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Justice still sought over harsh crackdown on Sri Lankan workers

Seven years after police shot one person dead and injured 260 at a protest, no action has been taken

Justice still sought over harsh crackdown on Sri Lankan workers

Mary Swarnakanthi (right), mother of slain FTZ worker Roshen Chanaka, hands a petition to Human Rights Commission member Ambika Satkunanathan on June 1. (Photo supplied)

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

June 5, 2018

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Rights activists including religious leaders are demanding justice for free trade zone (FTZ) workers who were shot at by police in 2011.

They made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) to seek an independent inquiry, compensation and punishment for the culprits.

One person was killed and 260 were injured when police fired at a protest by FTZ workers against a government bill on a pension scheme for employees in the private sector.

Activists including a priest and a nun went to the commission on the seventh anniversary of the death of Catholic worker Roshen Chanaka.

Sisters of Charity nun Christine Fernando said nobody had been taken to court even after seven years.

"Justice should be done for all victims including those who lost their jobs or were disabled, attacked or injured," she told ucanews.com after visiting the commission in Colombo on June 1.

"HRCSL representatives asked us to send letters which activists have sent to the government.

"We have organized protests every month over the last six years at the FTZ to get justice."

After pressure from activists, the former Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government appointed former judge Mahanama Thilakaratne to investigate the incident in 2011.

His report recommended that victims should be compensated and police must be dealt with by law irrespective of rank. But victims say they are still waiting for justice.

Mary Swarnakanthi, 61, mother of slain worker Chanaka, said the government had not provided the compensation that was promised.

"We handed over a petition to the commission to get justice for all, including those who were permanently disabled," she said.

"The HRCSL should influence stakeholders to take action according to the recommendations of the inquiry."

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