October 2023

“Postal Rights” in the Plantation Sector

According to the International Convention to Civic and Political Rights Article 25(c) “Every citizen has all the rights and opportunities without any of the distinction and without unreasonable restriction to have access, on general terms of equality to public service in his country”. One particular service accessed by “all” citizens in Sri Lanka is the state postal service. However, people living in the plantation sector do not fall under “all”.

During a workshop under the Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) project, people from the Monaragala district raised serious concerns. “We don’t receive letters or any postal service directly from the state service. We receive postal services from the estate office. There is an appointed person called thabal kooli, who is also an estate labourer, and has to deliver the letters to homes,” one man said.

This was a problem because some of the letters were received only after they had been opened by others who had the same name on the estate.

“Many times we receive letters that are very delayed. Some students did not get their university entrance letters and some lost government jobs due to the delay in receiving interview and appointment letters,” participants said. Letters were not received by people in the plantation sector who had no addresses with door numbers and street names. “Because there is no post office close by, the letters are not being delivered by the postal service. There is no accountability taken by government on behalf of misconduct by the estate management,” they added.

According to ICCPR Article 27 (1), “No one shall be subject to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation”. Article 27 (2), states that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. It is an offense under the penal code Section 165 and 167. However, the people living in the plantation sector were not entitled to take legal action against the estate management because legal action could only be taken against a public servant.

Due to the lack of postal service implementation, people living in the plantation sector continued to face challenges to access the public services and to enjoy the right to privacy. The issues addressed during the workshop will be taken up through the LAW project.