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Sri Lanka: Thugs attack teacher unionists

published 12 July 2011 updated 24 August 2011

Teachers protesting in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, have been attacked by groups of armed thugs who are suspected of having close links with the government, according to the National Trade Union Centre (NTUC).

The teachers, all members of the Ceylon Teacher Services Union (CTSU), were demonstrating against the government’s move to arbitrarily remove the administration board of the Education Department Co-operative Society (EDCS) after the CTSU won a democratic mandate to lead it. The EDCS is reported to be the largest co-operative society in Asia.

On 6 July, almost 50 men appeared in buses and cars, and attacked the teacher demonstrators with batons.

The NTUC Head, K.D. Lalkantha, said: “The working masses will be compelled to take action if workers' rights are continued to be suppressed in this manner. The teachers were engaged in a peaceful protest when they were attacked by thugs.”

Lalkantha has said that a total of 15 teachers were injured, with several still being treated at the Kurunegala Hospital.

CTSU leaders suspect that the thugs have close links to the government, but have defiantly stated that violence or intimidation would not deter teachers from continuing to resist any undemocratic moves against the EDCS.

The police said they have arrested 16 people in connection with the suspected assaults on the teachers.