(Lanka-e-News - 04.Aug.2023, 6.45PM) On Friday, July 28, President Macron visited Sri Lanka. Both the Presidency and the media highlighted that it was the first time a French President had visited Sri Lanka. This visit followed his trips to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.
While the stated purpose of his visit to New Caledonia was to address the Kanak people's desire to regain their freedoms and end the struggle that began after the assassination of Éloi Machoro by the French army in 1985, the identified and claimed purpose of the other two visits was to assert France's presence and power in a geographic area opposite to ours on the planet and counter China, seen as a potential enemy. This approach can be seen as highly colonialist.
But does Sri Lanka fit into his whimsical Indo-Pacific strategy? As a French President who constantly speaks about human rights, does he have nothing to offer to help Sri Lanka overcome its structural crisis?
Since a particularly violent civil war lasting nearly 30 years from 1983 to 2009, peace between the Sinhalese and the Tamils has relied on non-discriminatory rules between the communities. Since 2005, the country has been primarily led by the Rajapaksa clan, which, along with its accomplices, has pillaged the nation. As the treasury emptied and unfavorable economic agreements were signed, Sri Lanka found itself in default of payment by 2022, unable to purchase oil (necessary for electricity production), medicines, or any other essential goods for the survival of its people.
On May 12, 2022, following massive and violent demonstrations, members of the Rajapaksa clan, including the President and the Prime Minister, resigned and fled. The new President could only acknowledge the country's economic and social state and proposed no other solution than to burden workers and the population with the country's debts while leaving the profits of multinational companies that exploit the nation untouched.
Anton Marcus, Co-Secretary General of the FTZ Union, the main Sri Lankan labor federation and partner of the CGT, wants to inform French trade unions about the situation of workers in his country. He says, "The working class, especially workers in the garment industry (mostly women) and internal migrant workers, are facing many difficulties due to the current economic crisis. The proposed 'Single Employment Act,' a new discriminatory labor law, will lead to heavy losses for employees. Despite government exclusions and negligence, the union is collaborating with other unions to protect workers' rights.
Furthermore, the government plans to use funds from the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) and the Employees' Trust Fund (ETF) to "restructure domestic debt" without consulting the workers whose salaries have contributed to these funds throughout their working lives. These funds are vital for their future and survival in retirement or when leaving their jobs after years of hard labor in difficult conditions and many sacrifices. By taking this action, the government is trying to place the entire burden on the working class of this country. This is unacceptable!"
The "Single Employment Act" aims to consolidate several labor laws into a single act. The document has only been published in Sinhala, with only two chapters translated into English and no version in Tamil, which goes against the country's language policy. Government consultations on this act were organized as "public hearings," where only a few unions and employer federations were invited, without sharing the complete project. Many unions boycotted these hearings.
There are strong concerns about its impact on workers' pension funds (EPF) and retirement schemes. During the consultation process, the government also excluded four unions from the National Labor Advisory Council, the tripartite body of social dialogue in the country, which represented the main dissenting unions opposing the reforms. For the IMF, "debt sustainability" is its main concern, and most of the burden will be borne by workers without any concern for their survival.
The CGT supports the struggle of Sri Lankan unions against the economic policies imposed on the country by the government, the IMF, and multinational corporations. The CGT refuses to weaken workers' rights and representation by depriving them of any power.
Mr. Macron, who constantly talks about "human rights" and "business as usual," did not address the vital issues of the workers and only showed concern about China's growing influence without proposing any reform of the global capitalist economic system.
by (2023-08-07 20:06:32)
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