BWI Statement on the Attacks in Sri Lanka

22 April 2019 15:59

22 April: The BWI extends its solidarity and deepest condolences to the people of Sri Lanka as they grapple with the tragic consequences of a series of coordinated violent attacks that took place on the morning of Easter Sunday. So far, the attacks – which targeted churches and hotels – have claimed the lives of 290 people and wounded at least 500 more.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the families and communities who lost their loved on one of the holiest days of the Christian faith,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI. “On behalf of BWI we convey our sincere sympathies to the families. We also condemn these senseless acts of violence that has devastated the island nation that is still recovering from the violence of civil war less than ten years ago.”

The BWI through its Asia-Pacific Regional Office is in contact with its affiliate in Sri Lanka, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), who have reported that members and their families are safe. The NTUF members are also extending assistance wherever possible to those affected.

NTUF Secretary-General Padmasiri Ranawakaarchchi said that the shocking events were another impediment on the road to communal harmony. "These atrocious acts of hate come at a period of weakness for us. Sri Lankan democracy is still reeling from last year's constitutional crisis and the Government is unable to protect workers' rights to safety - both on the worksite and in our daily lives. In spite of all of this, we are determined not to let these acts of hate divide us. Our union movement is made up of people of all faiths and backgrounds, but it is the struggle for a better society that continues to unite us.”

Dave Noonan, BWI Asia Pacific Vice President and National Secretary of the Construction and General Division of CFMEU, conveyed his condolences to the families that lost loved ones. “BWI affiliates across the region stand in solidarity with the victims and their families. We are shocked at this horrific violence towards a community of faith, and, remain deeply committed to defending workers’ rights to practice their religion in peace.”

BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino condemned the acts of violence. "Every day BWI affiliates are organising against bigotry and racism, attitudes that are at the root cause of these appalling atrocities. Workers everywhere will continue this organising work, and we will begin a discussion about specific interventions we can undertake to assist NTUF in this work in the future.”

The morning attacks targeted the St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Zion Church in Batticaloa, and three hotels in Colombo - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury. In the afternoon, more blasts occurred at the Tropical Inn in Dehiwala and another in a housing complex in Dematagoda. At least 36 of the deceased were foreign nationals– Americans, Australian, British, Chinese, Dutch, Danish, Indian, Portuguese, Japanese and Turkish.

The Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked several social media messaging services like Facebook, Instagram, Viber and Whatsapp; however, the BWI is in constant contact with its affiliate and partners as it monitors the situation.