The Sri Lankan government has declared port operations in Colombo and other
ports as essential services and said any worker who absented from work on
grounds of covid conditions could be tried under the essential service act and
is liable to rigorous imprisonment.
This is seen as government reaction to cargo handling operations in Colombo
and other ports in Sri Lanka virtually coming to a grinding halt because of the
covid pandemic gripping the island.
Most of the sri lankan newspapers had reported the decision as one liner
without explaining the consequences of the order.
Sri Lankan President
issues “extraordinary gazette” making the Ports Authority an essential public
Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse has responded to growing COVID-19
infections among Colombo port workers by issuing an “extraordinary
gazette”...which makes the Ports Authority an essential public service.
At least 80 workers from the main port in Colombo tested positive for the
coronavirus... Officials told the media that falling work attendances had
reduced port operations by 60 to 70 percent.
About 15,000 workers are directly employed in Sri Lankan port
facilities—over 10,000 in Colombo and others at the Trincomalee, Galle and
Kankesanthurai harbours. Thousands more transport workers and other employees
visit these ports every day. All these workers and their families are at risk
from COVID-19 at these facilities and in other parts of the country...
Under Rajapakse’s essential services act, any port employee not attending
work faces “conviction after summary trial before a Magistrate,” and is “liable
to rigorous imprisonment” of two to five years and/or a fine of between 2,000
and 5,000 Sri Lankan rupees
It is also an offence for an individual to “incite, induce or encourage any
other person” not to attend work through a “physical act or by any speech or
acts have previously been used to break strikes
Essential service acts have previously been used to break strikes and
protests, and to victimise and sack workers. When emergency laws are declared,
essential service orders can be extended to the private sector...