Yesterday’s Daily Mirror reported that the Joint Opposition is to postpone “Janabalaya Colombata” (Peoples’ power to Colombo), the continual mass protest they have organized in September so that it would not coincide with the GCE Advanced Level examination. The story says that the decision had been taken after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had instructed them to do so.
Given the frustration felt by the ordinary people who are suffering due to so many protests by trade unions of various sectors and especially by the university students launching on daily basis mainly on busy streets, one cannot but commend the former President for the decision. Opponents of the Joint Opposition might attribute the decision to something else, but what matters to the people is the postponement of the protest which is a great consolation to them.
Rarely a day passes now without a strike or a protest march hindering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people especially the young school children. People get news alerts sent by various media institutions announcing and warning on the blockades of main roads by various trade unions or students almost every day. And the trade unions and the student unions do not seem to understand the frustration and anger among the victims of these so-called protests.
It is a well known fact that the majority of these protests, whether they be strikes, picketing or street demonstrations are politically motivated and the reasons given for them are just smokescreens for the real reasons. For instance, the students protest against the South Asian Institute for Technology and Medicine (SAITM) involving hundreds of days for the last three years were backed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and the Joint Opposition and the former two parties had directly been involved in organizing those protests.
According to the Marxist theory followed by the JVP and the FSP the strikes and other protests are not meant for the resolving of the attributed problems, rather they are meant to build the party which would ultimately capture power to bring in socialism. And the Joint Opposition or any other party in the Opposition for that matter would support any protest or strike just to embarrass the government or to topple the government. Whatever the motive of the political parties that would hide behind these protests might be, it is the ordinary people who are at the receiving end.
The trade union actions today are not meant for expression of the workers’ protest or frustration over their grievances that should be addressed by the authorities, but they take to such actions to pressurize or embarrass the authorities by harassing the general public and even putting their lives in danger in order to get their problems addressed. Thus the more the people are harassed or made to suffer or their lives are put in danger the more are the trade union actions deemed to be successful. The success of a trade union action by the doctors are measured by the number of deaths occurred especially due to such actions. A students’ street demonstration would be deemed successful if it had created chaos through traffic snarls, stranding hundreds of thousands of people including hungry school children. Hence, these so-called struggles are not launched on holidays; they are being launched on week days.
This is a clear manifestation of the heartlessness and the selfishness of the leaders of the trade unions and students’ unions as well as the political parties behind those protests. This is more so given the high number of protests and demonstrations launched within a week.
Apart from the inconvenience caused to the ordinary people there is another important fact to be reckoned with, in respect of these strikes and protests. Last year, the Sunday Times quoting Central Bank reports had reported that the “total number of man-days lost to labour strikes reached a 10-year high in 2016, and an overall 104,327 man-days were squandered in 41 strikes in that year, the worst tally since 2007.” It is obvious that the man-hours lost by the other institutions and the ordinary people due to these protests are not counted here.
One cannot deny the rights of workers of any institution, public or private, to demand better working conditions or rectify any injustice meted out to them. But they do not have the right to deprive the others of their rights.