An unpatriotic act | Daily News

An unpatriotic act

Beginning yesterday, Public Servants in several sectors commenced their threatened strike action with the intention of crippling all Essential Services (ES) in what is to be an indefinite work stoppage until the Government withdraws the recently introduced tax regime. The strike is being staged when the country is on the cusp of receiving the US$ 2.9 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid package which will lift the economy from the current depths to which it has fallen. To that extent, the strikers are guilty of an unpatriotic act.

Once the aid arrives it will take the wind off the sails of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which is behind the strike and cause a huge dent in its political fortunes. The Rathu Sahodarayas are known to thrive on the people’s misery for political survival and a positive turnaround in the economy is the last thing they would wish for at this stage. Indeed, things have already started returning to normality and even the Cost of Living has started easing up with the appreciation of the Rupee against the dollar. This, certainly is a significant change given the anguish and hardships the people had to go through not so long ago. Today there are no fuel queues in which people had to stand for three to four days with some even dying out of exhaustion and LP Gas queues too are a thing of the past, not forgetting that those living in apartment homes were the worst affected having to go without cooking gas for months.

People no longer have to languish in darkness for around seven to eight hours with the full restoration of the power supply, giving every opportunity to schoolgoers to attend to their homework without interruption.

The full credit for this turnaround should go to President Ranil Wickremesinghe who took bold decisions, some of which were unpopular, but are now paying dividends. There were critics who were against the Government seeking IMF assistance but as President Wickremesinghe told Parliament there was no other option but turning to the IMF whose final decision on Sri Lanka is due on March 20. The work stoppage is being staged in such a backdrop when the economy is picking up and the people’s woes are gradually being alleviated.

It is time that Public Servants bent on striking took a different view and grasped the larger picture instead of falling prey to the political machinations of the JVP and other Opposition parties. They ought not to let this chance of economic recovery slip out through their selfish actions. It is indeed unfortunate that the strike is being staged at a time that the IMF and other donor agencies are about to loosen their purse strings.

Naturally, we have to abide by their conditions for there is no such thing as a free meal as anyone familiar with the world economic order knows. The new tax regime is one such condition which has no alternative.

The GMOA doctors who have decided to join the strike are the last persons who would feel the pinch as a result of the new tax regime given their massive earnings from private practice. Besides, only a few medical professionals are caught up in the new tax regime such as those in the specialist grades and it is clear that the Government doctors are working to a political agenda going by the nature of the speeches made by some of them. The doctors as educated professionals ought to bear in mind that they owe their status thanks to free education paid for by the taxpayer and by their action they are penalizing the poor patients who by their indirect taxes on consumer goods made this possible.

By striking they are also going against the Hippocratic Oath. Instead of setting an example to the rest, the doctors have descended to the level of common strikers who can be seen regularly opposite the Fort Railway Station and the Lipton Circus shouting themselves hoarse.

Parliamentarian Wajira Abeywardena has proposed acting in terms of the Essential Services Act No 61 of 1979 to confiscate the personal assets of those who strike if they commit an offence. The President has already signed the gazette declaring Transport Services, Ports and Air Transport as Essential Services and those striking could be penalized under the Essential Services Act.

The Government should consider drastic action against those who violate the ES gazette if the ES law is to have any meaning. At present, the ES declaration is flouted with impunity. Recently too all Public Servants, including some employees of the two State Banks, who kept away from work despite the ES gazette being in force, reported to work the next day and continued in their posts with no questions asked. The failure by the authorities to act no doubt had emboldened all would be strikes to flout the ES order at every turn making a mockery of the law. Hence, it is time that the Government came down hard on those who defy the ES gazette.


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