Sri Lankan police have arrested ten people, including the provincial council’s deputy chairman for Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullaitivu, following protests against the reopening of a garment factory amidst fears of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading.
The reopening of the garment factory follows orders from Sri Lanka’s President that Governors and District Secretaries should continue the operations of development plants and factories so as to avoid an economic collapse. This order comes as Sri Lanka continues to struggle with the pandemic which has claimed an estimated 1,656 lives. In early May, Public Health Inspectors reported that Sri Lanka has a higher COVID infection rate than India per capita.
In the last few days, TNA MP Vino Noharathalingam and the garment factory administration sent letters to the President urging the garment factory to not be opened until it was deemed safe to do so and to prevent the risk of another outbreak. The letter urged for all employees to be vaccinated and provision of better facilities to monitor the employees, before they were rushed back in to the factory. Despite the strong condemnation and protests, the factory was reopened.
The Sri Lankan military has faced criticism for its heavy-handed approach to the pandemic which has been seen to exacerbate ethnic divides and implicated the military in the abuse of factory workers.
Sri Lanka's police were also seen stopping buses, that were carrying employees from the Pudukudiyiruppu factory to the Kilinochchi factory, and conducting three arrests.
The ten people arrested by the police were later released on bail.