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Sunday, 26 May 2013

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General strike exposed Opposition's political nudity

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 public support.

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 general strike.

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 forces.

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.

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