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Sunday, 22 January 2012

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Was there a hidden hand behind strikes?

Employees of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) along with their counterparts at the National Water Supply and Drainage Board and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) finally agreed to the Government's terms on Friday after resorting to trade union action earlier in the week demanding an unreasonable salary increase.

The CEB trade unions were apparently not satisfied with the initial 18 percent salary hike. As a people-friendly democratic Government which understands the pulse of the people, the Government subsequently decided to increase the salaries of all CEB employees by 25 percent.

Unfortunately, these trade unions which evidently have something up their sleeve other than a salary increase for their employees, were dissatisfied even with the unprecedented salary hike granted to CEB employees. CEB trade unions must bear in mind that the special 25 percent salary increase was granted exclusively to them whereas other public servants do not enjoy such a big bonanza. Employees of the Water Board and the CPC too were flexing their muscle for a similar salary hike.

More often than not, doctors and those in the health sector resort to trade union action and win the majority of their demands. Their easiest method to win demands is by holding innocent patients to ransom. Having benefited from the free education afforded to them through public funds, the State sector doctors often use poor patients, who could not afford to patronise private hospitals, as scapegoats to win their demands.

Cognizant of the fact that electricity, water and petroleum products are essentials in day-to-day life, employees in those sectors too have joined the bandwagon by holding the public to ransom. If these ventures are making profits, the Government would certainly grant a reasonable salary hike. But could institutions which are running at a loss grant unreasonable salary increases to their employees?

If one were to make a careful study of these unreasonable demands, it is clear that there was a hidden link to these protests in the universities. It is abundantly clear that certain international elements, their local NGO agents and some Opposition politicians were behind the series of protests and strikes.

On the other hand, the JVP was going hammer and tongs to show its strength and re-establish its political presence. While its students' union was organising a wave of protest campaigns in universities, the JVP's trade union wing worked overtime to organise strikes and disrupt work at public institutions.

Had the UNP been in power, it would not have permitted these protests and strikes to escalate. The masses have still not forgotten how the J.R. Jayewardene-led UNP Government treated the 1980 July strikers. They were sacked in toto, throwing thousands of poor families into a state of penury. That perhaps was overshadowed when one considers the manner in which the R. Premadasa-led Government massacred thousands of youth in the guise of the JVP unrest in 1988/89.

Needless to state, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who truly understands the aspirations of the working class, deals with trade union action and student protests more justly. He strongly believes that the genuine problems of the students and employees should be resolved through negotiations. This is precisely why the Government did not throttle these protests and wildcat strikes.

The time is now opportune to ask whether this five-star democracy suits people with hidden agendas. If the students' problems are genuine, they certainly have a right to protest. If the working class too has genuine grievances, they have the right to protest. The million-dollar question is how genuine were the strikes and protests. Do people have a similar right to protest and strike under these circumstances too, especially, when they seem to dance to the tune of extraneous elements?

While permitting legitimate trade union action in true democratic fashion, the Government must delve deeper to find out whether there were any hidden agendas behind the trade union strikes and student protests. It is as clear as daylight that these campaigns had been organised to project Sri Lanka as a failed state before the international community.

Apart from the JVP, the Godfathers of local NGOs also played an active role in these protests. Most of them are being funded by certain INGOs which are looking desperately for a regime change. The same INGOs which funded Sarath Fonseka during the presidential election, continue their lavish spending on local NGOs. Simultaneously, these local NGOs are trying to satisfy their funding sources. These INGOs are determined to paint a gloomy picture on Sri Lanka prior to the UN Human Rights Commission sessions in Geneva in a few months time. To fulfill that dream, they are operating through their local agents who yearn for foreign funding. It is deplorable that a handful of Sri Lankans tarnish the country's reputation before the international community.

President Rajapaksa quite rightly pointed out at a rally in Kayts, Jaffna last week, that certain people who made a fortune through NGOs are attempting to sully the image of the country by spreading false propaganda. They also mislead people in the North. He also said that certain people are spreading false rumours since they cannot come to terms with the Government's success and achievements.

Certain INGOs and some countries which look at the developments in Sri Lanka from a negative perspective should realise that Sri Lanka has a democratically elected President and Government. The masses have reposed utmost faith in the President and his Government at successive elections.

In the event Opposition politicians and certain international elements are day-dreaming of a regime change here like in certain other countries, they are sadly mistaken. Sri Lanka has a people-friendly Government and a leader elected with a thumping majority. They are answerable only to the people of this country and not international agents or self-appointed arbitrators.

It's time opportunist Opposition politicians discard international agendas and try to capture power by democratic means. It seems that extreme democracy too could slacken Sri Lanka's forward march as interested international elements too could exploit it to set their personal agendas in motion.

 

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