With the passing away of Bala Tampoe Sri Lanka has lost a son of great talent, capability and commitment to the progress of the working people as well as a brave fighter against colonial rule and for the establishment of a strong pro-people democracy in this country, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
In a condolence message to the family members of Mr Bala Tampoe, President Rajapaksa extended his heartfelt condolences. Describing Mr Bala Tampoe as a great trade union leader and champion of the working people of Sri Lanka, the President stated, “I share my sorrow at his loss with all in the Trade Union Movement and the people of Sri Lanka.”
Full text of the Condolence Message:
It is with much sorrow that I send this message of condolence on the passing away of Bala Tampoe, the great trade union leader and champion of the working people of Sri Lanka.
His demise at 92 years of age saw the completion of more than 66 years as General Secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile Union, the largest trade union of the Mercantile Sector in the country.
His admirable record in the trade unionism and the cause of the working people began with his participation in the public service general strike in 1947, for which he was dismissed from service as a lecturer in Botany and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture of the University of Ceylon, by the British Colonial rulers, and their political partners, at the time.
Since then he demonstrated an outstanding commitment to trade unions and left-wing politics in the country, initially as a member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and later in the leadership given to the Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU), and the struggles of the working people, across all barriers of community and ethnicity.
Bala Tampoe gave courageous leadership to important trade union struggles in the post-independence period of Sri Lanka, and made the most outstanding contribution to safeguard the rights of mercantile employees through the Collective Agreement signed between the CMU and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, which remains a landmark agreement and a valuable guide to many others in the field of trade unions.
He later widened the reach and the organizational competence of the CMU, which was initially a white collar union that was largely influenced by the late A.E.Goonesinghe, by strengthening the militancy of trade unions and democratic procedures of decision making. He made a further contribution by extending the scope of the CMU to cover employees in the industrial and general workers categories, to make it the much wider Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers’ Union, as it is known today.
This man of distinction in Sri Lanka’s Labour and Left Movement, parted company with the LSSP due to differences in theoretical and political belief and was a founder of the LSSP (R), considered the revolutionary wing of the LSSP. In addition to this commitment to the Trade Union Movement, he also took to the law, specializing in criminal law, and had the remarkable courage to appear in court on behalf of members of the JVP, following its first insurrection in 1971, for which role he was commended by both the Bar and Bench.
With his passing away, Sri Lanka has lost a son of great talent, capability and commitment to the progress of the working people as well as a brave fighter against colonial rule and for the establishment of a strong pro-people democracy in this country.
On this sad occasion I extend my heartfelt condolences to members of the family of the late Bala Tampoe, and share my sorrow at his loss with all in the Trade Union Movement and the people of Sri Lanka.
September 02, 2014