Local News: Instructions were issued by the Minister of Industrial Export and Investment Promotion and Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga to close all Free Trade Zones in the country until further notice.
The Minister had instructed the Investment Board to obtain the assistance of the Police and the Army in facilitating the safe return of all FTZ employees who were stranded at their boarding houses, back to their homes.
The Minister had issued these instructions during a meeting held at the BOI in Katunayake today between Minister Ranatunga, the BOI officials and factory owners and representatives.
He also instructed them to obtain the assistance of the Police and the Army in providing the workers transport facilities to return to their respective homes from today(27).
Minister Ranatunga also instructed the authorities to provide these employees dinner tonight and also their breakfast and lunch tomorrow while returning to their homes. The FTZ employees would also be subjected to a medical check-up prior to them heading home.
The majority of the workers employed at the Free Trade Zones are those who have come to these areas from other areas and are boarded close to their respective Free Trade Zones. The majority of them are in the Katunayake, Biyagama and Wathupitiwela FTZ areas.
The Executive Director (FTZ) of the BOI N.K.D. Lawrence said that the majority of the FTZ workers had already returned to their homes and those still residing in their boarding houses are a very small number.
However, the minister noted that even if the numbers are few, measures should be taken to send them back to their homes.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director stated that a small number of workers are engaged in producing medical equipment at several FTZ factories.
Minister Ranatunga said that if such factories are operational, then the factory management should take responsibility of the workers’ health, food and other facilities.
At that point the minister contacted the President and briefed him on the situation and requested for military and police assistance to send the workers back to their homes to which the President readily agreed.
The minister told the authorities of the FTZ to ensure that the workers are notified of the bus schedules through the police and to ensure their safe return.
The factory owners had donated Rs. 500,000 at that moment to provide facilities for these workers.
Subsequent to the meeting Minister Ranatunga responding to media queries stated that these measures were taken on the directives of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The media questioned the minister regarding the statement made by the JVP that there were around 20,000 FTZ workers stranded at their boarding houses. In response, the minister said that if such a number was still in Katunayake, then enforcing curfew would have been problematic.
He noted that according to the statistics of the BOI officials, only a small number of workers are still at their boarding houses and all facilities will be provided to them for their safe return to their homes.
The BOI officials said that FTZ workers could contact the following officials regarding the transport facilities for them to return to their respective home towns.
1. Katunayake :- Director Sisil Fernando – 0777-986474
2. Wathupitiwala / Meerigama / Malwatte FTZ :- Director D.M. Tillakaratne – 0777-808637
3. Biyagama :- Directress Kalyani Botheju – 0777-807662
4. Koggala :- Director Gamini Dassanayake – 077-3140200
5. Horana :- Director Dharshana Walpita – 076-0387820
6. Seethawaka :- Director Nihal Kumara Peiris – 0777-808756
7. Mawathagama / Polgahawela :- Director Noel Dabare – 0777-809102
8. Kandy:- Director Jayalath Mohottala – 0777-808291