The Chairman of the Ratwatte Estate in the Elkaduwa Plantation located in the Matale district has dismissed an Assistant Estate Manager who was caught on video violently evicting a poor estate worker family, including a 2-month-old child, with a weapon.
The viral video, which showed the Assistant Estate Manager and other estate officers illegally breaking a temporary shelter for the family, throwing out their food and speaking in a derogatory manner, led to several MPs and civil society organisations raising their alarm and demanding action.
Minister Jeevan Thondaman, who is responsible for the estate sector, visited the Ratwatte estate and the family on Sunday. At the inquiry, it came to light that the eviction of the estate worker and their family was illegal, without a court order or police intervention.
The General Manager of the Estate had also threatened to throw the worker family including his infant child on to the street. The Minister had then demanded for immediate action and accountability against the responsible persons.
The Chairman and the now-dismissed Assistant Manager had expressed their sincere regrets over the unfortunate episode to the affected family. The Estate has also vowed to construct a permanent residence for the aggrieved family on its grounds and committed to construct a further 11 permanent houses for families living and working on the estate, addressing long-standing housing issues they've faced.
Estate workers in Sri Lanka often live in sub-standard housing without access to basic services. Estate workers are also regularly subject to inhumane working conditions and often denied their basic rights. In the viral video, the deplorable housing conditions of estate workers in the Ratwatte Estate is clearly visible.
This year, the Cabinet agreed to commemorate 200 years since the arrival of estate workers of Indian Origin. Minister Thondaman also revealed that the Government is taking several policy initiatives to address the land and housing, education, health and economic issues faced by estate workers.
In his statement on the platform X (formerly known as Twitter), the Minister emphasised that "No individual should be robbed of their dignity or a home. The legacy of being born indentured to a company must come to an end. Everyone deserves the chance to flourish, live respectfully, and be free from humiliation."
Mano wants estate manager sacked
Meanwhile, MP Mano Ganesan urged Plantation Minister Ramesh Pathirana to take immediate action against the estate manager, calling it an act of 'modern slavery'.
Posting a message on X, the MP said he yelled at the Plantation Minister. "Sack the Fellow, We are at the end of our patience".