SC orders compensation for FTZ employees | Sunday Observer

SC orders compensation for FTZ employees

The Supreme Court on Friday held that the state was liable for the infringement of fundamental rights under Articles 11, 12 and 13 of the Constitution and the right to people’s peaceful protest held by over 40,000 Free Trade Zone (FTZ) employees that left one dead and many others injured eight years ago.

Thirteen Fundamental Rights petitions had been filed by employees who sustained injuries due to assaults by the police deployed to disperse the protesters. The Supreme Court ruled that the Fundamental Rights of the applicants have been infringed by the State and ordered that compensation be paid to the victims.

FTZ employees launched protests, led by trade unions, including the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees’ union on May 24, 2011 against a pension scheme that was to be introduced to the private sector. The protesters, however, claimed that a fraudulent scheme was to be introduced to plunder the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF).

FTZ employees launched another protest led by a few politicians on May 30, 2011. The police deployed to disperse the protesters assaulted them causing the death of FTZ worker Roshen Chanaka by shooting, leaving many others severely injured and hospitalised.

Criticism was directed against the then government and this heinous act was raised in several quarters putting pressure on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to appoint a one-member Commission to look into the allegations.

Accordingly, retired judge Mahanama Thilakarathne was appointed to probe the incident. The report of the Commission was handed over to former President Rajapaksa in July 2011. However, the findings of the report were not made public.

The Free Trade Zone’s and General Services Employees’ union had called for a copy of the report under the Right to Information Act. Friday’s judgment stated that the FTZ workers’ right to peaceful assembly was violated by the police.

President’s Counsel JC Weliamuna and several other senior lawyers appeared for the victims pro bono.

Following the protests, the then government withdrew the private sector pension scheme.