Sri Lanka monks join anti-pension protests

June 3, 2011 (AFP) – Hundreds of Buddhist monks took to the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital Friday to express solidarity with factory workers protesting a controversial pensions bill. The legislation sparked clashes with police on Monday in which a factory worker was fatally shot and more than 150 were wounded.

Saffron-robed clergy marched to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s tightly-guarded official residence, known as “Temple Trees”, and staged a sit-down demonstration, dispersing after chanting anti-government slogans.

A demand by the monks to meet with Rajapakse was rejected.

The monks left placards denouncing his administration. “End the dictatorial rule,” read one board left on the main gate of Temple Trees.

A spokesman for the monks said they were expressing solidarity with private sector employees and also wanted Rajapakse to take action against those responsible for Monday’s violence.

The government had proposed taking over the compulsory savings of workers in the private sector and paying them a smaller than expected state pension after retirement, but on Thursday made a formal announcement withdrawing the bill.

The monks’ protest came as