Hambantota moves in step with the Nation | Daily News

Hambantota moves in step with the Nation

Hambantota was the stuff of patronage politics under the Rajapaksa Regime. Since then it has been the subject of economic strategy, to find ways and means of getting the Ruhunu Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport to function with some contribution to the national economy; instead of continuing to be examples of the wasteful expenditure of the past.

The strike by workers at the Hambantota Port, and especially the taking hostage of two foreign vessels that brought goods to the country as part of the strike, brought a new political dimension to Hambantota, emphasizing the role of the Rajapaksas in a new trend of political activity, posing a major threat to stable governance. In addition to the negative effects of the Hambantota port strike, there were also some people of Hambantota making protests on the road objecting to land in the District being leased out to Chinese investors, with a claim that the land was being given to foreigners.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

It is a major success that the strike of the dock workers of the Ruhunu Magampura Port was brought to an end on Thursday, after a nine day long protest, that gave all indications of the situation turning to be one of violence, with a major threat to the image of the country where considerable industrial peace has prevailed in the past two years. The end of the strike was both the result of a strong Court Order that restricted the activities of the strikers that could lead to legal consequences, as well as negotiations between representatives of the workers and the Port Administration. It was also a demonstration that the government was ready to act tough with the workers, whose leaders were clearly being manipulated by the pro-Rajapaksa politics of the Joint Opposition (who wore black bands at a press briefing supportive of the strike and ‘satyagraha’ action). This show of being firm with a politically motivated action by the Hambantota port workers, was also important because there was considerable evidence that the movers in this strike (as well as the land lease protesters nearby) were very much part of the “Nil Balakaya” the pro-Rajapaksa youth organisation led by Namal and Yoshitha Rajapaksa, with allegations of funds for rugby being transferred to its activities, in the days of Rajapaksa glory.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s announcement that the strike was over and conditions at the Ruhunu Magampura Port had returned to normal was indeed a display of political success. The practicalities of this success included having better security arrangements there, as well as a Sri Lanka Navy station to ensure security in the future. These showed a major success in handling a situation which could have been used to hugely tarnish the image of the government over the rights of workers, and objections being raised about economic policies with close understandings with China.

International image

The ending of this work stoppage, and the earlier release of the two vessels taken “hostage” by the strikers, would certainly help in efforts to restore the confidence of the international maritime sector, especially with some shipping lines having informed the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) that they may have regrets about this port in the future. Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga has told the media that the SLPA is yet to assess the damage to the 13 storeyed building which was taken over by the strikers, that had been flooded, and CCTV systems and electricity shut down. There were also concerns about the computer system and damage to several cranes, which were clearly described as vandalism of a very high order.

Minister Ranatunga said he was against privatization. He added: “We are still trying to win more benefits to our country before the last stage of signing the agreement (on the Port). We have to complete the signing by January 8. The former agreement was to lease the Hambantota Port for 199 years, which we have now decreased to 99. We are trying our level best to decrease it to 45-50 years. We have won 50 percent of the demands we made to the Chinese company. I shall be satisfied if we could win more benefits over to our side.”.

While the strike at the Hambantota Port is over, the government still has to resolve an issue that has come up with the media, relating to this strike. It is over the alleged assault of a journalist who had come to cover the port workers strike, by the Navy Commander. It is best that no efforts are made to sidetrack this issue, because the pictorial record of the alleged assault is quite definitive, and the matter has already attracted international attention. This is not the opportunity to wield the hammer of journalistic ethics, over a situation that needs better understanding of the rights of the media and individual journalists.

LSSP at 81

The Majority Group of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) celebrated the 81st anniversary of the founding of the first socialist party in this country, at celebration at the New Town Hall on Thursday. It was noteworthy that the theme of the celebrations was ‘National Reconciliation through a New Constitution’. The event which had a large gathering, including a 92-year-old plantation worker from the hill country who contested the first general election from the LSSP, showed a commitment to achieving new constitution, in keeping with the pledges given to the people in the campaign for the January 8, 2015 presidential election, as well as the August 2015 General Election.

The Anniversary Oration by Prof. Liyanage Amarakeerhi, Department of Sinhala, University of Peradeniya, was titled: “Is racist authoritarianism a civilization-state? – Towards an inter-civilizational dialogue”, made a good analysis of the politics in Sri Lanka today, especially with regard to the framing of a new constitution.

Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne

He was strongly critical of the new thinking being spread by those opposed to genuinely progressive changes in a new constitution, and were carrying on what seemed to be a ‘manifesto’ drafted by the Sinhala writer Gunadasa Amarasekera, who spoke in terms of culturally identified state and not a wider national state. This was the thinking being pushed forward by those who discussed the future of a President who would be like the King, as in the past, at a time when the major discussion is about the abolition of the Executive Presidency; giving more than a clue as to who such a king type president would be. This was the search for authoritarian governance, which sought to keep out sections of the population that did not identify with the majority culture.

He had strong words of caution about the writings of Samuel P. Huntington, whose work “Clash of Civilizations” which was at the core of right wing thinking in the West, especially the USA today, which has seen the election of Donald Trump as the next US President, that has influenced the new majoritarian dialogue in the country today. He cautioned against this thinking which sought to separate and even push out sections of a country’s population, on the basis of a culturally inclusive majority.

Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, who is closely associated with the constitution drafting process in the Constitutional Assembly (Parliament), was very strong on the need to have a completely new constitution, and not move in the direction of just bringing in many more amendments to the current constitution.

People’s approval

He was clear on the need for a new constitution to be approved by the people, which would give it the proper legitimacy, which could be achieved through a referendum. He said the people of this country had been voting for a constitution that abolishes the Executive Presidency for nearly two decades, and were very clear about it on January 8, 2015. There was no need to fear that the public would oppose the abolition of the Executive Presidency, if such a constitution came with the expansion of Human Rights, including the rights of equal gender, rights of the aged, and other sections of society that need equality, as well as assurance of protection for the environment. It should be a change to achieve Social Justice in every aspect.

He said that by 2020, the goal of the left political parties in this country, should be to come together in a single left political organisation, giving real meaning to the goals of the founders of the LSSP such as NM Perera, Colvin R de Silva, Leslie Goonewardene, SA Wickremesinghe, Philip Gunawardena and other left leaders who paved the way for much of the rights the people enjoy today. He was appreciative of the position of the Communist Party, which remained opposed to the Government, but was supportive of constitutional change to abolish the Executive Presidency.



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Looking at living standards of the poor it is proof that past and present socialist leaders practiced a form of "Garbage Socialism" so that the poor is getting poorer and poorer forever which is good for the leaders if to get elected . For them right to strike and destroy the country is more important than right to work and generate wealth for the good of the country. It's time people drop socialism and embrace ultra capitalism if keen on improving their living standards. UNP, SLFP and TNA is a good combination to propagate ultra capitalism. As it is it is getting closer for UNP, SLFP, TNA to be the three distinct ultra capitalist parties with majority of the people dropping socialism and embracing ultra capitalism. Even the Buddhist minks will like it as all Buddhist can afford to give alms to keep Buddhism alive.

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