Plantations protest numbering 20,000 averted by Defense Secy.

Says he will effectively stop future violence on estates

A planned protest by about 20,000 planters and support staff on July 12 against the recent killing of a senior planter had been averted because of personal intervention of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Ceylon Planters’ Society President Nisala Jayawardena revealed at a media conference yesterday. He had informed the CPS that measures would be taken to ensure there would not be any breakdown of law and order on the Plantations.

Following the recent brutal killing of the Superintendent Noorie estate, Deraniyagala, Nihal Perera, who was hacked to death, the CPS had informed the Defence Secretary that if the police had taken timely action his death could have been avoided.

Noorie Estate was part of a BOI project to improve tea factories through installation of state–of–the–art machinery. Noorie and two other factories, Sapumalkanda, and Maliboda, are in the BOI project. Manager Business Development, Bogowantalawa Plantations Ltd. Athula Gunawardena said the BOI Project was a substantial investment of US$ 4.5 million.

The Company responsible for such development was Walter’s Bay, based in the US. Its Chairman Sanjay Waidiyatilleke, had arrived in Sri Lanka to decide the future of the project, but through intervention of allied officials, they decided to continue with the project.

Improvement to these factories included facilitation of bought leaf from small holders and to ensure they had good returns for their produce.

Present at the press conference was also Secretary General CPS Lt. Col. (Ret.), Leslie Marshal, president Ceylon Estates Staff Union, (CESU) Dhammika Jayawardena, and Vice President CESU, Chathura Samarasekara.

CESU president Jayawardena said they had a membership of about 15,000 spread throughout the plantation sector, and if their protest had gone ahead the sector would have been paralysed. He made the point that when they had made entries at the police stations, such entries were divulged to alleged suspects involved in illicit felling of trees, encroachments, and illicit gemming. They were attacked by those thugs. The police, they said, did not act on their complaints.

Nisala Jayawardena said they were to meet the IGP nd DIGs in those districts yesterday to arrive at some options that could be applied to improve security.

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