General strike exposed Opposition's
Tuesday's countrywide general
strike organised by the joint Opposition turned out to be the biggest
flop as the working class rejected it in toto. Though the UNP and the
JVP bragged that they would inflict a crucial blow on the Government,
the general strike called by almost all Opposition parties was by far
the most unsuccessful trade union action in the country's history.
Wide pre-event publicity was given and even moderates seemed to think
that the joint Opposition could make at least some impact as the JVP and
the UNP projected the new electricity tariff as a major slogan in their
one-day trade union action. Lo and behold, there was record attendance
in the public sector.
While the UNP and the JVP leaders flexed their muscle to mislead the
masses, their wives reported to their workplaces while the
politician-husbands took to the streets in a do-or-die battle to gain
Bankrupt Opposition politicians who are running out of slogans to woo
public sympathy, reckoned that the new electricity tariff would mobilise
unprecedented support from the masses. Nevertheless, the people were
intelligent enough not to fall prey to the Opposition's trap as they
were cognizant of the massive relief on the electricity tariff for low
income groups, announced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May Day.
Hence, last week's general strike called by Opposition political
parties and their trade unions ostensibly against the electricity tariff
hike turned out to be a damp squib with more than 98 percent of the
workers reporting for work at all government institutions and most
private sector establishments.
The shameful attempt by the UNP and the JVP to take the working class
to the streets to sling mud at the government under the guise of
protesting against the electricity tariff hike was a dismal failure. In
point of fact, the attendance in the public sector was nearly five
percent more than average.
All public sector institutions functioned smoothly and to optimum
capacity on Tuesday with essential services such as the Colombo National
Hospital even exceeding the normal daily attendance figures. Both the
State-run SLCTB and private bus operators were in full strength while
postal service and State and private schools functioned as on any other
normal day. In essence, barely anybody noticed that there had been a
Unlike on previous occasions where the JVP attempted to capitalise on
the dead bodies of the Investment Promotion Zone workers at Katunayake,
JVP stalwart and trade union wing leader K.D. Lalkantha cut a pathetic
figure. There was no exception in the case of Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe too as his wife Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe also
ignored the call by her better half and was at her workplace - the
University of Kelaniya.
Even the JVP's microscopic attraction diminished after Lalkantha made
public the JVP's notorious track record during the height of its 1988/89
terror. It was only a couple of weeks earlier that Lalkantha behaved
like a common thug, and openly admitted that the JVP had killed scores
of people and indulged in various other crimes in its second attempt to
capture power through the bullet.
One wonders whether this was a sinister move to frame charges against
the only surviving member of the 1988/89 JVP seniors - Somawansa
Amarasinghe, the current leader of the JVP. Ironically, the JVP
continues to deny the gruesome atrocities it committed in the past until
Lalkantha broke the ice, saying that the JVP committed such crimes.
"It was true that the enemies of a patriotic war were bumped off;
identity cards collected and transformers destroyed," Lalkantha was
quoted as saying. Lalkantha's motive in making that stunning disclosure
is perhaps best known to him, as it would keep Somawansa in suspense.
The JVP never admitted its killing spree and brazenly attributed them
to the Deshapremi Sanvidanaya led by Keerthi Wijebahu alias Saman
Fernando. It was an open secret that the so-called Deshapremi Janatha
Vyaparaya (Patriotic People's Movement) committed many murders in the
guise of liberation.
Hence, Lalkantha's public statement on the JVP's terror has shown its
true colours as they had even been unsuccessful in misleading its
die-hard supporters at the Katunayake EPZ.
Though the JVP now claims that they practise five-star democracy, it
was the JVP which added a black mark by exploding a bomb in Parliament.
The JVP's notorious track record has driven away loyal and peace-loving
public from the movement that had attempted to capture power through
armed struggles in 1970/71 and 1988/89.
Intriguingly, the JVP, which burnt and destroyed over 5,700
transformers and electricity networks throughout the country is now
shedding crocodile tears on the electricity tariff. The country's
working class was intelligent enough not to fall prey to its guiles.
Some television channels which made a big hue and cry on the
so-called general strike, sent their TV crews to capture visuals of
shops early in the morning, prior to the normal business hours so that
they could project a gloomy picture by showing the 'closed shops' to
prove the success of the Opposition's trade union action.
It is indelibly etched in people's minds how the J.R. Jayewardene
iron-fist regime silenced all trade union action by dismissing thousands
of employees who had taken part in the 1980 July general strike. The
masses still recall the past actions of the UNP against the working
class struggle of 1980, when the then UNP regime deprived over 120,000
employees of their jobs for participating in a justifiable strike,
demanding a mere ten-rupee per day salary increase.
With the attendance of both the public and private sector workforce
on Tuesday hitting an all-time high, far above the average attendance,
one has reason to believe that the UNP and the JVP had unwittingly
attempted to help the Government to increase productivity by calling for
such a general strike.
The UNP and the JVP were hell-bent on gaining petty political mileage
and projecting a gloomy picture of the country. Certain sinister
elements too threw their full force behind it.If Lalkantha and his
notorious JVP goons have an iota of self-respect, they would not call
for any more general strikes even in their wildest dreams. Although the
JVP overestimated its strength, the working class gave it a fitting
reply and demolished it in next to no time after Lalkantha failed
miserably in his 'Anthare'. The Opposition should at least now learn a
lesson from its latest debacle and act as a responsible Opposition,
without providing 'ammunition' to the international community to take
Sri Lanka to task.
The masses are by no means fools and are monitoring the conduct of
the Opposition closely. They would never brook the Opposition's arrant
nonsense in attempting to gain petty political mileage at the expense of
the country's image. Undoubtedly, the masses would give an apt reply to
the Opposition at the next election and the UNP and the JVP would
definitely experience further erosion in their dwindling vote bases.
It is indeed deplorable that there are Opposition politicians who
dance the fandango round the West, by supporting a section of the
international community to discredit Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world.
Whatever political differences, they should be resolved within the
country, without playing into the hands of disgruntled international
Rather than commending the Herculean efforts of our Security Forces,
certain Opposition politicians are still shouting from the rooftops over
the human rights of LTTE terrorists. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are
acting as traitors by supporting certain international elements to
tarnish the image of their motherland.
The masses would by no means show any mercy to such opportunist
politicians and they would be rejected outright when the masses exercise
their democratic right. The country should always take precedence: not
petty political differences. Opposition politicians too should not fall
prey to international conspiracies, ignoring the country's national
interests. Certain Western countries are adopting various theories and
strategies to checkmate Sri Lanka as they know only too well that the
country's leaders are not ready to dance to their tune.
All Sri Lankans could feel justifiably proud and hold their heads
high as they have a leader who would continue to fight all anti-Sri
Lankan forces and would never allow them to grab a single piece of land
nor divide the motherland. All peace-loving and patriotic citizens
should rally round President Rajapaksa to beat all Western conspiracies.