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Trade Unions Shouldn’t Be Political Puppets

Recently there was much hullabaloo about attempts to abduct a student activist at a public place by a group of unidentified persons who had come in a white van. It was a story lapped by senior well known opposition politicians, renowned professors, and students by the thousands, the pro-Rajapaksa, anti-government media and all who want to pillory the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.

Even though much umbrage and horror was expressed by critics over the alleged abduction, they seemed to revel in the story. Here was an incident which could be used to pillory the government, whose members keep reminding the Joint Opposition members of how innocent people were abducted during the Rajapaksa regime in white vans, particularly journalists, some of whom were murdered and others that disappeared never to be seen again. This was their own propaganda boomeranging they said with much delight and in righteous indignation demanded in parliament an impartial inquiry.

The story reverberated in the media particularly in the pro-Joint Opposition channels and print media till two ministers Lakshman Kiriella and Sagala Ratnayake deflated the blown up balloon on the floor of the House. There was no white van but a police vehicle in which two groups of policemen had arrived at the scene. One group was in uniform and others in civilian clothes, they carried their identity cards with them. The student activist in question was wanted by the police and had five warrants issued against him by magistrates, one for illegally entering the Health Ministry with a mob and damaging the ministry. Plainclothes policemen had tried to arrest the wanted suspect. Minister of Law and Order, Sagala Ratnayake promised to look into the allegations that had been made.

This story – despite its humorous aspect – illustrates the vicious anti- government propaganda that is hyped up by some media by organisations and disseminated among the people to create a hostile environment obviously with the purpose of bringing down the government as declared openly by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president.

Trade unions have come onto the streets and are attempting to paralyse the daily life of the people. Doctors are going on strike regularly and threatening the lives of the sick and disabled. Last week Petroleum workers stopped distributing fuel bringing the nation’s transport services to a halt.

The doctors, unable to win their demand for banning/nationalizing the private medical college, are threatening to join forces with trade unions in carrying out the political agenda of the Joint Opposition in bringing down the government.

Federations of trade unions fighting for individual and common causes are not something new in this country or abroad. But there are limits to the freedom of activity to all trade unions like there are limits to freedom of any individual or organisation. A trade union or a federation of such unions cannot challenge an elected government’s right to rule the country or attempt to run a government. Experienced hard core trade unionists know all about it and should teach neophytes that trade unions too have responsibilities towards the nation. However just their cause may be there is the red line of national security which they cannot cross. If they do that and make the normal laws of the land inapplicable with their actions, emergency laws will have to be enacted. The government was correct in calling for the assistance of the armed forces during the strike of petroleum workers.

If or when trade unions become pawns of politicians or political parties they disqualify themselves from enjoying the rights of trade unions. It is very well known that in this country trade unions are led by representatives of political parties or their covert agents. When that happens the majority of members are unable to express their opinions and become mere puppets. This is said to be a free democracy, not a country to be ruled by leading puppeteers.

There are many lessons to be learnt from trade unionists who dared to challenge the government of J. R. Jayewardene. This so called Yahapalanaya government may not be as hard and resolute as the government of JRJ but it has a duty to govern the country according to the law of the land protecting the rights of the people. If the government fails to act the people might decide to enforce the law on their own such as when the sick and dying are left unattended in hospital.

As we have said many times before, democracy is the art of the possible and depends on the acceptance of compromises in minor issues but not on the principles for which the government has a mandate.

When a trade union decides to paralyse the country in an attempt to please their political masters such as on the lease of unused fuel storage tanks for decades or for the sale or going into projects to save the country of billions of rupees for which there is no other answer by them or their political masters, the limit is reached. Then it is time to enforce the law to the fullest.

2 Comments for “Trade Unions Shouldn’t Be Political Puppets”

  1. Basil Dabare

    Well said. Trade Unions cannot be puppets in the hands of their political manupulators.

    • raza

      Some Trade Union Leaders have become agents of those desiring to topple the Government. . Even some trade Unions who call themselves as Independent are secretly linked to Political Powers. Eg, In the previous government one Union Leader was given the post of Chairman of a non commercial Bank. Another functions as an adviser to a powerful personality. I guess the the one leading most activities now may get a Cabinet Portfolio , if the government topples by any chance. These are the hidden goals .

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