11/14/2020, 13.22
SRI LANKA
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Hindu workers discriminated against: no Deepavali for them

by Melani Manel Perera

The problem is more acute in the North, where many Tamil women are war widows. After the lockdown, many companies forced their employees to work at a faster pace until 1 am. For President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Deepavali (Diwali) is an opportunity for reconciliation and harmony between religious communities.

 

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Tamil workers in the Northern Province are victims of discrimination. Unlike Buddhist and Muslim workers who can celebrate their holy days, Hindu Tamils have not been given a single day off for Deepavali (Diwali).

Deepavali, which began on Thursday, is the festival of light that overcomes the darkness of ignorance and gives wisdom. It is celebrated by going to temples to partake in the sacred offering (puja), and by breaking a two-month fast with family and friends.

Many manufacturing companies operating in northern Sri Lanka have not granted their workers, many of them Tamil war widows, any time off.

Speaking to AsiaNews, trade unionist Chamila Thushari said that Hindu women employed in the Hidaramani garment factory in Vavuniya complained to their bosses, but got nothing. If they stay home, their wages would be cut.

Chamila explained that “Hindu workers have complained, asking why Sinhalese (Buddhist) workers have 10 days a year of vacation, why Muslims get three days, and why they should be forced to work on this feast day?”

The reason lies with the fact that many garment factories were forced to close for a month at the start of the pandemic (March 20 to April 20), and are now behind schedule in their orders. This is why workers are subjected to gruelling hours.

"Since the end of April all these companies have been operating until 1 am. Even today, during the Deepavali festival, workers have to work until half past 1 am. This creates a lot of problems in many families. Many single mothers get home when their children are already in bed and have no time to spend with them.”

The irony is that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a message for Deepavali. In it, he says that the festival is an important cultural event that provides a great opportunity for reconciliation between different communities and strengthens ethnic and religious harmony.

For Chamila, "at a time when the whole world is facing the difficulties related to COVID-19, observing and celebrating a religious holiday would be a source of consolation.”

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