ECONOMYNEXT – Just over a week after they were sent to quarantine camps under legally questionable circumstances, 22 trade union members in Sri Lanka including Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) general secretary Joseph Stalin were released Friday (16) afternoon.
The union members had been arrested for engaged in protests that police said were in violation of a ban imposed on protests and public meetings owing to Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 situation.
The protestors were granted bail but were subsequently packed off in buses to government-run quarantine camps, without being subject to standard PCR tests or with the consultation of local public health inspectors (PHIs).
The move drew widespread condemnation, from political parties and unions to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL).
The protestors have now been released from quarantine, several days short of the required 14-day period.
One of the protestors, Duminda Nagamuwa of the Frontline Socialist Party, and five others were released Friday afternoon from their quarantine centre in Pallekale, Kandy.
“The officials at the quarantine centre said today at 1pm that we are being released from the quarantine centre. But when we asked them yesterday about when we might be released, they said we’d only be released after 14 days of quarantine,” Nagumuwa said in a Facebook live video posted upon his release.
Nagamuwa claimed the decision to send them off to quarantine was a political move which had little to do with health guidelines.
“It has been only nine days since we were brought here. It is clear that there was no quarantining here but a political vendetta,” he said.
Nagamuwa and five others were arrested on July 07 when they staged a protest against the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) Bill.
Meanwhile, 16 trade union activists including CTU general secretary Stalin were also released Friday evening from their quarantine centre in Mullaitivu, eight days after being sent there.
Over 30 protesters including Stalin was arrested on July 08 for engaging in a protest at Battaramulla, also against the KDU bill. (Colombo/Jul16/2021)