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IUF statement on visit of President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse to the ILO Conference June 15, 2007

Posted to the IUF website 14-Jun-2007

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The address on June 15 of the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, to the ILO's International Labour Conference must not be regarded as an endorsement of any kind of his government's current policy of intensifying repression on trade union, human and democratic rights.

Three months ago, the IUF, a Geneva-based global federation of unions representing food, agricultural and hotel workers held its World Congress in Geneva. The Congress at that time noted the dangerous trend towards the creation of a Police State under President Mahinda Rajapakse�s Emergency Regulations. Since these regulations came into force abductions, disappearances and arbitrary detentions have occurred including the abductions of trade unionists and journalists.

The situation has subsequently become worse with more cases of repression and rights violations reported weekly and the media subjected to even greater censorship and control including the systematic intimidation of journalists and editors.

On May 1, this year, fifteen unions in Sri Lanka felt compelled to come together to call public attention to the fact that Emergency regulations No 13 and No 14, respectively, prohibit public meeting of unions and effectively annul the right to strike altogether.

More shockingly, Emergency Regulation No 6 (Dec 2006) empowers the Police Specials Branch to abduct or arrest any person solely on suspicion of involvement in or connection with �terrorist activity� and to detain such persons in custody without trial from month to month. This has created chilling, widespread public insecurity.

IUF supports the call of Sri Lanka unions courageously and unambiguously expressed on May 1, 2007 for the repeal of all above referred Emergency Regulations and an end to the current policy of repression of basic labour and democratic rights.

The IUF is openly calling upon President Rajapakse to take steps to end repression without delay.

IUF General Secretary, Ron Oswald commented, "We share the serious reservations held by many about the fact that on June 15 President Rajapakse will be addressing the conference of the UN body charged with protecting and nurturing core labour and human rights at precisely the time of rights abuses in Sri Lanka". Oswald added, "Abductions of trade union representatives, journalists and human rights abuses of members of the public have to stop. We demand that the Sri Lankan Government takes immediate steps to address these issues. It is intolerable to see escalating human rights abuses spreading in the name of �national security� and �combating terrorism."

IUF further calls on the ILO to send a Mission to Sri Lanka urgently to investigate the escalating violation of trade union and human rights and particularly the abductions of unionists and journalists.