In 2023 two workshops for the Religious and Priests for Human Rights (RPHR) were held in Thalawila and in Kandy with several participants gaining knowledge and experiences.
The first workshop was held St. Anne’s Church, Thalawila Retreat house of Chilaw Diocese from 13th - 16th February 2023 with 37 participants from different parts of the country. The workshop included an exposure, inputs of resource persons, discussions and sharing. The focus of the workshop was on workers’ rights and hence the theme was “Ensure Dignity of Workers and empower the voiceless”
The exposure was to the sea fishing community, lagoon fishing community and to a farming community. With the findings of the exposure the participants continued their discussions and deliberations as they identified the hardships in their work and rough living conditions and social & economical challenges they face.
Rev. Fr. Nishantha Cooray TOR made a scriptural in put on the dignity of the workers and our call to ensure that while the Political & Economic crisis and the aspirations of Northern society was highlighted by Fr. Jeyabalan Croos and Fr. Nehru Croos.
The second workshop was held at Montefano Ampitiya Kandy from the 28th- 30th May 2023 Taking into consideration the 200 years struggle of the Tea plantation community in Sri Lanka, the workshop focused on the workers of the tea plantation community with the theme "Let us uphold the dignity of the tea plantation workers".
From several parts of the country 28 participants joined the workshop. An exposure to the Tea plantation community was made to the Knuckles Estate in Panvila Parish. The participants had a first-hand experience seeing the plight, the reality of the tea plantations workers, the Upcountry Tamil people who migrated from India and lived in central, province who contributed to the national economy in various ways for 200 years. Their contribution is about a third of the total income of the plantation sector. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe elaborated on this with a presentation on ''The bitter brew of the plantation workers in Sri Lanka while Rev. Fr. Arosh made a scriptural, input on " Prophetic role and our calling".
The participants identified the issues faced by the tea plantation workers such as discrimination, minimum wages, Labour right violations, inequality, unemployment, power-sharing, and many more. Hence it was discussed that reflections of those main issues for a common person to live par with another community equally makes difficulties and it creates a huge disparity between them and other communities.
Further the participants identified the exploitation of women in the plantation sector as the most marginalized group of workers in Sri Lanka. Although the Plantation women are contributing a lot to their families as income earners and taking care of the entire family makes them more exploited in their strength-wise & labour wise. The rights of plantation people & legal remedies “were presented by Mr. Suren D. Perera AAL and Mr. Madawa Eriyagama while Mr. Kamaladasan AAL shared his experiences growing up in the plantation community, the challenges that he had to face specially when he had to continue his highest studies in the university. The need for the church to treat, respect and ensure the “Rights” of the tea plantation workers was expressed by the participants and to develop a strategy to ensure equality as citizens of Sri Lanka.
“Proposed security law and the Prevention of Terrorism Act“ was also discussed as an immerging issue with the facilitation of Mr. Ruki Fernando.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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