Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Bill:
'Amendment will help protect interests of workers'
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided when Parliament met at 1 pm
yesterday. After the presentation of papers and oral questions, the
House took up the Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Bill for debate.
Labour and Labour Relations Minister Gamini Lokuge: This Industrial
Disputes (Amendment) Act was amended on many previous occasions. Today,
there are many labour laws coming under the purview of the Labour
Department. We must amend these rules and regulations to suit the
present day needs.
This amendment is a timely need and brought forward to Parliament
with the aim of avoiding further industrial disputes in this country.
All these amendments had been introduced after many discussions with
representatives of the Industries Ministry, Trade Unions, employers,
employees and officials of the Labour Relations Ministry.
This will help protect the interests of the workers. We believe that
labour laws should be amended according to current requirements. These
amendments should also help strength the workforce, while protecting
their rights. Workers are recruited on a contract basis in the private
sector as well as the public sector.
There are many problems in regard to job security of employers
recruited on a contract basis. We have paid our attention to this issue.
It is reported that some disputes had been dragging on for six-seven
years in labour courts. Therefore, I propose that all labour disputes
should be resolved within a period of three months. We must amend laws
to suit modern day requirements.
Joseph Michael Perera (UNP): The government should pay more attention
to ensure the rights of the working class when it moves amendments to
the House. We have enough rules and regulations in the country. But
these rules and regulations are currently being violated by the
government. Before correcting the mistakes in the private sector, the
government must correct its own mistakes. If any ordinary person was
found guilty of misappropriating public property, he or she would be
remanded for causing damage to public property. But if a politician or
his henchman was proved guilty of frauds and corruptions, no legal
action will be taken against him.
This is injustice and partial. The government should always do the
right thing. When the government is attempting to bring amendments to
Parliament, the main political parties should be consulted.
The Opposition is not opposed to the amendments brought to the House
But we should have been given a proper time period to express our
views in this regard.
National Languages and Social Integration Minister: Vasudeva
Nanayakkara: These amendments are very important. Today, the Labour
Tribunal had no cases before it. The real situation is that employees
are attempting to prevent cases presented before labour tribunals by
The rights of employees as well as the employers must be protected.
There should be a proper programme for obtaining advice and financial
assistance from the Legal Aid Commission for those who are financially
unable to bear up the labour cost.
Cases related to labour disputes drag on for long periods due to
various reasons. Sometimes, employees have died before the case was
over. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen labour tribunals to
settle cases within a short period of time.
M A Sumanthiran (TNA): This is a timely need. The compensation
formula of labourers should be revised.
The working class must be provided with adequate compensation.
The citizens of this country must be made aware of this law. I would
like to question the government as to how many workmen in this country
are aware of these amendments brought to Parliament today.
P Digambaram (UPFA): There are a number of problems in regard to the
wages of Estate workers. Estate workers are not provided with sufficient
wages in accordance to their hard work. We expect that solutions to
these problems will be provided with the introduction of these
amendments to Parliament today.
Dr Jayalath Jayawardena (UNP): The government has converted the civil
adminstration into military control through a special Gazette
Notification. Although the government said the State of Emergency is no
longer in force, the entire country is still under military rule today.
The government must protect the fundamental rights of citizens.
You must not suppress the rights of the people. I do not understand
why the government has called the armed forces for active service
instead of the police service.
Social Services Minister Felix Perera: There is a shortage of skilled
workers in the tourism sector. There is a demand for skilled workers in
local as well as international job market. Currently, there is a risk
involved in the apparel sector.
Therefore, we must be careful when new rules and regulations are
being imposed in the various sectors. Today, our economy is in the
Loans obtained from foreign countries should be utilized in a proper
way. Then the country could march forward towards success.
Dr Harsha de Silva (UNP): We have experienced many industrial
disputes in the country recently. The government has entirely failed in
handling these disputes. We have also lost many lives due to these
The cost of living had not been increased to the public as well as
the private sector employees though the cost of living is currently
'C W W Kannangara, architect of free education
Economic Deputy Minister Muththu Sivalingam: I should bring to the
notice of the Labour Minister that the employees of the Estate sector
find it difficult to withdraw their EPF monies.
Public Relations and Public Affairs Minister Mervin Silva: We are
discussing the Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Bill. Abraham Lincoln
attempted to end up feudalism in America. There are 8 million working
people in Sri Lanka. Before 1956, the people could not change their
jobs, but the jobs were transferred from parents to children.
But with the initiation of the SLFP, that tradition came to an end. A
Labour Ministry was set up.
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Labour Minister in 1997, he
attempted to introduce the Labour Ordinance. But then the President
changed his ministerial portfolio.
But during his tenure, he set up the Vocational Training Authority.
He introduced scholarships and insurance schemes for those who are
Victor Anthony takes the Chair.
Ajith P Perera (UNP): The UNP has agreed to the suggestion to
increase the fines and sentences connected with matters related to the
Industrial Disputes Act. It is a timely need. In labour tribunals as a
policy, we accept that the procedures should be so strict as in other
courts. But by now, the situation has changed. The cases drag along in
labour tribunals. The employers call for a large number of witnesses,
dragging the case for longer periods.
Rural Affairs Senior Minister Athauda Seneviratne: If the employer
treats his employees properly, they do not need to be fined. When the
employees would have to pay a considerable amount of money as fines,
they do not hesitate to pay EPF to the employees.
A H M Azwer takes the Chair.
So far, nobody has alleged that there has been corruption in the EPF.
So politicians should speak without levelling baseless allegations
We have to pay a good salary to the working community. We can pay a
higher salary only if the economy is developed.
The salaries in developed countries are high, but the prices of food
and other items are also high. So we have to develop our economy.
Labour Tribunal cases should be solved soon. We have to introduce a
mechanism to solve problems between employers and employees at a low
It was not the UNP who introduced free education to Sri Lanka.
When D S Senanayake was abroad, C W W Kannangara introduced the Act
relating to free education. Vocational training should be given to
students during schooling.
The Amendment Bill was passed.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Laxman Yapa Abeywardena,
yesterday stated that the Divineguma has proved to be a successful
programme to develop economy of this country and Rs 3,863 million had
been allocated for this project.
A H M Azwer in Chair.
Victor Anthony (UPFA): 'Divineguma' is an attractive programme
operated throughout the country under the guidance of Economic
Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa on the instructions of President
During the operations against terrorism, massive projects to develop
ports, airports, highways, road network and electricity were
implemented. The President's vision is to create a happy family and a
The objective of Divineguma was initiated for that purpose. So I wish
to continue other relevant areas with the Divineguma programme.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Laxman Yapa Abeywardena: This
motion is a timely one. After the operation against terrorism, we face
the economic war to develop the economy of this country.
Then the Economic Development Ministry serves as a coordinating
ministry. We initiated the Divineguma programme. From each Grama Seva
Niladari Division, 100 family units were selected to uplift their living
This was very successful. With its initiation, vegetable prices had
been reduced effectively. Now there is an enthusiasm to grow vegetables
in their own plots of land.
If the crops are excessive, starting from next year, they will be
directed to other areas where we can gain economic development.
The government has allocated Rs 3,863 million for the 'Divinegama'
The House was adjourned until 1 pm today.
To ensure national security:
'Govt won't hesitate to bring in new laws'
The Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Management Minister
Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday stated in Parliament that the
government would not hesitate to bring in new laws to ensure national
security and prevent terrorism from raising its head once again.
He made this observation in response to a special statement made by
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe under Standing Order 23(2).
The Minister also stated that certain laws were needed to be kept
intact and new laws to be brought in to ensure the national security
because the wellbeing of the people, sanctity of this country and
national security were extremely important in time to come.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Sila also stated that the issue of 'Grease
Yakas' is a mythical creation of those terrorism friendly groups, who
want to throw this country into turmoil and instability.
He said that their attempts are to prevent the investments that have
been initiated to be made in Jaffna so that it will bring prosperity to
Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Management Minister
Nimal Siripala de Silva: It is very unfortunate that the Leader of the
Opposition through the question he has submitted under Standing Order 23
(2), refers to an alleged unstable situation in Jaffna.
Firstly, it is grossly unfair that the Leader of the Opposition
refers in his statement of the inability of the security forces to
prevent the harassing of the people of Jaffna. This statement has far
Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that it is this very
security forces he is referring to, that liberated the people of the
North including the people of Jaffna from the brutal terrorists who
dominated the Northern Province for many decades. Today, their lives
have come back to normalcy. In this regard, I refer the Leader of
Opposition to many articles written by expatriate Tamils who have
visited Jaffna who unequivocally state that people in Jaffna go about
freely without any fear or intimidation.
Further, these same articles refer to the courteous conduct of the
armed forces personnel, who are helping to maintain law and order in the
Northern Province, including the Jaffna Peninsula.
The Leader of the Opposition, in this mischievous statement, blames
the government that it has not been able to restore law and order in
Jaffna. But quite contrary to this unfounded statement, the law and
order situation in Jaffna is certainly at a satisfactory level.
The issue of 'Grease Yakas' is a mythical creation of those who want
to throw this country into turmoil and instability. The police and the
armed forces have worked together with effectiveness to ally fears among
the public and apprehend and bring to book any mischievous element who
has masqueraded as 'Grease Yakas.' Therefore, for the Leader of the
Opposition to say that at no time had the government taken any steps to
arrest this situation, is not only unfair, but also trying to score
brownie points as a cheap political intervention that aims to
consolidate his position as the Leader of the UNP.
Besides, the whole tone of the question is to discredit the armed
forces which in my opinion, is not new to the Leader of the Opposition
as during the humanitarian operations to liberate our people from the
LTTE too, he had ridiculed the valiant and the noble efforts of our
armed forces during which a large number of personnel in the armed
forces have paid the supreme sacrifice.
May I respectfully submit to you Speaker, that the position of the
Leader of the Opposition that people of Jaffna perceive that incidents
involving mythical 'Grease Yakas' is a covert attempt to intimidate the
people of Jaffna, is to discredit the government which has done a great
amount of work in Jaffna and other parts of the Northern Province and
also to discourage any investments that will come to Jaffna in time to
The assertion that there are well over 50,000 security forces
personnel stationed in Jaffna, is once again an insidious attempt to
discredit our security forces.
There are only 27,000 personnel of the Army, Navy and Air Force and
also the Police. May I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the
Northern Province where every inch of it was covered with land mines and
IEDs, was made habitable and safe by the removal of these lethal devices
largely through the contribution of the security forces who led the way
to protect the citizenry of this country through the life threatening
landmines clearing operations.
Therefore, it is necessary that the substantial presence of the armed
forces is maintained until the government is sure that every inch of the
Northern Province is safe for people to move back to their own habitats.
The Leader of the Opposition is to be reminded that once again that
it is due to the contribution of our security forces that not a single
life had been lost on account of landmines since May 2009.
The reference of the land within the high security zone is also very
much misleading. Only 3.5 to 4 percent of the land is being used for the
airport, harbour and fisheries harbour. The Leader of the Opposition may
not be aware that many lands within the former high security zones have
been released and the government is pursuing to release as much as
possible of these lands within the high security zones to the legal
owners of the relevant lands.
Once again, the reference by the Leader of the Opposition to many
check points and patrolling which he alleges is taking place round the
clock, is also to create the impression to the world at large that the
security situation in the Northern Province is not normal.
I am not surprised that the Leader of the Opposition is doing this
right now. Because even in the past, he has vilified the security
forces, the government in power, not only in Sri Lanka, but particularly
in forums abroad to bring discredit to the government.
This is one of his ploys to bring pressure on the government using
external forces, but every election has provided a strong response to
him and his party that the President and his government are held in high
esteem by the people of this country.
I wish to submit to you and through you, to this august House, that
the government has taken all necessary steps to arrest this alleged
menace and I want to assure the public of the Northern Province and
those in the Jaffna Peninsula, that the government will do everything
possible to ensure that the hard won liberation is permanent and that no
forces whether it be internal or external, can disrupt the peaceful
environment that exist in the Northern Province and in the Jaffna
This morning, under the direction and guidance of the President,
Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises Development Minister
Douglas Devananda chaired a meeting in Jaffna bringing together all
stakeholders to address any issues that people of Jaffna may have and
also to explain to the people the measures taken by the government to
allay any unfounded fears that may exist among the people due to the
malicious propaganda which seems to be disseminated through the LTTE
rump and internal elements who want to see this country in turmoil.
The government also ensured that Petroleum and Petroleum Industries
Resources Minister Susil Premajayantha participates at this same
conference held in Jaffna.
The people of this country and those who are interested in the
welfare of citizens of this country, have unequivocably welcomed the
lifting of the Emergency Regulations.
The Leader of the Opposition too welcomed it in this House when the
President made the announcement referring to the desire of the
government not to extend the emergency from September 2011.
In order to ensure national security and that terrorism will not
raise its ugly heads once again, certain laws need to be kept intact and
in fact if new laws are to be brought in the government will not
hesitate to do so because the wellbeing of the people, sanctity of this
country and national security are extremely important in time to come.
It is also to be reminded to the Leader of the Opposition that today
the unity of this country along with its sovereignty and territorial
integrity have been ensured by the President and the present government.
The Leader of the Opposition should take note that as Sri Lanka is a
unitary state, that its security forces and the police could be present
in any part of the country if there is a necessity to ensure the safety
of its citizens.
The attempt of the Leader of the Opposition to highlight the number
of security forces personnel stationed in Jaffna, therefore, is an
attempt of cowardice to discredit the work of the government which many
people in the country, irrespective of party politics seems to be
In conclusion, I wish to ensure you the Speaker and through him to
this august House that the government is quite capable of handling any
situation and that it will do its utmost to ensure a peaceful
environment for the public in this country, wherever they are to
continue with their livelihood and get about their day-to-day life
without any intimidation or fear.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe: On 23rd August 2011, I
referred in this House to the inability of the security forces to
prevent 'Grease Yaka' from harassing the people of Jaffna. We expected
the government to go into this issue and restore law and order in
Jaffna. Unfortunately, this has not been done.
It is the perception of the people that this is a covert attempt to
intimidate the people of Jaffna.
At the moment, there are well over 50,000 security forces personnel
stationed in Jaffna. 25-30 percent of the land is within the High
There are many check-points and patrolling that takes place round the
clock. This is sufficient to apprehend the 'Grease Yaka'.
It is obvious therefore that the government has the machinery, but
for some reason best known to them, they have failed to stop this
Another matter that needs to be addressed is the High Security Zones
which were established under the Emergency Regulations which have now
Accordingly, the lands that have been taken over for the High
Security Zones have now to be returned to the legitimate owners.
I would also therefore like to ask the Prime Minister when and what
steps will be taken to return these lands?