Minister of Labor Nimal Siripala de Silva says that the government has decided to distribute the abandoned lands of the plantation companies to the plantation workers or the youth of the area.
The recipients of these lands will not be able to settle in them and the lands should be used for economic productivity projects in the agricultural or livestock sector, the Minister said.
The Minister said this while joining the mobile service of the Ministry of Labor to look into the provident and employment fund and employment problems of plantation workers in the Nuwara Eliya District and provide solutions.
The Ministry’s mobile service was held at the Damro Estate showroom premises in Labukele, Nuwara Eliya recently (18).
The mobile service was attended by the Employees Provident Fund, Employees’ Trust Fund, Department of Labor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Estate Superintendents.
Speaking further Minister Nimal Siripala Silva stated that it has been reported that there are a large number of estates which have been handed over to plantation companies for management by the government which have been abandoned.
The government has already drafted the Utilization Act to take over these unused lands from the estates. However, the government has decided to give the companies six months to develop these unused lands in an economically viable process.
The Minister said that the government has decided to give the lands to the estate people or the youth of the area if the companies are not able to utilize the lands for economic productivity within those six months. Those people can use those lands for resource development projects but they will not be given ownership of those lands.
He also said that the plantation companies have filed a case in court against the decision to increase the daily wage of the plantation workers to Rs. 1,000. Although many plantation companies are working to pay the 1,000 rupee salary, they strongly condemn the oppression of the working class by some estate authorities.
The Minister also instructed the Commissioner General of Labor to appoint a committee under a special commissioner to investigate complaints regarding non-payment of wages of Rs. 1,000 to plantation workers. He also said that once the legal process is completed, measures would be taken to implement a set of laws that would prevent the estate workers being exploited.
The Minister also commended Damro for its unwavering commitment to provide a daily wage of Rs. 1,000 to plantation workers.
Responding to a question posed by the media, the Minister said that it would be in the best interest of the plantation companies to think about the future and treat the plantation workers with respect. The Minister also pointed out that if not the younger generation of plantation workers would seek alternative employment which would ultimately affect the future of the plantations.
Secretary to the Ministry of Labor Mapa Pathirana, Commissioner General of Labor Attorney-at-Law Prabath Chandrakeerthi, officials of Damro and Central Bank officials were also present.