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Once Upon a Time in Sri Lanka

Stories and News No. 1310

Once upon a time, then, as promised.
Once upon a time in Sri Lanka, giving life to the incipit of a story that dates back to about 30 years ago. And that's not good, not at all.
Because certain plots should find conclusion, or peace, and at the end of the day, when you close your eyes and you find yourself with what you have claimed to believe  all the time, you know if effectively did something useful.
Indeed it doesn't matter where this story takes place, how far away you feel it in time and space, because this is one of those tales that we are obliged to feel ours everywhere and in every age. Otherwise, there is little truth and coherence in what we say and do.
So, let's get back to the story, yeah, that's why we're here.
It was the 90s and in Sri Lanka the exploitation of cheap labor was in full swing, as well as in all areas of the world where multinationals had relocated their factories for various reasons. Among all, as Naomi Klein wrote in No Logo - the book where I first heard of the protagonist of this page - the CEOs, financiers and marketing strategists had by now understood that the real assets in their possession were neither the plants and much less the products they sold. It was the brand. That is what they sold, what made them rich and powerful. And a brand is just a set of symbols, letters, lines, shapes and colors. It has no soul, no heart, no empathy. Imagine if it is able to worry about the conditions in which a human being works, even in the case of those who make it famous and lucrative for its owners.
However, in every place and historical moment of life on this planet there is always someone who doesn't fit and courageously raises his back and head off the ground to claim what is right and should be human. Okay, it's always the fault of that unfortunate disease called utopia, and I start by risking ruining the ending, it doesn't bring anything good most of the time, but in my humble opinion I remain convinced that defeat is never due to those who rebel against abuses, but those who stand by and watch without lifting a finger. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
Nonetheless, let's go back to yesterday. It was 1989, when Ranjith Mudiyanselage, a young worker, decided that the measure was full. He noticed a breakdown in a machine at the company where he worked, Floral Greens. He reported this to his superiors but was ignored and a girl injured her hand. The next day Ranjith protested to the foreman and was also attacked and injured. He was then suspended for two months, summoned for a disciplinary inquiry and was later kidnapped.
For his fiancée it was a terrible tragedy. Jayanthi Dandeniya, one of the many exploited workers in garment factories, who had already lost her brother in the same year at the hands of the men of the Janantha Vimukti Peramuna, the Sri Lankan People's Liberation Front, was informed five days later of the discovery of the body of the beloved, found charred together with his lawyer at the entrance of a church.
Nonetheless, no less courageous, Jayanthi found the strength in that immense pain to dedicate her life to defending workers' rights and above all to hold those responsible for the disappearances and killings accountable for their crimes. In 2003, she was awarded the Gwangju Human Rights Award for her efforts.
As mentioned, about 30 years have passed and we are back again in Sri Lanka, even if we could go to countless other places in the world, to discover that the exploitation of workers still exists today, as much as the lack of respect for the rights and forms of protection for local workers, obviously to the advantage of multinationals and their brands.
That's the real problem with these kinds of stories, my friends. Because they all start with once upon a time and when you get to the end you can't find the latter. Because you are forced to correct the incipit and write once upon a time and still is. Over and over again. And it will go on like this until the number of those who will stop limiting themselves to watching, listening and reading from near or far will not be enough to lift that heavy pen that writes only red, as the blood of those who are no longer here, to engrave on the sheet that blessed words.
The end.

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