Anti-globalization Campaign in Sri Lanka

November 2002

36 Bills are currently being passed in the Sri Lankan parliament in order to expedite the process of privatization of state institutions and natural resources in the country.

This is obviously the service that the self interested political leadership renders towards the WB, IMF and the WTO to expedite their globalization agenda, betraying the very people who have voted them to power.

The target of the above mentioned bills are the state banks, Insurance Corporation (that made a profit of one billion rupees last year), Electricity Board, Postal Department, Revenue Department, Provident Fund of the Workers, water resources, sanitary services, much of education, health, railway, phosphate-mines and so on.

Moreover, the New Land Use Policy and Labour Laws which are to be introduced, aim to encourage international companies to invest in Sri Lanka.

On the afternoon of October 24th, 2002, a massive crowd of more than 15 000, protested in Colombo against the passing of such bills and the globalization process being pursued by the government. This was the first time in Sri Lanka, such a large protest against globalization and privatization had been organized. 15 000 participants in a protest in Sri Lanka is a significant number of people.

This event of "picket, march and mass rally" was organized by the Alliance for the Protection of National Resources and Human Rights, a coalition consisting of more than 130 trade unions and civic action groups. These groups are comprised of the direct victims of modern development projects such as the 3 Express High Ways, Airport Expansion and workers who have been unjustly deprived of their jobs.

The Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) has played a key role within the coalition in organizing this movement of resistance against privatization. Labour unions, people's organizations, peasants, fishermen and the victims of development such the displaced due to different modern infrastructure development projects also contributed significantly in organizing this event.

It all began with the publicity of the contents of the official Government Policy Paper titled "Connecting to Growth: Sri Lanka's Poverty Reduction Strategy" which was presented at the Sri Lankan Development Forum, the annual meeting between the Sri Lankan Government, the WB and the IMF, which took place in Colombo in June 2002.

The document contained the entire package of economic reforms recommended by the WB and the IMF which they aimed to implement rapidly and with great vigor. We believe that the intention of the document was to push through the structural adjustments of the WB and IMF.

Although the document deals with the destiny of more than the 50% of the population, the existence of the document was never made known to the citizens of Sri Lanka. The Government acted in a manner which lacked transparency and participation, contradictory to the two things which that the WB and IMF constantly promote. MONLAR discovered this document on the internet.

Ven. Mahankadawala Piyaratana a Buddhist monk who led the campaign to save the phosphate mine played a leading role in this campaign. Additionally, the Ceylon Bank Union, Ceylon Mercantile Union and United Federation of Labour played a lead role in mobilizing large numbers of workers to participate in the event.

Thousands of people marched on the streets of Colombo demanding to know who gave the authority to the Government to sell the people's resources such as banks, insurance, trains and buses to the transnational corporations. If the Government is successful in this process of privatization, the workers stand to lose not only their pensions but also their EPF benefits through various laws which would gradually put the worker under virtual slavery to transnational corporations.

The protesting groups also called for a just and fair deal to be given to the minorities in the settlement to the ethnic conflict.


Kotte Road,
Sri Lanka.

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