Every good intention reversed! That’s Sri Lanka for you! | Sunday Observer

Every good intention reversed! That’s Sri Lanka for you!

This cat pens this lament from deep down in the dumps. She is dispirited, disappointed, despondent, dejected and even a mite desperate. Why so, you may well ask, at this time of Ho Ho and Ha Ha celebration and goodwill around the corner. The reason is that she has lost hope. There has been a reversal in the Christmas tree matter; the port strike continues with a suspicion of mollycoddling the protesters. There is most probably a person and his coyotes who want disruption in matters leading to, hopefully for them, dislodging the government. The government seems to be lethargic about settling the matter by taking the strikers to task.

The return of the Christmas Tree

This cat wrote last week: “We are deeply grateful to His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop, for expressing the strong view that it was all a sheer waste of money that could be used in so many different ways like building houses for the destitute and offering scholarships to poor schoolchildren, as His Eminence suggests. So the tree is kaput and with it goes the Guinness Record that was being aimed at. What crass stupidity to spend Rs 12 million to enter Sri Lanka in this annual book of whatevers.

“This catty feline wondered what all our politicians, from the very highest to lower down, thought of the tree that was coming up. Weren’t they concerned like the Archbishop? Why did they keep mum?” That was what this cat wrote last Sunday.

Now we know how the politicians have acted, as reported in the Tuesday 13 December newspapers. Ravi K, Finance Minister, told The Island: “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and I explained to the Cardinal that not a single cent of government funds would be spent on the construction of the Christmas tree on Galle Face. Thereafter, the Cardinal gave his consent.”

The headline to the article was: “Arjuna’s tallest X’mas tree back on track.” We were made to understand by Arjuna himself that though Minister of the Ports Authority he had nothing to do with the tree. Stupid to say the government is not spending money on the tree and allow the WASTE of 12 million rupees. It is money that could be spent so much more usefully when people are in dire need of bare necessities of life, like a house to live in, or equipped schools to attend.

The Ministers of this government too are beginning to do what the previous government of ten years did: treat its citizens as idiots.

A nation of shameful protesters is how this cat labelled the Ham Ban Tot port workers on strike. She wrote “Nothing can be done; no decision taken; no policy matter decided on without having people protest and of course on main highways.” Now the strike of the Magampura port workers is on its seventh day (Tuesday 13) and counting.

What the strikers demand is job security, as the Vice President of the Magampura Port Workers’ Union has said. Now, this to this feline’s way of thinking is counting unseen bridges that will not have to be crossed. How are they sure their employment will be affected if a Chinese company takes over work there? Do they want to continue doing nothing with no ships a-calling? The worst of it is their demand for job security to be ensured by the sale of the port to a Chinese company being cancelled. Every Jamis and Jane Nona, to have their own way.

On Thursday 15th, Minister Arjuna R delivered an ultimatum: report to work or be fired. The Big Boss of the area, ex Prez has made a request to the present Prez to give into the strikers. Not on your life, we scream. It was he, or a stooge of his who appointed them with no thought of proper qualifications et al. We’ll wait and see how the cookie crumbles – the government cringing or the strikers crumbling. Strikers have to be dealt with severely.

If a woman could break the unions why not so many men in power in Sri Lanka?

We all know that Mrs Thatcher broke the back of the trade union movement in Britain, earning the sobriquet “Iron Lady.” She was dubbed the only man in her Cabinet as was our Prime Minister, Sirima Bandaranaike who decimated the JVP after their first insurrection in 1971. This cat quotes from two articles on Thatcher: “The Cabinet papers published under the 30-year rule lay bare the scale of Margaret Thatcher’s long-held ambitions to crush the power of Britain’s trade unions even before she had won her historic 144-seat majority landslide victory.” Then again: “When Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, British labour unions were powerful but labour markets were rigid, inflexible and in many ways uncompetitive. By the time Mrs. Thatcher left office in 1990, the labour union movement had been substantially weakened.” She definitely, almost single-handedly, got the British economy going, and vibrant.

In the 1979 election manifesto of the Conservative Party was a five point plan for the country. The first task was ensuring “a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement.” It was Thatcher’s view that British labour laws were in need of reform because “militant” pro-union legislation of the Labour Party had allowed unions to bargain for wages and working conditions that made British firms uncompetitive.

Mrs. Thatcher also believed that labour laws encouraged unions to use strikes and work stoppages “as a weapon of first, rather than last resort” and led to “increasingly bitter and calamitous industrial disputes.” (Happening here now).

During the 1970s, the British economy lost almost 62,000 worker hours of production from strikes due to labour disputes. The British rate of lost production was about 150% higher than in the United States during the 1970s. By the 1990s, after the Thatcher government reforms, lost production due to strikes was less than 5% of the levels in the 1970s. In fact, it was 22% lower in Britain than in the United States; and remain lower to this day.

Labour union reforms did not come easily. The coal miner’s strike of 1984-1985 was long, bitter and violent. “If Scargill succeeds in bringing about such a strike, we must do everything in our power to defeat him, including ensuring that the strike results in widespread closures.” No wonder Scargill was shown not mourning Mrs Thatcher’s death at all, turning his back on the cortege being driven past.

Our country needs much more discipline. Be kind and care for a predator when young. Grown up, it turns around and attacks you. Likewise, trade unions and sundry protesters.

- Menika 

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