ECONOMYNEXT – With no solution in sight to a long-running salary anomaly, school teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike Wednesday (04) for the 24th consecutive day.
Discussions between teachers’ unions and Minister of Education Prof G L Peiris on Tuesday (03) failed, with the teachers claiming the minister had not offered a satisfactory solution to the crisis.
Teachers have been taking to the streets since early June, as part of trade union action over the issue and in opposition to a controversial defence university bill. Daily protests in different parts of the island organised by teachers’ unions attracting large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.
Wednesday saw unions organise make their way to the president’s office in Colombo in vehicle parades from five different location: Nawaloka grounds, Negombo, Kadawatha expressway entrance, Pannipitiya Dharmapala College, Moratuwa town, Galle and Kandy.
Teachers also defied a government order to all state public servants to return to work on Monday (02), ending a work-from-home spell over COVID-19.
“We will continue to strike until we get a solution,” Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) general secretary Joseph Stalin told reporters.
In solidarity with the teachers, other parties, unions and associations have either joined or have organied their own protests, with a repeal of the controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) bill chief among their demands.
Two protestors were arrested on Tuesday at a protest participated by the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) and others near the parliament complex in Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte.
Protestors claimed that the bill is threatening free education in Sri Lanka and is an attempt to militarise tertiary education in the country.
Police said administrative secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party Chameera Koswatta and a member of the Public Movement for Free Education was arrested for damaging public property during the protest.
The arrested protestors will be produced before the Kaduwela magistrate court on Wednesday, police said.
The Maharagama Police Officer in Charge (OIC) has also been injured in a tense situation that arose at the protest, according to police spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) AJith Rohana.
Rohana said the Maharagama OIC sustained injuries when the protestors had tried to cross the barricades on the road leading to parliament.
The officer has lost two of his fingers in the incident, the SDIG said.
“He has undergone surgery and is receiving further treatment at the moment. A special police investigation is under way,” Rohana said.
Meanwhile Minister Chamal Rajapaksa told parliament on Wednesday that KNDU bill will not be debated in parliament this Friday (06).