Shutdown called by Sri Lankan opposition has little impact

July 10th, 2008 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, July 10 (IANS) A nationwide shutdown called by the Sri Lankan opposition Thursday to demand an increase in salaries of public and private sector workers as well as postponement of provincial elections seemed to have little impact on the island nation. The shutdown was called by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which is demanding that the government raise the salaries of public and private sector workers by Rs.5,000 in view of the rising cost of living.

It is also demanding the postponement of elections in Sabaragamuwa and North-Central provinces, full implementation of the 17th amendment and reduction of the number of ministers in the central council to 35 from 105.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are also supporting the shutdown.

JVP’s trade union leader K.D. Lalkantha Wednesday claimed that the strike by over 800 trade unions affiliated to the party “would cripple transport and healthcare services and hit power and water supply”.

However, public transportation in the national capital was not affected by the shutdown and there were no reports of untoward incidents.

Accusing the government of threatening and harassing public sector employees to prevent them from taking part in the trade union activities, the JVP warned that the party would take “more drastic action next week” if the government doesn’t meet its demands.

Defence ministry spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters Wednesday that “while the government acknowledged the rights of workers to resort to strikes, it would not hesitate to take stern action to prevent illegal demonstrations, which may violate the law”.

Describing the shutdown as “politically motivated”, Rambukwella claimed it was an attempt by some political parties to bring the military, which is engaged in fighting the Tamil Tigers in the north, to the southern part of the country.

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