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Lawyers for Democracy questions BASL on its position re proposed labour law reforms

Image: Labour laws reflect the standard of social and economic rights secured on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka.

On 17th May 2023, Mr. Lal Wijenayake, Co-Convener of Lawyers for Democracy raised concerns with the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne on the representations that appeared to have been made on behalf of the Bar at consultations convened on labour law reforms by the Labour Ministry on 10th May. The group raised questions about the nomination of Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe who appeared to have represented the BASL at the consultations and the process adopted to formulate the recommendations presented made by him.

Lawyers for Democracy emphasized that the labour law regime and jurisprudence in Sri Lanka have been hard fought achievements to secure the dignity and value of workers in the Sri Lankan economy and social development of the country. Labour laws reflect the standard of social and economic rights secured on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka. Any national discourse pertaining to the subject must be non-regressive and also progressively enhance the social rights achieved.

The letter states that any intervention on this topic of national importance must reflect the views of all stakeholders particularly those directly affected, the workers. The bedrock of labour law gives due recognition to the asymmetry of power in the relationship between employee and employer and the role of the state in ensuring that the worker is protected from exploitation. Dignified productive labour ought to be a hallmark of the country’s economic policy. Given the economic crisis in Sri Lanka and the national pressures on all industries and the agricultural sector, labour reform discussions are susceptible to undermining basic safeguards for which workers and unions have struggled.

Media Release of LFD

Lawyers for Democracy is convened by Attorneys at Law Lal Wijenayake, K.S. Ratnavel. Jayampathy Wickramaratne and Ermiza Tegal.

 

Letter sent by Lal Wijenayake to BASL president:

Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne
President
Bar Association of Sri Lanka
No. 153, Mihindu Mawatha
Colombo 12

16th May 2023

Dear Mr. Navaratne,

CLARIFICATION ON THE PURPORTED REPRESENTATION OF THE BASL ON LABOUR REFORMS AT THE LABOUR MINISTRY PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Lawyers for Democracy writes to seek clarification on the nomination, process and representations made on behalf of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka at the public consultation conference hosted by the Labour Ministry on or about 10th May 2023 by Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe. We are concerned, having pursued a copy of the presentation said to be made by the said Mr. Weerasinghe (attached herewith), as to whether the BASL subjected the topic of labour reforms to discussion prior to representations made and whether the said presentation is a reflection of the considered views of the Bar.

It has also been brought to our notice that by letter dated 12th May 2023, the Free Trade Zone and General Services Union has written to the BASL asking for a public clarification as to whether the presentation made represents the considered views of the BASL.

We recognise that the labour law regime and jurisprudence in Sri Lanka have been hard-fought achievements to secure the dignity and value of workers in our economy and social development of the country. Labour laws reflect the standard of social and economic rights secured on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka. Any national discourse pertaining to the subject must be non-regressive and also progressively enhance the social rights achieved.

Any intervention on this topic of national importance must reflect the views of all stakeholders, particularly those directly affected, the workers themselves. The bedrock of labour law is the due recognition of the asymmetry of power in the relationship between employee and employer, the role of the state in ensuring that the worker is protected from exploitation and that dignified, productive labour is a hallmark of the economic policy. Given the economic crisis in Sri Lanka and the national pressures on all industries and agricultural sectors, labour reform discussions are susceptible to undermining basic safeguards for which workers and unions have struggled.

In view of the above, and to reiterate, we seek your assistance in understanding the reasons for nominating Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe as the representative on the issue labour reforms and the process of discussion/consultation adopted by the BASL in formulating the recommendations presented by the said Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe.

Your early response to the above-sought clarification is greatly appreciated.

Yours faithfully

Lal Wijenayake
On behalf of the panel of Convenors of Lawyers for Democracy.

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