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Govt assures commitment to address pressing issues affecting the plantation community: Thondaman

By: Isuru Parakrama

Colombo (LNW): President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Jeevan Thondaman concluded a pivotal meeting at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday (11), in a significant step towards advancing the well-being of the plantation community.

The meeting underscored the government’s commitment to address pressing issues and introduce ‘transformative solutions to plantation communities,’ Thondaman tweeted.

The decisions made at the meeting are as follows;

  1. Strategic Utilisation of Indian Grant: The President and the Minister are in complete agreement that the generous Rs. 3 billion Indian Government grant should catalyse substantive and sustainable changes within plantation communities. The aim is to move beyond superficial modifications and steer towards impactful transformations that uplift communities on multiple fronts.
  2. Deed Programme: Recognising the importance of property rights, the government is initiating a comprehensive deed programme for the 44,000 homes built since 1972 within these communities. It is unacceptable that residents who have received homes over decades still lack valid property deeds. The focus is resolute – swift action to ensure rightful ownership and security for homeowners.
  3. Land Ownership Mechanism: The two agreed on establishing a transparent mechanism for land ownership that reinforces property rights for plantation communities. The government will introduce a mechanism that will empower individuals to gain rightful ownership over the land they have live in for generations. It is a pivotal step towards rectifying the housing crisis in plantation communities.
  4. Address Wage Disparities and a New Revenue Sharing Model: With a pragmatic understanding of last year’s inflation crisis, Minister Thondaman is embarking on pursuing a wage hike for estate workers. The Rs. 1000 daily wage is grossly inadequate and pushes plantation workers deeper into poverty. The government will also commence crafting a new revenue-sharing model that strikes a balance between workers’ livelihoods and the sustainability of companies. Collaborative prosperity will be the government’s objective.
  5. Resolve unpaid EPF & ETF by JEDB and SPC: The President agreed to resolve the pending EPF and ETF payments owed by Government-owned plantations to estate workers. The Minister said he is confident that his commitment will addresses a long-standing concern of workers.
  6. Equitable Access to Services: With a dedication to equity, the government will re-evaluate GN division boundaries in plantation regions. The ratio of Grama Niladharis to families in plantation regions is unacceptable. The Minister wishes to rectify disparities for plantation communities in accessing basic Government services, making these services equally accessible to all.
  7. Enhancing Education: Recognising the integral role of education, the President and the Minister agreed to resolve teacher shortages in upcountry regions. This involves both new teaching appointments and tailored training programmes, thereby elevating the quality of education available to plantation communities.
  8. Presidential Task Force: The President will establish a Task Force to address the multifaceted challenges faced by plantation communities. This task force embodies the President’s commitment to developing well-rounded, effective solutions that span various aspects of development for the plantation community.
  9. Ethical Lease Extensions for RPCs: The President underscored his dedication to ethical tea trade practices, and this will extend to lease extensions for Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs). The government’s commitment to sustainability and fair practices is resolute.
  10. Unifying Voices for Collective Progress: As all opposition upcountry MPs skipped the meeting on Friday to attend another event, Thondaman proposed to the President to convene another meeting that will involve upcountry MPs from all parties and communities to address issues faced by the plantation community.

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