Shed ethnic diffrences and join forces to champion workers’ cause, Rajitha tells TU leaders

‘First person to be killed by the British during a trade union struggle was a Tamil’

by Dilanthi Jayamanne 

Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine, Dr Rajitha Senaratne has called for trade unionists of all ethnic groups to unite to fight for their rights.

Minister, Senaratne, addressing the members of the Health Department’s Co-operative Thrift and Savings Society recently said that he had urged Sri Lanka Health Services Union President W. A. Wimalaratne to invite the government Health service employees in the North to be a part of the union’s executive committee. It was only by uniting all ethnic groups that trade unions could forge ahead, the minister said.

 The Minister was speaking at a ceremony organised to award Rs. 7,500 each to children of Society members who passed the Grade 5 Scholarship exam in 2014, Rs. 10,000 to those who passed the GCE A/L in that year. There were 800 beneficiaries.

The first person to die at the hands of the British for the sake of the working class had been a Tamil estate worker, the minister said. He had been shot dead during a trade union action in the estate sector in 1947, Senaratne added.

At that time trade union leaders had been united irrespective of their ethnicities and the situation had changed in the early 1980s, the Health Minister said.

Volunteer health workers who had served in the Jaffna Hospital during the war were confirmed in service. There were another 38 volunteers at the Tellippalai Base Hospital who requested permanent appointments. The Minister discussed the issue with the Northern Province Health Secretary and issued instructions that their services should not be stopped.

The volunteer health workers in the North and East had served during the 30 years of war. A list of all volunteer health service workers should be prepared and steps taken to absorb them into the state service, Dr. Senaratne said.

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