Kader´s Column

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Class Character of Human Right

Marx in Volume I of "Das Kapital" tells us: "It is in the circuit of circulation or the exchange of commodities, within which the purchase and sale of labor-power evolves, where in reality the true `paradise of man's rights' is found. Within such boundaries only freedom, equality and Bentham rule (Bentham: 18th century English bourgeois economist who developed a theory of utilitarianism]. This `freedom' is that of the buyer and seller of a commodity (i.e. of labor power) and it does not obey any other law except that of their `free will'. They contract as free and equal `men' before the law, the contract is a final result in which the buyers and sellers only contract as `owners of commodities' exchanging equivalent for equivalent.
`Property' since each one disposes and can only do so, with that which is one's own; and `Bentham' since those who take part in these acts are only motivated by their self interests. The only force that joins them and relates them is the force of their self-centered interest, their selfish gain, their private interest. Precisely because of this, each one protects only one's own self and nobody cares for the others, contributing all of them, thanks to a pre-allocated harmony in things or under an all-knowing providence, to realize the tasks for their mutual benefit, their collective convenience, their social interest.
Here Marx synthesizes the relation between the capitalist system of purchase-sale of labor power and the paradise for the rights of man. He specifies the class character of each one of these rights: freedom for the buyer of labor power, and freedom for the worker to sell his labor power, the equality of commodity owners, that of the capitalist owning capital, and that of the worker whose only property is his labor power and the liberty to dispose of the property that each one has. If one has capital, then one has the right to dispose of it as one pleases: through more exploitation. if one has only labor power, then one has the right to sell one's skin off --to work one's skin off for the capitalist. Finally, Marx exposes the bourgeois basis for centering only on the individual, relying on selfish egotism, on self-centered interest, and on the believe in a pre-allocated order or under some kind of God for these rights.

In "The Poverty of Philosophy", Marx deals with liberty (freedom): "Do not be deceived by the abstract word `freedom'. Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of each individual in relation to another. It is the freedom of Capital to crush the worker. Freedom, then, from what? from who? from what class? for who? Freedom of the bourgeoisie to crush the worker! To crush not only the proletarian class, but also all those who work through sweat and tears! Marx already told us, so much talk of liberty, and so much talk that this system derives from liberty, without understanding that such liberty is the ideological product of the actual capitalist system. This is what today we understand as liberty."
In "The Holy Family," under the title of "On the Jewish Question" paragraph I `Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens', Article 2, Marx establishes: "These rights (the natural and indispensable rights) are equality, security and property. What does freedom consist of? It is the right to do everything which does not harm others, the limit is determined by law, and deals with man's freedom as an isolated entity, refolded on itself. But such human right to freedom is not based on the union of man with man, but rather on the separation of man by man. This is the right to disassociation, the right of the restricted individual, limited by the individual himself." A clear criticism of bourgeois freedom; Marx continues: "Man's practical application, that of liberty, is the human right to private property. The human right to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one's property and to dispose of it arbitrarily (as one pleases), without concern for other men, as existing independent from society, it is the right to selfish interest. This is the problem of the human right to liberty. Such individual freedom and its own application constitute the fundamental basis of bourgeois society.
Thus, bourgeois freedom is in essence the human right to private property; and private property is the right to enjoy one's property and to dispose of it for one's self interest, this constitutes the fundamental basis for bourgeois society. A society which causes man to find in it not the realization, but rather the limitation of man's liberty, and it proclaims above all the human right to enjoy and to dispose as one wishes of one's goods, products, fruits of labor and industry. In essence, this is what the human right to private property proclaims. Such is the freedom and fundamental base of bourgeois society. It links freedom to private property and self interest. These two cannot be separated. When speaking of freedom, one is speaking of private property, the right to egocentric interest. This is its fundamental basis. It is the basis of trampling liberalism and neo-liberalism. We have seen this in the analysis of Peru's Constitution and international laws. It is nothing more than the right to selfish interest for the capitalist class and for submission to imperialism. Therefore, what Marx expressed is completely valid. Equality, Marx observes, is considered as linked to private property and self interest, and this equality is nothing more than each man being equally considered as a single individual entity, you individual entity, we all individual entities, but each one with one's own selfish interest. It recognizes that everyone has equal right or self interest, and such selfish interest is to grab property, to enjoy it, and to exercise it as one's right in relation to each other. He observes that `security' is the supreme social concept in bourgeois society, the police concept. According to this, all of society only exists to guarantee the self-preservation, the rights and property of all of its members.
The financial oligarchy, the imperialist class specifically derived from the big bourgeoisie, has always raised the old ragged banners of human rights as pretext to expand its world domination; it was in the name of "human rights" that Yankee president Wilson entered World War I to erect the USA as an imperialist power and take part in the war of plunder to redivide the world. In 1941, with F.D. Roosevelt, the Yankee imperialists intervened in World War II to expand their dominance to more parts of the planet. After the war, to guarantee its expansion, dominance and influence, the imperialists promoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations (UN), a pro- imperialist organization and enforcer for imperialist powers and super-powers. On the other hand, the USA and other imperialist powers have always attacked the socialist systems in the USSR and China at the time of Lenin and Stalin, and China with Mao Tsetung, as violators of human rights. And today, when imperialism advances towards its general collapse, it resorts to its old bourgeois reactionary banners, to its redecorated old principles, because it cannot generate anything new or progressive, and it covers these old ragged sophistries with a "humanitarian" vail to hide their counter-revolutionary class character, as part of an imperialist attempt to contain the main historical and political tendency in today's world: REVOLUTION!

Imperialism, chiefly US imperialism, aims at hiding that human rights are one more instrument to impose its reactionary ideology (its essence is idealism, and most ruthless pragmatism, totally contrary to materialist dialectics) and to impose its deceptive bourgeois-democratic politics of bloody reactionary dictatorships headed by the financial oligarchy in the imperialist States or by the big bureaucratic bourgeoisie in the oppressed nations (these regimes are absolutely contrary to the people's democratic dictatorship and the dictatorship of the proletariat, both led by the proletariat and supported by the alliance of the working classes, proletariat-peasant alliances)

For the application of their sinister politics, imperialists create human rights organizations as part of their tactic to use both hands; thus, at the international level, the Human Rights Commissions in the UN or the OAS, and in Peru the Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs), function all in one way or another at the service of imperialism

HISTORY
Up to the American Revolution of 1776 human rights were hardly heard of. The only rights known were those of the ruling landowning aristocracy wherever feudal systems were in place. In response to attempts by the British crown to force their colonialism on to the new world of America the people of the American colonies rose in an historic revolution for their independence from British rule. The United States of America, as it became known, adopted a Declaration of Independence which for the first time proclaimed democratic rights for ordinary citizens.
It said: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It went on to say that citizens had not only the right but the duty to overthrow despotic governments such as that of Britain.
Democratic liberties proclaimed
The rights were but three in number, but they helped to inspire the great French Revolution of 1789. That same year one of the first acts of the newly-elected French National Assembly was to adopt a ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’, which went further in proclaiming democratic liberties than the American Declaration. However, it differed from the latter in two major respects. The first of these was in the right of all citizens to own property; the second was in the divisions of citizens into ‘active’ and ‘passive’. The first led directly into the capitalist economic era. The second led directly into the capitalist political era. The first paved the way for the rapid accumulation of capital which ushered in the economic dominance of capitalism over feudalism. The second precluded the masses from any means of overthrowing capitalist property by making politics and democratic government the preserve of the propertied classes, establishing a property franchise beyond the means of the majority.
From ‘free competition to monopoly’
The influence of both the American and the French revolutions came to the fore in the European-wide democratic revolutions of the mid-nineteenth century, marked by the ‘year of revolutions’, 1848, which ushered in the massive development of the capitalist system during the last half of the 19th century.
But did this mean the spread of democratic liberties throughout the world? Far from it. What it did mean was the development of monopoly capitalism – the basis of modern imperialism – out of the ‘free competition’ economies of the big capitalist powers: Britain, France, Germany, the USA and Japan.
Division of the world
This development of the monopoly stage of capitalism brought on the near-slavery of colonialism. No democratic rights whatever for the hundreds of millions in colonial territories conquered by the capitalist-imperialist great powers, as all the great powers divided up the world economy and territory between themselves. Monopoly capitalism ruled, each great power seeking to expand its colonies, markets, sources of cheap labour and command of the world’s resources for their own enrichment. That contest brought on World War I between two monopoly-capitalist alliances, alliances of exploiters, one headed by Britain, France and the US, the other headed by Germany, each of them abolishing the small amount of democracy left to the mass of their own peoples and relying on the ruthless suppression of its colonial peoples, who became the spoils of imperialist war.
We are still living in the imperialist epoch. The great capitalist powers still ruthlessly suppress democratic rights both in their home countries and in their semi-colonies wherever they feel that their system of capitalist exploitation of billions might be challenged by the working class and its allies among the masses.
Socialism on the agenda
Between World Wars I and II talk of human rights was a waste of breath. In November, 1917, the world-historic socialist revolution in Russia breached the world front of capitalism. It placed socialism on the agenda everywhere. Its overthrow of the military-feudal despotism of Tsarist-capitalist Russia gave an enormous impulse to working-class democracy. It didn’t just give lip-service to mass democratic rights – it established them for the first time in history in a sixth of the earth’s surface. From then on all economics and politics revolved around the unceasing drive of world imperialism to crush world socialism.
At the end of World War I the armies of fourteen imperialist states invaded the new-born Soviet Union with the aim of crushing it. They failed, but never ceased trying.
Throughout Western Europe the monster of fascism cast its shadow, with its mass murders of opponents, beginning with Mussolini’s Italy and going on to the gigantic mass terror of Hitler and the Nazis.
Did anyone mention ‘human rights’? In Britain the General Strike of 1926 saw machine guns on the streets of London ready to mow down workers; in ‘democratic’ USA the government refused to grant even the semblance of rights to the Negro people, while its army shot down ‘bonus marchers’ of protesting World War I veterans.
UN and the cold war
Then, of course, came the vast genocides of World War II. Faced with a massive growth of the colonial revolution the imperialists set up a world organisation for peace, ‘United Nations’. True, the Soviet Union participated, but already the US had launched the cold war against the USSR even before the end of World War II. Various Un bodies were set up, including several dealing with human rights. But these were more fronts to disguise American imperialism than bodies to actively promote the rights of the workers under capitalism or the freeing of the hundreds of millions oppressed by imperialism. The capitalist world gravitated to the banner of US imperialism and its vast wealth garnered by through exploitation.
UN – always dominated by the USA
All human rights bodies set up by United Nations had a bottom line of anti-Soviet and anti-socialist activities. These are still dominant. They derive from the economic-political-military power of the United States. For all of its life United Nations has been an instrument of US imperialism. The ‘human rights’ organisations, UN-sponsored or not, in general follow US policies. During the early part of the cold war they focussed their attention on denouncing the lack of democratic liberties in the socialist Soviet Union, but they managed to overlook the oppression of black Americans, which the US government maintained. They also managed to overlook Britain’s ruthless suppression of human rights in its colonies and the US invasions of territories in Europe (Greece) Asia (Iran), Central America (Guatemala) and its active installing and backing of dictatorships throughout Latin America. During this period Washington threatened to invade China, at the same time organising a drive to deny UN membership to China. It forcibly detached Taiwan from mainland China – all ignored by so-called ‘human rights’ bodies such as Amnesty International.
People’s war wins in Vietnam
It is only a short time back that US imperialism tried (and failed) to crush the national independence struggle in Vietnam, in the meantime blitzing Panama and Granada.
Those who are not deceived by all they publicity and hype about US concern for human rights have no difficulty in seeing through the gigantic hypocrisy of the world’s worst enemy of human rights pretending concern for them. All questions of human rights are subordinated to the drive of United States’ imperialism for world domination under their expansionist slogan of a ‘New World Order’.
Fascist dictatorship
Perhaps one of the clearest examples of the basically capitalist orientation of all human rights organisations is the US practice of installing fascist dictatorships in numerous countries through the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These have been installed in most countries of South America, where fascist rule is backed by organised death squads. This has been the order of the day in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and in South East Asia in Indonesia. Temporarily mass pressure has forced some of these dictatorships to retreat – but not too much – to forms of civilian rule. Chile is a case in point, but Pinochet still has backing from the armed forces.
Much of the world’s media is under the control of giant US monopolies. These days it is a speciality of human rights bodies such as Amnesty International to pretend to impartiality in treatment of people’s uprisings to label them, in accordance with US practice, as ‘terrorist’. Thus we find floods of ‘official’ press handouts denouncing such terrorism and in doing so standing the facts on their heads. Most of the time these handouts are accepted at face value by organisations like Amnesty. But their public approach always implies acceptance by them of the charge of terrorism against peoples’ liberation movements.
When the world human rights conference was convened in Vienna in 1993, the advanced nations asserted that “human rights are a universal concept applicable to the whole of mankind,” but the developing nations opposed this position, saying “the concept of human rights varies by region.” For historical events which caused considerable progress in human rights, one could mention the American Revolution and the French Revolution in the 18th century.
The American Declaration of Independence of 1776 states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Also, in the midst of the French Revolution, the French constitutional convention adopted in 1789 the “Declaration of Human and Citizens’ Rights,” which states:
Men are born and exist free and with equal rights. The purpose of all political unions is to preserve men’s inalienable natural rights. These rights are freedom, ownership, security and opposition to repression. All principles of sovereignty reside in the citizens. Liberty means the ability essentially to take any actions without hurting others.
In these two Declarations human rights are deemed universal rights shared by the whole of mankind. However, the infringement of human rights such as discrimination against races and nationalities continued for many years both in post-independence America and in post-revolutionary France.
In the colonies, the ruler and the subjugated were divided by nationality, and the notion of universal human rights was completely ignored. The height of imperialism, when the advanced nations colonized most of Asia and Africa, was at the end of the 19th century, one century after American Independence and the French Revolution.
In the 20th century, human rights were mercilessly violated in various regions of the world due to wars and disturbances (including the two World Wars) and the advent of dictatorial regimes with credos of class discrimination or racial discrimination.
It was only after World War II that the notion of universal human rights became widespread based on retrospective understanding of the grievous historical reality.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. The preamble of this Declaration states:
...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world....
It was declared that the affirmation of human rights as universal rights common to all mankind, regardless of any differences in race, national origin, religion and class, is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Furthermore, the International Covenant on Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 defined in detail the substance of human rights and also stipulated the obligations of each signatory state to promote the observance of human rights.
This International Covenant on Human Rights is divided into “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (A Covenant) and “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (B Covenant). The language in Article 1 of both A Covenant and B Covenant shows the same “peoples’ right of self-determination.” Article 1, item 1 is as follows:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Why is the peoples’ right of self-determination emphasized to this extent? Because if the right of self-determination of people as a group is not secured, then the basic right of each individual in the group will not be secured.
So let us consider the historical origin of the right of self-determination.

The Trade Unions of the PlantationSector 1

THE FACTORS
THAT RETARDED TRADE UNION MOVEMENT AMONG THE PLANTATION WORKERS OF SRI LANKA.


The most class-conscious segment of colonial society the British planters and all other sections of the British capitalists of Sri Lanka by their natural instinct organised themselves into various organisations to protect their varying interests from the very beginning as they came from a society which had the experience of forming associations. They jointly formed the Chamber of Commerce in 1939 and the British planters found the Ceylon Agricultural Society in 1842
with a view to bring their acts together to exert pressure on their colonial
government to undertake the labour supply from South India. The CAS became
defunct during the first coffee crisis of 1846-1847 and in 1854 the Planters`
Association of Ceylon replaced it. When the PAC realised that it had no
authoritative standing vis-à-vis trade unions of the estate workers, which were
active in the early 1940s they formed the Ceylon Estate Employers` Federation in
1944.


Next to the planters the other social group within the plantation community that organised themselves were those occupying the intermediary position between the employers and the workers. The Estate staffs` Association of Ceylon was formed in 1920 with C.W.de Soysa as its
president and K.B.Chary as general secretary. It was renamed as the Ceylon
Estate Staffs` Union in 1943. The head Kanganies formed their All Ceylon Head
Kanganies` Association in 1921 with the main objective of supporting a candidate
of their choice for the Indian seat in the Legislative Council and later to the
State Council. Even the urban Indian community had several organisations of
their own in Colombo and in several other towns. Such organisations began to
spurt after the First World War and proliferated in the 1920s when the
anti-Indian mania stirred up the political scene of the country. Although some
of those organisations involved in social activities most of them were
caste-based organisations aimed at promoting their caste interests. An
organisation of plantation clerks and minor supervisory staff called the Kelani
Valley Indian Association was formed in 1923 with the main objective of
promoting its candidature to a nominated Indian seat in the Legislative Council.


However, the estate workers lagged
behind not only their counterpart urban workers but also the other stratum and
class of people within the plantation entity in terms of ability to form
organisations to defend their interests despite being the first organisable
labour force in SL that was employed in large number, in a labour intensive
enterprise, in one work place. Neither they played the pioneer role in the trade
unionism nor became the moving force of the labour movement of the country.
Twelve main reasons could be attributed to this lethargy.



1.
Total Institution:
The plantation system regulated almost every aspect of their lives. They were
born, grown up, married, gave birth to children, played, quarrelled, rested and
finally buried on the estate. They were totally dependent on the estate
management and it created the dependency syndrome in their mentality. The
plantation capitalism, being far from a modern industry, had retained some of
the worst features of nascent capitalism and the vestiges of feudal serfdom.
There emerged a group of workers who could not be called a modern industrial
proletariat but a semi-proletariat. They were no free agents but dependent
captive labourers. The primary consideration of the plantation economy was cheap
labour on large scale. In an open resources situation, where the native labour
had no compelling need to offer itself voluntarily as wage labourer, the use of
unfree labour from outside, of one form or another, with a highly authoritarian
structure of labour relations was the answer. The prevalent plantation labour
policy that “ a free labour force always difficult to control and an uprooted
labour force is easy to control” called for a transplanted work force
differentiated from the surrounding society socially and culturally.



2.
CONTINUITY OF COMMUNITY INTERSTS:
One of the main distinctions between the urban workers
and the plantation workers was that the urban working class was the aggregation
of individual workmen united by the operatives and the conditions of the
industry in which they were employed and tied by a class interest and class
consciousness while the plantation workers were a conglomeration of families
united by community interests. The plantation strategy to depress the wage rate
paid to the workers was forcing the entire family, including women and children,
to work to maintain the very low living standard dictated by the system on them.
In this situation their caste-kinship-household ties remained intact and their
village conditions were recreated. As Eric Meyer puts it “ So that the estates
became an organised microcosm, the militarised replica of an Indian
village.”(Eric Meyer. 1990,p.176). In other words a plantation was a form of
settlement of a transplanted work force in an artificially created environment,
which strengthened the traditional social institutions and promoted their
communal sympathies than their class-consciousness.



3.
PATERNALISM AND AUTHORITARIANISM:
The tying of labour to the plantations by means of highly
unequal power relationship under authoritarian administration was impossible
without paternalism of the planters. Thus planters` authoritarianism and
paternalism worked hand in hand in the plantations of Sri Lanka like in many
other countries. On the one hand the planter’s control and authority permeated
beyond employer-employee relations to include all aspects of the life of the
estate workers and on the other hand he was a benevolent father figure. His
paternalism was based on the provision of rudimentary social welfare, medical
attention, maternity leave, and crèches for children (as children born and
reared on the estate being an ideal source of labour for future), rudimentary
education through estate schools, allocation of housing and donations for
funerals and religious festivals. During the most part of the coffee era the
planters themselves treated their sick labourers with the kitchen medicine. In
practice the planters` paternalism not only strengthened the hold and authority
of the planters on the estate workers but also obscured the nature and severity
of the exploitation under disguise. It also helped fortifying the dependent
psychology among the estate workers.



4.
THE KANGANY SYSTEM:
The parasitic and patriarchal character of the Head Kangany
was evident from the ambivalent role he played in the plantation set up: In the
process of labour recruitment and conveyance and in the production organisation
he was a planters` man while in the social organisation of the plantation
workers outside the work context he was workers` patron, guardian and natural
leader. The HKG`S hold on his labour gang was strengthened by the `Tundu` system
and indebtedness of workers to him. Until 1910 the balance payment of wages were
not directly paid to the workers, but through HKGs. In a solidly established
larger estates, where the labour force employed also equally large the HKG gang
was divided into number of gangs on the basis of caste - kinship and placed
under the supervision of the sub-Kangany or Sillara-Kangany who had worked under
him. The formation of workers gangs under SKGS on caste and kinship lines helped
caste continuity and its preservation. (R.Jayaraman, 1975). The gang
organisations under HKGS and the SKGS and the role played by the HKGS as
intermediary between the planter and workers, in particular, substituted as a
quasi-labour organisation, and delayed the compelling need for a trade union.



5.
THE ESCAPISM:
with the open frontier system was in existence and the ties with their natal
centre of origin was retained the immigrant workers saw a way out to escape from
the estate life by returning back to their home village in South India. The
prevalent practice of shifting their labour gangs by HKGS from one estate to
another also kept the dream of this people of a green pasture alive and
discouraged the factors to compel them to stay and fight.



6.
THE SOCIAL AND TERRITORIAL ISOLATION:
The lack of mobility of plantation workers was
closely linked with the enclave nature of the plantations. In whatever region it
developed, the plantation was separated from the rest of the economy and society
– with its own place of worship, shops, taverns, dispensary, school etc, as an
entity, the plantation insulated the labourers from outside influence. Whether a
person was born into it or was introduced into it as an immigrant, he found it
difficult to escape from the closed world of the estate. (R.K.Jain, 1970,
p.295). The plantation economy constrained the mobility of labour both spatially
and occupationally. Mobility at best was from one estate to another on which the
pattern of work and social life was replicated in nearly every detail.



The planters exercised the Criminal Trespass Law to secure the eviction of `unwanted labourers` especially those who attempted to organise trade union on their estate, as the moment an estate worker was dismissed his spouse and children also lost their employment
and as a consequence not only the dismissed worker but also his spouse and
children became outsiders who could be evicted from the estate. The practice of
consequential dismissal was abolished only in 1978 under Act no14. There were
instances of workers who tried to organise trade unions were drummed out of the
estates and subjected to worse type of tortures and humiliations. This law
prevented trade unionists from outside entering into the Planters` Raj. For
example, A.Aziz was arrested under this Law when he and seven other unionists
entered the Pettiyagala estate in 1959, and detained. This had become a
celebrated case and finally the matter was taken up before the Privy Council and
decided in favour of the unionists. However, only in 1970 the `Trade Union
representatives (Entry into Estates) Act No.25 was enacted.



7.
SEPARATION FROM THE URBAN WORKERS:
The geographical and social separation that distanced the estate workers from
the urban working-class of Colombo was one of the most important factors that
delayed labour movement among the plantation workers. The plantations in Sri
Lanka developed far away from Colombo amidst backward rural surroundings where
labour movement activities were absent. Therefore, the influence of the
mainstream currents on the plantation workers was marginal. Moreover, the
planters took extra-care to isolate their workers from the urban labour
movement.



8.
TRIPLE `T`S: TAVERN, TEMPLE AND TRADITION:
There were three consoling influences at work in
the plantation social life viz.: tavern, temple and tradition. The seclusion,
lack of facilities for off-work preoccupation and pastime and monotony of the
plantation life made many labourers addicted to drink. The taverns and toddy
shops served both to lure labour and relieve the tension which plantation life
made latent. The immigrant Indian workers, when they started from South India
were not in the habit of taking alcohol, but in SL it was imposed upon them like
the innocent villagers by the low-country Sinhalese and the Keralite tavern
owners, who introduced to them free of charge as painkiller.



In a talk on Indian emigrant workers Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam mentioned the consoling influence of Hinduism. Their belief in `Karma` and `dharma` had a powerful consoling effect.
The planters also catered to the religious needs of its exclusively Hindu
workforce. A temple in the vicinity of the line rooms was one of the first
social amenities provided by the estate while education to the estate workers`
children were vehemently opposed by the planters.



The estate workers did not come from industrial centres of India but came from a backward feudal village economy having used to the age-old serfdom tradition. In the process of immigration their internal social organisations, especially the caste structure, were maintained and it supported the sentiments of superiority and inferiority. Being the sub-marginalized group, which occupied the lowest position in the social and cast hierarchy, the plantation workers acknowledged their social inferiority and accepted the superioriority of their superiors. They were by no means used to the way of living in which individual rights, liberties and trade unions
mattered.



9.
ILLITERACY: In
many countries the printers have been among the first group of workers to
unionise themselves and resort to direct action and it was due to their
educational advantage over other workers. But education had conflicting
interests within the plantation community and it was not a part of plantation
culture as far as workers were concerned as education was neither technically
necessary nor it had any occupational value.



10. ABSENCE OF AN INTELLIGENTIA AND AN INDEPENDENT MIDDLE – CLASS:
In the case of plantation Tamil community of Sri Lanka over 95 percent
constituted of estate workers and their dependents, in 1920s, and other 5 per
cent were traders, kanaganies, clericals and farmers etc. Even the traders in
the planting towns lived in buildings belonged to rented out by the planters.
Hence, the plantation Tamil middle-class was not only numerically a weaker
stratum but also dependent on the planters while there was virtually no
intelligentia among this people until 1920s.In many part of the world and even
among the urban working class of SL the pioneer role in establishing trade
unions were performed by the intelligentia. The plantation workers were
handicapped in this respect in the absence of a progressive intelligentia. It
had to wait until Natesa Aiyar lit the first spark of trade unionism on the
plantations in 1930s, over one century after the establishment of the first
coffee estate.



11.
TRANSIENT ALIEN PSYCHOLOGY:
Although there are reliable data to suggest that sign of the
permanent population was taking roots since the very beginning of the
immigration of the plantation workers and that with the introduction of the
Coast Advance system in around 1848 the pattern became more explicit, they were
not a settled population psychologically for a long period of time due to
various reasons. This transient alien mentality retarded the spirit of fighting
for rights among the plantation workers while the pioneers of trade union
movement of Sri Lanka viewed them as people without permanent interest in this
country. So that they showed no interest to unionise the plantation workers.



12.
ABSENCE OF EITHER RENISSANCE MOVEMENT OR
GUILD ORGANISATIONS:
In several colonies, even in
Sri Lanka, the religious or revival movement had served as the prelude of the
strong nationalist movements and nurseries of trade unionism. In early years of
urban labour movement of Sri Lanka religion was a useful façade for political
and labour activities, but in the plantations there was no such parallel.
Likewise, the guild, which had served as a pre-trade union organisation in many
countries had non-existed among the plantation workers.


It is not surprising that, due to the nature of plantation labour organisation the
immigrant plantation workers all over the world had not played the pioneer role
in the trade union movement. Even to date, the plantation workers of Bangladesh,
who are not immigrants, are not unionised and continue to bear the over lordship
of the “Babas” and their toll-collectors as semi-serfs in the nine ninth tea
producing country.

The Trade Unions of the PlantationSector 2

K.NATESA AIYAR AND A.E.GOONESINGHE.
Although the first trade union of Sri Lanka was formed in September 17th, 1893 by the printers of H.W.Cave &Co. under the leadership of A.E.Buultjens and Dr.Lisbao Pinto, called the Ceylon Printers Society, which is considered as the first TU in the whole of South East Asia, the urban working class came into its own only when A.E.Goonesingha formed the Ceylon Labour Union in 1922. It published the first workers` newspaper in Sinhala named the `Kamkaru Handa` (Voice of the Workers). Militant from the very beginning the CLU differed sharply from the constitutional and conciliatory attitudes adopted by the liberals. Strongly influenced by the British Labour Party and favoured by the relative prosperity of the 1920s Goonesingha was able to organise the CLU, the Ceylon Mercantile Union and about another five TUs and bring them together under an umbrella TU federation called the All-Ceylon Trades Congress. Under his leadership the Ceylon Labour Party was formed in 1928. This period marked high degree of working class solidarity. To his credit, while the conservative elites of this country, who held the leadership of the Ceylon National Congress, were mobilising rural elites by arousing communal feelings and were divided ethnically in their brawl of power-sharing with the British masters, it was A.E.Goonesingha who united the urban working class belonged to different ethnic groups under one banner, at least for a brief period of time.
Kothandaraman Natesa Aiyar, sometimes called as K.R.Natesa Aiyar, the pioneer leader who had lit the first spark of trade unionism among the plantation workers of SL was a remarkable figure by any standard. He was a South Indian Brahmin journalist, hailed from Tanjore, South India. Natesa Aiyar is believed to have made his first visit to SL in 1915 with a view to participate the first annual session of Colombo branch- Mill Owners` Association, whose parent organisation was formed by Natesa Aiyar at Thiruvarur in South India, and to raise funds and subscription for his journal `Varthaha Mithiran`(The Friend of Commerce). During his first visit the Tanjore District Committee of the Indian national Congress assigned him the task of submitting a factual report on the living conditions of the Indian immigrant workers employed on plantations of SL. Induced by his natural sentimental attachment towards Indian immigrant plantation workers and due to his flair for professional journalism he took the risk of entering the planter’s Raj”, which was fortified by the draconian Criminal Trespass Law, disguised as a cloth merchant and accompanied by a travelling wander. He was successful in submitting an informative factual report to the INC on his return to India. Before he left the country he had established contact with several influential radical Indians in SL. In 1920 December he returned back to SL and became the editor of a Tamil journal called `Thesa Nesan` (Lover of the Country), published by M.A.Arulanandan and Dr.E.V.Ratnum, who were executive members of the CNC, the latter subsequently became a committee member of the CLU of A.E.Goonesingha. It was the only Tamil journal published in SL at that time. They also started publishing an English journal called `the Citizen` -published by Natesa Aiyar and edited by Lawrie Muttukrishnanan. Aiyar`s Indian nationalism and hostility to British rule inevitably attracted the interest of the vigilant police.
When D.M.Manilal, a Baroda born lawyer and an Indian nationalist cum communist, who had been an outstanding champion of the cause of the emigrant Indian labourers, visited to SL in October the police kept track of his movements, especially because he had associated with Natesa Aiyar and the like who were critical of the visit of Prince of Wales, which was on the card. Manilal stayed with Natesa Aiyar and travelled along with him to plantation towns and took much interest to spotlight the plight of the plantation workers in SL and inspired Aiyar to speak out on behalf of them. The alarmed colonial government issued a quit order to Manilal. This had become a celebrated civil right case in SL.There were several protests, including a public meeting where several moderates of the CNC and radicals of the Young Lanka League, men like A.E.Goonesingha and C.H.Z.Fernando spoke out vehemently for Manilal. Although they could not stop Manilal`s deportation his visit left a deep impression in SL. Natesa Aiyar thereupon began to show greater interest towards the plantation workers. The agitation against Manilal`s deportation brought Natesa Aiyar and A.E.Goonesingha closer together. Natesa Aiyar was a radical in his outlook towards labour. The influence of V.K.Kalyansundaram, who had been one of the prominent personalities of the Madras Labour Union, the first systematical TU of India, formed on 13 April 1918, on Aiyar was evident in the interest he had shown in the labour movement. However, the MLU was a not a militant trade union during its early years as its founder B.P.Wadia opposed any strike action on grounds of devotion to the cause of British imperialism. (R.Palm Dutt, 1947). As such Aiyar acquired very limited knowledge of unionism from the MLU. It was his association with AEG made him a trade unionist. AEG was desperately in need of a charismatic Indian radical leader like Aiyar to organise Indian immigrant workers in Colombo who formed the preponderant majority of the unskilled labour force of the country, and Aiyar on the other hand, wanted some organisation to establish contact with the Indian workers in Colombo. Thus Aiyar became the vice-president of the CLU in 1923. When he was elected to the Legislative Council in 1926 he could play more important role on labour questions and it helped to strengthen the CLU. In 1926 Goonesingha and Aiyar jointly edited a radical paper called the Forward, which was the only organ that advocated complete independence to the country.
Hence, for a time, Sinhalese and Indian workers joined hands to fight for their rights and better conditions. One of the hallmarks of the Goonesoingha - Aiyar combination was the biggest success of the port strike of 1927 led by the CLU. It demonstrated the class solidarity to an unprecedented level. The port workers were consisted of Sinhalese, Tamils, and Malayalis and the minorities formed the large proportion of the labour force. About 13,000 strikers held out for three weeks demanding wage increase and they were supported by donation of money and food by other sections of the working class. On this occasion workers brought from India as `black legs` refused to replace the strikers. Natesa Aiyar contributed significantly to realise the working class unity. He obtained support from Indian traders and shopkeepers, from whom he collected rice for the strikers. He urged that the strike be extended to domestic and hotel workers to `teach the white men a lesson. ` Solidarity on the international level was also forthcoming during the event: the Australian crew on the `Jervis Bay`, which was in Colombo port during the strike, refused to work for higher pay and visited the CLU office to show their support and made contributions to the strike fund. But the association between Aiyar and Goonesingha did not last long.
AEG emerged as an undisputed labour leader of the whole working class until the great economic depression set in 1929 and until he signed the first collective agreement of the country with the Employers` Federation that year. The ethnic composition of the urban workers had created an inflammatory situation. The presence of immigrant Indian workers, who outnumbered the indigenous workers, in Colombo during the economic depression when the unemployment problem had become one of the serious social disorders of the country for the first time had increased the animosity against the Indian workers within the labour camp itself. The attitude of Goonesingha towards Indian workers also changed gradually, especially after the disastrous defeat of the strike led by him at Lake House in 1929 where Indian workers were used by the employers as blacklegs to break the strike he came more openly to launch an anti-Indian campaign. Even before this, in 1928, Natesa Aiyar, the vice-president of the CLU openly alleged that Goonesingha was an anti-Indian. But Goonesingha immediately denied the allegation and expelled Natesa Aiyar from the Union in that very same year. However, in the following year he took the still more drastic step to expel all Indian workers from his union alleging that they were undercutting Sinhalese workers, especially in the harbour, in collusion with Indian employers.
It was an accident that Natesa Aiyar was left out of the first State Council of 1931 but it helped him to concentrate more on unionising plantation workers. Natesa Aiyar during his early days in SL had a close rapport with the Head Kanganies so much so that the HKS helped him financially to promote his journal and hosted him as their chief guest for the annual sessions of their Head Kanganies` association. But once Aiyar had established close contact with the plantation workers he became increasingly disillusioned about the HKG system and began to openly and virulently criticise the evils of the HKGs. The antagonised HKGs settled scores with Aiyar by playing a trick on him to prevent him contesting the State Council election. They promised to bear his nomination fee to be deposited to contest the election, as usual, but betrayed him at the last hour. Because of this ploy Aiyar was deprived of the opportunity of contesting the election at the Hatton constituency, from where Peri Sundaram got elected without much challenge. Plantation workers, who had been viewed hitherto as an outcaste under dogs had acquired some human value with the introduction of adult franchise under Donoughmore constitution of 1931 and it also an important factor that contributed towards the interest shown by the Indian origin middle class to initiate unionising them.
With two battles in hand – one to oust Peri Sundaram who had walked into State Council over his head; and the other was to prove his ability to Goonesingha of leading a TU of his own – Natesa Aiyar shifted his residence from Colombo to Hatton. He formed the first trade union for the plantation workers in 1931 called the All- Ceylon Estate Labour Federation (ACELF) having its head office at Hatton and he also formed another TU known as the Ceylon Indian Workers` Federation with a view to unionise Indian workers in Colombo but it did not make any headway mainly because he had to concentrate much to establish the ACELF.

The Trade Unions of the PlantationSector 3

GENESIS OF THE MAIN UNIONS.

There are 156 registered TUs in the plantation and agricultural sector and of them preponderant majority are in the plantation sector. Presently about 57 TUs are functioning among the plantation workers. However, only two TUs, out of them, have over 50,000 membership, another two have over 10,000 membership, three have over 5,000 membership, four have over 3,000 membership, nine have over 1,000 membership and seven have over
500 membership. One can ascertain the actual age of a popular actress but not
the real total number of membership of a TU. Many major TUs maintain inflated
document to distort their membership strength for the consumption of their
donors and public as well. They need not to worry about it, as they are not
liable to pay any Inland Revenue tax for the subscription they receive from
their membership. In this chapter we give an out line history of existing
plantation TUs that have at least 30 years of history.



The Lanka Estate Workers Union: The All Ceylon Estate Workers Union (ACEWU), the predecessor
of the LEWU, was born in 1938 during the course of the first recorded strike on
the plantations, which took place at British owned Annasigala Estate,
Kirenpitiya of Pasthun Korale on
13th July 1938. The
immediate cause of the strike was termination of work of three workers on the
estate – Mookan, Pichaie, and Murugiah -, who were supporters of the LSSP. The
strike went on for six days and called off successfully after those workers
were reinstated and the field officer, who was behind several anti-workers
activities, was removed from the estate. The strike had the direct backing of
the LSSP and in the course of the strike the ACEWU was formed with
S.A.Wickramasinghe as its president. The ACEWU remained an ad hoc organisation
until it was reorganised in 1939 and place on a strong footing with N.M.Perera
as its president and P.M.Velusamy as its General Secretary having its head
office at
Kandy. Only when the ACEWU of the LSSP made inroads and provided militant
leadership the hidden revolutionary potentials of the plantation workers began
to assert itself. The famous Mooloya strike of 1940, in which a worker-
Govindan- was shot killed by the police and the shooting case created a constitutional
crisis in the country; the first wave of militant strike that shook the entire
plantation sector which culminated in the great Wewessa strike of May 1940 in
which the workers set up their elected `Workers` council` and disarmed a police
party that entered the estate and returned the rifles seized from them to the
ASP and obtained receipt for the same on the instruction of the Workers`
council and the estate superintendent agreed to take instructions from the WC,
were some of the events that remains to date as episodes.

But the ACEWU`s hey day did not last for
long. The split that occurred in the first part of the 1940s when the so-called
Stalinists were expelled from the LSSP and the ban on the LSSP on 17th
June 1940, followed by the arrest of four LSSP leaders –Dr.N.M.Perera,
Dr.Colvin R de Silva, Philip Gunawardena and Edmond Samarakody – on 18th
June caused a serious set back. The final blow came in March 1942, when the
ACEWU also was banned. This ban was lifted only after the Second World War
ended in 1945. By that time the Ceylon Indian Congress Labour Union had emerged
as a formidable force in the plantation sector. The ACEWU never recovered from
its set back. In 1956 it was renamed and registered as the Lanka Estate Workers
Union and reorganised. From 1960s to mid-1970s it re-emerged to become the
third largest TU in the plantation sector. Dr.N.M.Perera, Colvin R de Silva and
Neil de Alwis were some of the LSSP leaders who held the post of president of
the union and P.M.Velusamy, V.P.Ponniah and V.S.Rajah, Sivasamy were some of
the prominent Tamil leaders who held the post of GS and the present GS of the
union is Suppiah Ramanathan.



The Ceylon Workers Congress and the Democratic Workers Congress:

The decade 1930s witnessed a trend of anti-Indian mania to an unprecedented level. It reached a new height when the Ministry of Communication and Works, under the Minister J.L.Kotalwala (later Sir John Kotalawala), liquidated as many as 2,517, out of a total of
6,624 daily-paid Indian workers, in 1939. This drastic action had caused alarm
among the Indians living in
Sri Lanka.
Seventeen influential Indian associations in SL despatched a joint letter on
23rd June 1939 to the General Secretary of the All Indian Congress requesting to
intervene into the matter. The AIC first decided that Sarojini Naidu should go
to SL but later due to her indisposition and in view of the serious proportion
the question was heading, Jawaharlal Nehru was sent here. During this period
the names of Gandhi, Nehru and Subash Chanra Bose were cherished as symbol of
Asian nationalism. Amidst the hostile political climate Nehru held talks with
the pan-Sinhalese Board of Ministers in the mid-July. But the talks ended
without any significant settlement of the issue. Before Nehru returned to
India he
advised the various Indian organisations to merge together form a strong
organisation to defend their interest. Accordingly, in the presence of Nehru
the Ceylon Indian Congress was formed on25th July 1935 having
V.R.M.V.A.Lechumanan Chettiar as its President and A.Aziz and H.M.Desai as
Joint-Secretaries.

The CIC from the very start accepted the
principle of voicing for the interest of the plantation workers. But the
initiation to form a trade union arm of the CIC was taken by Peri Sundaram, the
first
Cambridge graduate among the Up-country Tamil community, who had been the
secretary of the Workers` Welfare League formed by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam
in 1919 and the first Labour Minister of SL. The inauguration ceremony of the
Ceylon Indian Congress Labour Union was held in March, 1940 at the Kathiresan
Temple, Haputale and it was registered under the TU Ordinance in 25th
June, 1940 having V.R.M.V.A.Lechumanan Chettiar as its President and A.Aziz and
H.M.Desai as the Joint-Secretaries in keeping with the tradition of holding
these two posts by the same President and Secretary of the CIC. In the 1941
Convention Peri Sundaram was elected as the President and G.R.Motha and
S.Somasundaram as its Joint-Secretaries. In1942, at the Kandy Convention, there
was a competition for presidentship, for the first time, and A.Aziz was elected
once again as the President of the CIC and the CICLU, defeating S.Thondaman.
From that year onwards the competition between the two had become a permanent
feature. In 1945 at the Nuwara Eliya Convention S.Thondaman defeated Aziz and
became the President of the CIC and the CICILU and in 1948 Aziz once again
regained the presidentship.

Favoured by the LSSP ban and the untimely
demise of Natesa Aiyar in 1947; backed by the planters and the HKGs against the
radical Natesa Aiyar`s union and the
Leftist unions; and due to the ethnic and linguistic proximity of its
leadership to its members the CICLU had become not only the largest TU in SL
but also the second largest TU in the south East Asia, only next to the Union
of Estate Workers in the Republic of Indonesia. The CIC associated with the
Leftist in politics and its seven elected MPs sat together with them in
Parliament in the opposition in 1947 and demanded complete independence for the
country. It launched a general strike against the Soulbury constitution in
1946; Aziz was incarcerated for several days at Welikada Prison for his
`seditious` speech at the Badulla Convention in 1943 under Geoffrey Layton, the
commander-in-chief, rule; during the famous Knaves mire estate strike of 1946,
which triggered off by the land policy adopted by D.S.Senanayake, Thondaman
pledged his Wavendon estate to bail out362 workers, who were remanded, until
legal proceedings were over. The 1948 Citizenship Act introduced by
D.S.Senanayake further alienated the UNP from the Up-country Tamil community.

Although the CICLU was formed as the
adjunct of the CIC after the decitizenisation and disenfranchisement in 1948
the CIC faded away. The belated sit-in campaign (Satyagraha) of 1952, which
lasted for 140 days against the disenfranchisement failed to produce any
significant result but boosted the influence of the CICLU among the plantation
workers. None of the other TUs adequately campaigned against the inhuman Act
nor paid due attention to help the ignorant plantation workers to overcome the
procedural obstacles they encountered in applying for the citizenship. Thereby
the CICLU was rendered the free opportunity to espouse the cause of the plantation
workers. At the beginning it declared a boycott and after 21 months it took an
abrupt decision to reverse it, only when there was three months left to make
application for citizenship. To handle the Himalayan task a task force,
consisting of 125 clerical staff –trained specially for this purpose- was set
up. It visited each estate and wherever permission was refused by the estate
management temporary offices were opened at the nearby towns to cater the
service to those estate workers. This strategy helped the CICLU to increase its
membership by obtaining signatures on the Union membership forms from workers
together with the citizenship application forms. During this period K.G.S.Nair was its general
secretary and it had a number of prominent leaders like A.Aziz, S.Thondaman,
Peri Sundaram, K.Rajalingam, S.Somasundaram, K.G.S.Nair, C.V.Velupillai,
A.K.Vellaiyan, S.M.Suppiah, Sivapackiyam Kumaravelu, Kogilam Suppiah,
B.S.V.Naido, M.A.Thangavel, K.Kandasamy, K.Kumaravelu, S.P.Vythilingam,
N.M.Palanisami, Ramanujam, S.Fernandez, M.S.Sellasamy, M.Alagaraj, Maruthai,
L.Rajamanickam, Ponniah, Sevuga Perumal, R.V.Ramachandra, Kathirvelu,
Dr.Subramainiam, K.Arunachalam, M.Arunachalam, V.M.Subramaniam, Jaya Chandra,
A.M.D.Rajan, Angappa Mudaliyar, Periyannan, P.N.S.Samy, R.N.Chelliah ,
V.M.Subramaniam and M.Devaraj who
had brought their act together.

In 1950, at the Matale Convention, the
CIC was renamed as the Ceylon Democratic Congress while the CICLU was changed
its name as the Ceylon Workers Congress. It reflected the sentiment of the
Congress leaders of the time. As the question of the citizenship right of the
Up-country Tamil community became a heated controversy they hastily dropped
identifying themselves as Indians and instead they claimed themselves as
Ceylonese.

The personality clashes between Aziz and
Thondaman reached a breaking point in November 1955, though Azis’s popularity
stood far above that of Thondaman at that stage. Thondaman tactfully moved his
strategy to capture the leadership this time. He persuaded S.Somasundaram, who
had been working closely with Aziz all this time -with a view to hit two birds
in one stone: to create a split within the ranks of Aziz`s supporters and to
win the support of a particular caste, to which majority of the workers
belonged to since Somasundaram also came from the same caste-, to contest
against Aziz for the presidentship. All mediations held by neutral leaders of
the Congress to bring about a settlement failed. However, in the election Aziz
defeated Somasundaram comfortably. Then came the election of the GS and Aziz
supported C.V.Velupillai while Thondaman wanted his nephew K.Kumaravel as the
second in command. Verbal attacks that ensued ended up in physical attacks. The
election was postponed as a result and the GS and other office bearers were to
be elected at the Hatton Convention, at Dunbar Ground. Both the factions openly
clashed with each other and once again the election of other office bearers was
postponed. In another date a special delegates` session was held to elect them
and this session was dominated by Thondaman`s supporters. Somasundaram was
elected as the GS of the CWC while A.K.Velliyan and Arunachalam were elected as
the joint-secretaries of the CDC. Aziz was cornered from all sides and was not
allowed to carry out his duties as its president. Against this backdrop the
Aziz faction decided to function independently and to capture the CWC head
office. Thondaman`s faction promptly worked out a counter-strategy.
A.K.Vellayan`s master brain saved the day for Thondaman. On his advice a
pre-dated letter to all Executive Committee members was sent with a view to
meet legal implications that would arise. The meeting was held at

Kathiresan
Temple
,
Gampola on
22nd
November 1955
and presided over by K.Rajalingam.
Only Thondaman`s loyalists participated in the meeting and decided to expel
A.Aziz and his supporters from the CWC and the CDC. On the next day the new
office bearers were elected. Thondaman, being an astute politician, proposed
Rajalingam as its president and it was accepted unanimously because he did not
want to take the blame for the split. However, the very next year Thondaman
became its president and remained so until his death in 1999.


The Aziz faction formed the Democratic
Workers Congress and it was registered on
1st January, 1956. The split marked the beginning of a reactionary trade union
culture in the plantation sector. Until such time the leadership was not
individualised, it rotated among the prominent members of the union. But since
the split the CWC has become the personal property of Thondaman while the DWC
became the personal asset of Aziz, both of them remained as its life long
leaders respectively. The inner- organisation democracy dried up and trade
union rivalry became the rule of the jungle. At the time of the split it was
the DWC that had the upper hand over the CWC, in terms of numerical strength
and wide spread organisational network, because the latter did not have much
experienced field-moblisers. But, within a few years time the table was changed
in favour of the CWC due to various corrupt tactics adopted by its leadership:
liquor and bribery, and intimidation and thuggerism went unabated. The CWC also
played upon the communal sentiment by attacking Aziz`s Muslim-Pakistani
origin.. The planters also took the side of the CWC and denied recognition to
the D.CW. Only after the Diyagama strike, in which one Sinhalese worker
–Abraham Singho- was killed in the police shooting and on the intervention of
the then Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, the situation was changed. The
CWC affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions in 1953
and the DWC joined the World Federation of Trade Unions after the split.


In the eve of the 1960 March Parliamentary elections a thinking emerged among the
plantation political circle that at least four seats could be win if both the
CWC and the DWC unitedly contested the election, without splitting the
Up-country Tamil votes. P.T.Thanupillai, one of the founder members of the CIC
and Member of Indian Lok Sabha, mediated between the two and both the
organisations merged together for a time kindling an eclipse of hope. The CDC
was revived and four of its leaders contested in the March election
respectively at Nuwara Eliya (Thondaman),
Central
Colombo
(Aziz), Maskeliya (Vellayan) and
Haputale (M.Arunachalam) and none of them returned to Parliament. The
unprincipled two-in-one combination did not work from the very start. There
were complaints from the DWC cadres and members of being discriminated by the
CWC officials. The final blow was dealt to the short lived unity, in 1962, when
Thondaman, violating the gentlemen agreement that both –Thondaman and Aziz-
should not seek the office of the President and that a neutral person should be
appointed to the post jointly, contested against S.Somasundaram who was
considered as the common candidate, during the absence of Aziz, who had gone to
the GDR to attend a conference. Somasundaram was defeated and both the parties
voluntarily parted in April 1962 realising that the unity would not work
anymore. The second split had weakened the DWC further. Already, somewhere in
1959, people like C.V.Velupillai, S.M.Suppiah, Kogilam Suppiah, S.Natesan,
Rosario Fernando, O.A.Ramiah and P.Devaraj
-a section of the active DWC leaders- who opposed the merger had left
the DWC and joined the CP union the CPWU. To a certain extend they were
encouraged to leave the DWC by the CP. To add to its misfortune the dynamic GS
of the DWC, K.G.S.Nair died of heart attack on
12th May 1962. At the meantime Thondaman was appointed as the nominated MP to
represent the interest of the Indian origin people in the country in 1960 July
by the Mrs.Bandaranaike government and it gave political clout to him to boost
his image. From then onwards Thondaman`s position was strengthened.


In 1965 there was another split in the
CWC, when 15 officials broke away from the union with A.K.Vellayan. However,
compared to the Aziz-Thondaman rupture it has not caused serious damage to the
CWC. In 1968 there was the first split in the DWC when M.A.Thangavel and
A.K.Kandasamy left the DWC on the question of lack of transparency and formed
the Agricultural Plantation Workers Congress on 3rd April that year.



The Srima-Shastri Pact of 1964 alienated
the left unions for the first time and created a deep scar in the minds of the
plantation workers against the SLFP. In 4th December1964 Mrs.B`s government was
defeated by one single vote as Thondaman abstained from voting on the question
of the Press Bill. For the first time the CWC supported the UNP during the 1965
elections and had two nominated MPs in the Dudley`s government- S.Thondaman and
V.Annamalai. In the 1970 general elections the United Front government of the
SLFP-LSSP-CP coalition led by Mrs.B came to power and A.Aziz was appointed as a
nominated MP and it did not help Aziz to regain his supremacy. The land policy,
the communal violence let loose against the plantation workers, the chauvinist
speeches made by a number of Ministers, the rigid implementation of the inhuman
Srima-Shastri Pact and the near-famine situation under the UF government
further alienated the SLFP from the plantation workers. The unpopularity of the SLFP rule caused
serious damage to the DWC. In the 1977 election both Aziz and Thondaman
contested for the Nuwara Eliya-Maskeliya three- member constituency. Thondaman
returned to Parliament as the third MP while Aziz suffered a humiliating
defeat. Aziz could not recover from the set back until his death in 1990. After
Aziz`s death there occurred another split in the DWC as his son Ashroff Aziz
and V.P.Ganeshan did not see eye to eye. Ashroff Aziz formed the Aziz
Democratic Workers` Congress while the leadership of the DWC held by V.P.Ganeshan. This split had caused serious
set back to the DWC as majority of the membership joined the ADWC. Presently
the DWC is led by Ganeshan`s son Mano Ganeshan, who is a MP, contested under
the UNP symbol. Since he concentrate more on the problems of the

Colombo based Tamil
people its mass base in the plantation area is eroding.



Thondaman became a cabinet Minister in 1978 in
the UNP government and emerged stronger until the Black July 1983. The
heightening of militancy among the youths, the serious allegations of
corruptions levelled against him, the growth of the UNP led LJEWU under the
leadership of Gamini Disanayake, the formation of the Up-country Peoples` Front
in 1989 led by P.Chandrasekaran- who left the CWC in 1988-, which represented
the educated plantation youths, and the question of choosing a successor to
Thondaman, which had become a controversial issue when the long-standing GS of
the organisation- M.S.Sellasamy was fired out of the post, Thondaman`s grandson
Arumugan Thondaman was appointed as the
GS, Sellasamy went before court of law and obtained restraining order- seriously damaged the CWC. The cross over of
Thodaman to the PA government and becoming a cabinet Minister, while being a
national list MP of the UNP without the endorsement of the rank and file also
tarnished his image. In fairness to Thondaman it must be stated that in two
aspects he should be admired: firstly for his courage to air his view despite
the position he had held in the government and secondly, for he had held the
Up-country Tamil people as a community together until his death. After the
demise of Thondaman in 1999 there occurred another split in the CWC when
P.Devaraj, Rajan, Sennan, Sathasivam and Rajaratnam left the organisation and
formed a new union. The CWC crossed over from the PA government and joined the
UNP in 2001 to topple the PA government. During the last Parliamentary election
the CWC contested under the UNP symbol and its leader Arumugan once again
became a cabinet Minister. Presently Arumugan Thondaman, grandson of late
S.Thondaman, leads the CWC. The Arumugan-Sellasamy dispute on the question of
the GS post, which is pending at court of law, is heading for an amicable
settlement after M.S.Sellasamy rejoined the CWC in 2001 and became its deputy
president.



The Ceylon Plantation Workers Union and the United Plantation Workers Union: Until the so-called Stalinists were
expelled from the LSSP in 1940 the communists played an important role in
unionising the plantation workers through the



ACEWU. In 1940 the expelled Stalinist
group formed the Colombo Workers` club and then the United Socialist Party
before emerging as the Communist Party on
3rd July 1943. However, they did not take any serious effort to unionise the
plantation workers until 1943 as they were concentrating their attention to
unionise the urban workers with a view to fill the void created by the LSSP
ban. Thus the ban on the LSSP union, ACEWU, was not fully capitalised by the
CP. They formed the CPWU only on
29th October 1944. From the very start the CP was handicapped by lack of Tamil
plantation cadres to unionise the plantation workers. Therefore its growth was
confined to Sinhala speaking down South for a long time. The first effort to
make headway in the central plantation region was taken by M.C.Mendis in 1948.
He was successful in expanding its union base to Badulla, Bandarawela and
Hatton areas. During this period the CPWU was known as the Red Lanka Estate
Workers`
Union (Rathu Lanka Wathu Kamkaru Samithiya). But soon their progress was
brought to a halt as a result of adventurist tendency that made inroads.
Emotionally carried away by the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949 the
CP characterised this period as socialist era and some of the strikes led by
the CPWU, such as the adventurist strikes at Gasnawa estate, Kegalle, where the
estate workers attacked the superintendent and hoisted the red flag over the
factory, proved counter productive. The CEEF withdrew recognition of the CPWU
in May 1950. This unofficial ban on the CPWU caused a serious set back and it
changed its tactics by working through the DWC until it re-emerged in 1957
under the Bandaranaike government. In around 1959, when the splinter group of
the DWC consisting of the prominent Tamil members like C.V.Velupillai, S.M.Suppiah,
Kohilam Suppiah, S.Nadesan, Rosario Fernando, P.Devaraj and O.A.Ramiah joined
the CPWU it overcame its shortage of Tamil cadres to unionise plantation Tamil
workers. But it experienced another set back when C.V.velupillai and Mr. and
Mrs. Suppiah left its rank and joined the CWC, because of the sectarian
attitude of the party cadres of giving priority to its own party members.


In 1963 there was a major split in the CP and the
Peking wing CP led by
N.Shanmugathasan captured the CPWU while the supportes of the
Moscow wing headed
by M.C.mendis, S.Nadesan, and P.Devaraj formed the UPWU having S.Nadesan as its
president. The nominal TU of the CP turned to be real though the split had a
negative impact. While the UPWU under the
Moscow wing
retained its base in areas like Matale, Haputale and Down South, the CPWU,
which was now called the Red Flag Union, managed to emerge as a force in the
Central Up-country, Uva and Sabaragamuwa regions. Within a year of the split
Rosario Fernando and several workers belonged to the RFU were arrested on a
murder charge but they were released soon. By 1966 the RFU, under the
leadership of Shanmugathasan, combined union activities with political
education and cultural activities were encouraged to supplement the political
and union activities. The central region of the plantation area around Hatton
witnessed a renaissance and blossoming of revolutionary sprit. The RFU led
several successful strikes jointly with the CWC in Mayfield estate and in
Meddecombra Estate. It played the leading role in the demonstration and the
mass rally held on
2nd March 1971
against the killing of four workers at Nalanda Estate, Matale, organised by the
Joint Committee. But its leadership during the Keenagala estate strike, which
showed a tendency of adventurism, where two workers were killed in the police
shooting on 1stSeptember, 1970 was not remarkable. It experienced a
serious set back when almost all its leaders like N.Shanmugathasan, Rosario
Fernando and O.A.Ramiah were arrested in April 1971 following the insurrection
led by the JVP, and incarcerated for nine months. The RFU was further weakened
by the dissention that was brewing within the CP as a section of the leaders,
who were illusioned by the close rapport the Chinese government had developed
with Srima Bandaranaike, advocated collaboration with the SLFP against the UNP.
Subsequently there was a split within the RFU when Rosario Fernando and
O.A.Ramiah captured its leadership and the faction headed by N.Shanmugathasan
formed the New Red Flag Union. But both the factions never regained its past
prestigious place. The CPWU in the mid of 1970s joined the
Moscow wing CP.
Several prominent leaders like Dr. S.A.Wickramasinghe, Philip Gunawardena,
M.C.Mendis, S.Nadesan, N.Shanmugathasan, Rosario Fernando, H.L.K.Karawita,
Higgodha Dharmasena, M.Sundaram, and D.E.W.Gunasekara held the presidentship of
the CPWU while M.C.Mendis, Dharmapriya, N.Shanmugathasan, K.A.Wimapala and
Higgodha Dharmasena held the post of General Secretary of the union. The present
President of the union is Chandrasiri Gajatheera and the G.S is O.A.Ramiah.


The National Union of Workers:

Thondaman was not comfortable when an educated popular leader was
occupying the seat as second in command. Since all other recognised leaders of
the CWC were either passed away or left the organisation it was Vellasamy
Kalimuthu Vellayan was the only senior most leader remained in the CWC next to
Thondaman. He was the son of a HKG and a well-educated man – old Trinity rugby
lion. Misunderstanding between Thondaman and A.K.Vellaiyan was brewing for some
time and a circle of self-seekers around Thondaman added fuel to it. His
outspokenness and his habit of smoking in the presence of Thondaman were
interpreted as impoliteness. Vellayan`s low caste status had become a concern
to them. Politically too both had some differences as well. Vellayan did not
support the decision to team up with the UNP during the 1965 general election.
In an attempt to sideline Vellayan the shrewd Thodaman proposed the name of
M.S.Sellasamy to the post of GS in 1964, which was held by Vellayan. In fact
Sellasamy received his apprenticeship under Vellayan. Anyway Vellayan handled
the situation more cleverly by withdrawing from the contest stating that the
workers themselves should hold the leadership of a union. He was elected as its
vice-president that year. The last straw that broke the back of the donkey was
the denial of the chance to Vellayan of being appointed to one of the two
nominated seats in Parliament that had been offered to the CWC by the
Dudley’s government in 1965.
Instead of appointing Velliyan as one of two MPs Thondaman appointed
V.Annamali, one of his close associates. Even he was not appointed as a Senator
though two senator posts were allocated to the CWC. When this matter had become an issue within
the CWC Thondaman made a tactical move by appointing R.Jesudasan, a regional
representative of the CWC, who was a nephew of Vellayan and belonged to the
same caste, as a Senator, overnight. Vellayan left the CWC together with 15
union officials and formed the NUW on
1st May 1965


From the very inception the NUW adhered to its
principle that workers themselves must lead unions. Thus the first president of
the NUW was a worker- S.Perumal of Templestow Estate- and Vellayan was its GS
cum Financial Secretary. In 1966 C.V.Velupillai joined the NUW and became its
Administrative Trustee and later he became the GS of the union while Vellayan
remained as its FS. Vellyan passed away on
2nd December 1970 of heart attack at Crown Hotel, Hatton. The NUW emerged as a force to reckon with to
contest various elections since 1970 through its political wing. It played a
pioneer role in conducting workers education programme. That year, just before
the untimely demise of Vellayan the present president of the Union
A.T.Aiyadurai was elected to the post. In 1971 P.V.Kandiah was elected as its
GS and P.Perumal FS. C.V.Velupillai remained as its vice-president until his
death on
19
November 1984
.

The Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union: The LJEWU was not originally a UNP union. It was founded by Tudor
Keerthy Mendis, at Gampola on
17th August 1958 on
communal line to organise Sinhalese workers on the estates, at a time Sinhala
Chauvinism was confused with the progressive nationalism. According to Kerney
the UNP concern with the labour movement emerged from an effort to reform and
revitalize the party after its crushing defeat in 1956. The party was thought
to have suffered from identification with the wealthy and privileged classes.
The UNP entry into labour movement indicated a growing appreciation of the
political significance of organised labour and a desire to contain the
expanding Marxist influence. (R.N.Kerney, 19721,p66-7). J.R.Jayawardena entered
into an agreement with Tudor Keerthy Mendis and became its president. For a
long time the LJEWU did not make any significant headway due to its limited
objectives: to mobilise crowd for the UNP May Day and to unionise exclusively
the Sinhalese plantation workers. JR had been the president of the union for 20
years from 1958 to 1978 Under him it virtually remained as a formal TU run by
Sinhalese cadres. It was reorganised by Gamini Dissanayake in 1971, when he was
the vice-president of the union who was encountered with the task of facing the
by-election held for Nuwara Eliya electorate after a court ruling had unseated
him. After winning the by-election his strategy was to weaken the CWC. As an
efficient organiser Gamini identified some young talents among the plantation
Tamil youths like Rajasekaram, who passed away in 1975, V.Puthirasihamany,
Divyarajan, Ramanathan and K.Velautham; gave them autonomy and encouragement to
work. When JR became the executive President of the country in 1978 he had
resigned from the LJEWU and the controversial Cyril Methew, who was the
mastermind behind a number of Anti-Tamil pogroms carried out under the UNP
government between 1977 to 1983, succeeded him. JR forced him to resign from
the LJEWU in 1981 following a resolution passed at the working committee of the
union demanding his removal, consequent to his 352 pages publication entitled
`Sinhalese People, Arise and Safeguard Buddhism` and another book entitled `Who
is the Tiger? `, that were posted to the Sinhalese plantation workers and the
Sinhalese staff of the union. Thereafter Ranjan Wijeratne became its president
and later succeeded by Gamini Dissanaike. The present President of the union is
Ranil Wickramasinghe, the GS is Raja Seniviratne, and the administrative
Secretary is S.A.H.Mohideen.


Although other unions viewed the LJEWU in
the plantation sector as the fifth-column of the UNP it never had a history of
being a goon-squad in the hands of the UNP politicians, a serious allegation
spearheaded against other JSS unions of the UNP. For a long period the LJEWU
was not summoned by any plantation based joint committees but the attitude
towards it has been changed in the recent times. It appears that the LJEWU
enjoys some degree of autonomy to take decisions independently without the
interference of the political party. For instances, it had participated in
several strikes when the UNP was in power and it had opposed the UNP
government’s decision to privatise the state plantations (with the backing of
the late Minister Ranjan Wijeratne). However this autonomy has its limits and
the union cannot take any political or organisational decision conflicting the
interest of the political party. There were instances where the LJEWU had tried
its best to prevent workers ` participation in some strikes initiated by the
JPTUC, by playing in the hands of the UNP government. Due to the patronage the
LJEWU enjoyed from the UNP government and the planters and due to the hard work
done by its cadres it had emerged as the second largest
Union, next to the CWC in the
later part of the 1970s. The LJEWU also joined the IUF club following the CWC.


One strong point of the LJEWU that other
TUs, especially the CWC should learn was its efficient financial management.
While the CWC was mortgaging its head office to a bank and selling its Union
offices at Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and number of other towns the LJEWU
within a short period of time, under Gamini, constructed its own imposing Head
Office at Colombo Kotte, for this purpose only the land was granted by the UNP
government and the building was constructed out of the membership fee collected
from its members. In addition it has its own union buildings at Maskeliya,
Pussellawa, Matale, Kegalle, Yatiyantota, Avissawala.
Galle, Maththugama,
and Balangoda while it has bought land in Nuwara Eliya and Badulla for the
future construction of its own office. When Gamini left the
Union it had over 7 million
rupees in fixed deposit in bank.

The Trade Unions of the PlantationSector 4

THE
TRENDS OF COALESCENCE AND CLEAVAGES IN THE LBOUR MOVEMENT IN THE PLANTATION.

The following table will give an idea about the pattern and the reasons for the
proliferation of trade unions among the plantation workers:



















YearUnions existed TotalCause for Split Cause for Proliferation
1931ACELF1---------
1938

(LSSP formed ACEWU)ACELF & ACEWU

2-----Cause for Proliferation
1940(CICLUformed) ACELF,ACEWU &CICLU 3--------
1943(LSSP-CP divideACELF, ACEWU, CICLU & CPWU4Ideology----
1947(Natesa Aiyar died)-----------
1948CICLU, CPWU & ACEWU-----------
1950(CICLU renamed CWC) -----------
1956(ACEWU renamed LEWU) ( CWC-DWC split)( LJEWU FORMED)DWC, CWC, LEWU 5Personal ego& interest. -----
1960CPWU & LJEWU 1960 (CWC-DWC merger)CWC, CPWU LEWU & LJEWU. 4----------
1962(CWC two-in-one broke) (FP formed ITK) 7Leadership clash.-----
1963CWC, DWC, CPWU, LEWU, LJEWU, ITK & SLNVKS8Ideology-----
1965NUW formed) 9Inner-democracy &caste Factor-----
1967check-off facility)-----------
1968(DWC split APWC formed) 10Lack of transparency.-----
197039 unions -----------
1980------------
1990107 unions-----------
2000137 unions-----------

The above table shows us the factors
that led to polarisation of plantation TUs. We can categorise them as follows:

a-Occupational status:
(This factor is not included in the above table). In the plantation sector
there are three categories of unionised people, holding different place and
status in the production organisation, viz. the employers, staff and workers.
Each of this category has its own union. While the employers are united in one
single union the estate staffs are divided in a number of unions like the
plantation workers.

b-
Ideological differences:
Ideological differences and sectarianism among the Leftist trade unions continue
to contribute towards proliferation. In the 1940s to 1960s these rivalries among
the leftist TUs weakened their strength and sacrificed their chance of emerging
as the alternative leadership. In the present context their conflicts have
little impact on the plantation TU movement.

c-
Partisan interests:
From 1948 to 1970, until a substantial number of plantation
workers regained their voting status trade unionism did not become an
established part of political party activities. But since 1970 the CWC formed
its Political wing and the UNP reorganised its TU- the LJEWU. Now four TUS – the
CWC, the DWC, the NUW and the Up-country Peoples Front, the latter is an
exception in that as it is a political party which has a TU wing- have their
political wings. The multiplicity of political parties, which view TU as an
effective arm to establish their vote bank, lead to polarization. For example
the entry of the UNP union, the LJEWU, helped to expand its vote bank at the
expense of the radical trade unionism.

d-
Regional peculiarities:
The prevalence of different geographical and social
conditions that are peculiar to various regions also giving rise to regional TUs.

e-
Ethnicity: On
important factor that helped the speedy growth of the CICLU and that placed a
hurdle for the growth of a strong left TU movement was the ethnicity.
Ironically, a person with some standing is accepted as a leader of the
plantation community merely due to ethnic factor, without considering his
ability, skill or knowledge to run a TU.

f-
Caste factor:
The caste and kinship play some role in the polarisation of TUs. One factor that
led to the formation of the NUW and the factor that is exploited by a few
politicians in the Nuwara Eliya and the Badulla districts, even today, is caste.
But, as Hollup states “ it may create cleavages on the basis of caste ties.
However, at the estate level, there is no clear correlation between caste,
family, kinship group and trade union membership.” (O.Hollup, 1994, p.200)

g-
Lack of inner-democracy and personality
clashes:
The main factor that had led to the
major splits in the major TUs was lack of inner- democracy and personality
clashes- and both are inter-related. In many plantation TUs there is no place
for democracy within the organisation. The HKG system died a natural death in
the mid 1960s but the `Periya Kangany` tradition has not been eliminated from
the plantation trade unionism.

h-
Check-off facility:
The relatively easy procedures to be followed in getting a TU
legally registered (any seven members can register a Union) is a factor that
contribute significantly for the proliferation of small TUs. Formation of a TU
is considered by some people as a means of social mobility, social status and a
source of income.

JOINT TRADE UNION COMMITTEES:
Whenever the polarisation of unions became a
serious obstacle to take an issue or a cause forward the desire for coalescence
in order to bring their acts together overwhelmed and gave birth to Joint
Committees of TUS and Central Trade Union Organisations, as a healthy trend.
When the CICLU played an active role in the mainstream political life of this
country involving in the independence cause it aligned with the Leftist unions.
It worked closer with the CP led CTUF, which was formed in 1941 and with the
LSSP led the CFL, formed in 1945. The plantation TUs had a non-antagonistic
relationship until the CWC-DWC split took place in 1956. In 1960, following the
1958 strike led by the Public Service Workers` Trade Union Federation and the
CTUF, which became an eye-opener, a strong trend towards coalescence emerged
strongly and both the CWC and the DWC joined the left unions and became members
of the Coordinating Committee. But it broke up with the withdrawal of the CWC,
for reasons it alone could not be blamed. Again in 1963 both the unions
participated at the Common May Day Rally held in 1963, and banded together with
all other left TUs to form the JCTUO. The pinnacle of labour unity was reached
on Mach 21, 1964 when the famous 21 demands were endorsed by a gigantic JCTUO
sponsored mass rally. The platform crumbled when the LSSP followed by the CP
joined Mrs.B government.


The year 1964 marked the shift of
political alliance of the plantation TUs. Until such time they stood with the
lefts. For the first time, following the Srima-Shastri Pact, the CWC joined the
UNP. Under the patronage of the UNP government the CWC formed the Ceylon
National Trade Union Confederation together with five other unions in the UNP
bloc, including the LJEWU and the ITK. With the defeat of the UNP at the 1970
election this confederation disintegrated. But DWC led by Aziz remained with the
leftist-SLFP camp and a joint plantation union committee came into existence in
the 1965 in an ad hoc manner, around the DWC. The later part of the 1960s
witnessed several regional joint committees of plantation trade unions active in
the Hatton and the Badulla regions. During the UF government from 1970 to 1976
these regional joint committees played an important role while broad JCs were
formed time to time on national level, on issue based. For example, the broad JC
was reactivated following the shooting of four workers at Nalanda Estate, Matale
in December 1970 and joined meetings were held at Matale and Hatton. The CWC
also took part in it. After the abortive JVP insurrection of 1971, amidst the
suppression that was set in motion, all TU movement in the plantation area came
to stand still. However, within a short period it had recovered from the setback
after the release of Shanmugathasan, Rosario Fernando and O.A.Ramiah. It
reconstituted itself as the Joint Committee of Plantation Trade Unions (JCPTU)
and launched a strike in 1973 December demanding a monthly wage for the
plantation workers. When the aggressive land policy of the UF government became
a menace to the plantation workers the JCPTU played a significant role in
uniting all major TUs in the plantation area, including the CWC, to counter the
move of Anura Badaranaike to distribute 7,000 acres of land among his
supporters, evicting estate workers survived on them. Again when the state
sponsored communal violence had become an annual feature under the UNP
government which came to power in 1977 the broad JC began to play a crucial
role, in a more systematic and organised manner. Thus the Joint Plantation Trade
Union Committee was found in the late 1970s with S.Nadesan, A.Aziz, Rozario
Fernando and Keerthi Seniviratne as joint-conveners. C.V.Velupillai and Ananda
Dassanayake also served as the conveners for a time. In 1979 when Thondaman who
was a cabinet minister in the UNP government then, made a statement requesting
the government to stop take over of estate schools the JPTUC reacted against it
by leading a delegation to meet the President JR. In 1980s the JPTUC played
more active role and found itself at the centre of TU activities. The 1983 Black
July once again dealt a blow on its progress. Nevertheless it made a quick come
back and regrouped itself. In 1984 it was the campaign launched by the JPTUC
that created a conducive climate for the historic general strike which had won
the equal wage for both sex; in 1988 February it launched a general strike
demanding wage increase despite the opposition from the CWC; joined the prayer
campaign launched by the CWC in 1986 demanding citizenship right; and was in the
forefront in championing the cause of the plantation workers in the absence of a
formidable opposition in the plantation sector to counter the anti-working class
activities of the UNP after the CWC had become a partner of the government.
Comrade S.Natesan played a very important role in that. He voluntarily dedicated
most of his time to promote the JPTUC.


In the early 1990s, with a view to
meet the challenges of privatisation of plantations and to acquire legal status
to negotiate with the CEEF, it legally constituted as the Joint Plantation trade
Union Centre. S.Natesa was ousted from the JPTUC in a sectarian manner soon. The
question of inner-democracy and the domination of a few individuals within the
JPTUC, which was the concern of several constituent member TUs for a
considerable time and even criticized by veterans like A.Aziz, found expression
this time. Nonetheless, the JPTUC succeeded in changing the balance of TU force
in the plantation. The CEEF was compelled to accept the fact that it could not
ignore the combined strength of the JPTUC and that it could not enter into any
meaningful collective agreement without making the JPTUC a party to it,
especially after the second phase of privatisation. For the first time in 1997
the JPTUC was included in the negotiation process of deciding plantation
workers` wage together with the CWC and the LJEWU. Likewise it also became a
signatory to the 1998 December 4th Collective Agreement, first time.
The entry of the JPTUC into the process of negotiation with the CEEF had widened
the scope of broader discussions of the workers` issues at several levels: among
the plantation unions, within the constituent member unions, and among the
intellectuals etc. However, the trade union bureaucracy, both, within the unions
and within the JPTUC had not opened up the discussions beyond a limit. Lack of
transparency in the negotiations with the CEEF; lack of discussions with the
constituent member unions before entering into CAs and lack of commitment after
Nadesan`s period are some of the criticisms levelled against the present JPTUC.
The present office bearers of the JPTUC are as follows: Jayaratne Maliyagoda
(president) and P.V.Kandiah and S.Ramanathan (joint General Secretaries).