election with the objective of getting some redress to plantation sector workers who have not been absorbed for national development. He said the trade union NGOs and social service organizations decided to form a joint lobby group, as estate sector workers had suffered a sad plight during the last six decades.
He said, “One of the major impediments for the development of these persons is the Pradeshiya Sabha Act which had paved the way to put plantation settlements under the purview of estate companies. This had deprived the plantation settlements of the right for development.”
Mr. Muthulingam recalled that the Uda Palatha Pradeshiya Sabha run by an independent group was suspended for developing estate settlements and for setting up of roads for such a settlement.
Former member of the suspended Uda Palatha Predehiya Sabha, R. Shanmugadeepa said the Sabha was suspended because it performed its duty towards those who elected it.
“We were elected members and our duty was to work for our electors and we were penalized for it,” she added. She therefore stressed the need for wider powers for Pradeshiya Sabhas to deal with the issues faced by estate workers.
Some of the organizations that had come together to form the joint lobby were Plantation Sector Social Forum, Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre, Civil Forum, All Ceylon United Workers Congress, Workers Liberation Front, United Plantation Workers Union and Institute of Social Development in addition to the Nidahas Sevaka Sangamya.
The lobby group which stressed that the ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ had promised vital changes to the plantation sector to improve the lifestyle of the estate workers said they would handover a proposal for developing the sector to president Mahinda Rajapaksa shortly.