Sri Lankan teachers on strike

Place: Tamil Eelam | Courtesy: BBC
| Date: 20000707

By: Alastair Lawson in Colombo

More than 20,000 Tamil and Muslim teachers in the north and east of Sri Lanka have gone on a one-day strike.

They are protesting over what they say are poor pay and conditions, and the government's failure to stop the war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

Their strike has meant that over half a million children in areas controlled by the government and the Tamil Tigers have been unable to go to school for the day.

A spokesman for the striking teachers in the eastern town of Trincomalee said the strike was being called to urge the Sri Lankan Government to immediately start negotiations with the Tamil Tigers.

The spokesman, T Mahasivan, said the Sri Lankan air force should stop what he said was its aerial bombardment of civilian areas in the Jaffna peninsula - where government forces are fighting off Tiger rebel advances - and allow displaced people to leave combat areas.

Peace call

Mr Mahasivan also called on President Chandrika Kumaratunga to kickstart the peace process by using Norway and India as mediators.

He said the strike was also being held to protest against poor wages and to urge the authorities to speed up the supply of textbooks to Tamil pupils.

The strikers also want the college campus at Trincomalee to be upgraded to full university status.

Despite the area being under the control of the Tamil Tigers, the teachers are employed by the authorities, which is why they are making their demands to the government.

The Sri Lankan Government has yet to respond to the strikers' demands.