A welcome step | Daily News

A welcome step

The move by the Government to probe the background of candidates applying for Government jobs in the future to ascertain if they had been engaged in anti-Government activities is a sound one given the current spate of protests and disruption caused by sections in the public service to undermine the State sector and heap burdens on the public. In fact, such a step was long overdue. Had this been done earlier, we would not have been witnessing the happenings of today where politically motivated disruptive elements are attempting to bring the Public Service to its knees.

According to a front page news item in our weekly publication the Sunday Observer, the Government will investigate candidates, including graduates, applying for jobs and promotions in all sectors of the Public Service on whether they have been engaging in anti-Government activities. It also says that the Government had taken this decision based on recommendations of retired high officials of the Public Service and intelligence reports which show that even the highest positions in the Public Service are occupied by people with a subversive mentality who support anti-Government activities and are surreptitiously disrupting Government affairs. Under the new proposal the Government has also focused on making Police reports mandatory for those applying for jobs in the Government Service, Public Corporations and banks and for promotions.

While the scheme is a sound one leading to greatly controlling sabotage and work disruption in the State Sector, as is happening at present, the plan is bound to come unstuck in the case of political appointments. In a majority of instances it is the politically motivated trade unions whose leaders owe their positions to Government Ministers who lead protests and work stoppages when the party in power is of a different political party to theirs. We have seen this happen time and again and if the vicious cycle is to stop, job appointments to the State sector should be strictly on merit. If it is a case of a politically influenced appointment even the Police report will be of no avail and the riff-raff will creep in and engage in sabotage.

While there may be genuine grievances on the part of trade unions resorting to strikes, in a majority of instances those engaged in work disruption are idle hands and time servers who do the bidding of their political masters to embarrass the Government in power. Hence such elements too should be identified and action taken before the proposed scheme of investigating the background of candidates for Government jobs is implemented.

The new move is justified on many grounds. While the right to protest cannot be denied, engaging in sabotage cannot be condoned, particularly in the case of graduates whose education, after all, had been funded by the Government (the State incurs around Rs. 500,000 to turn out a single graduate). Therefore it is unthinkable for graduates recruited to the Government Service to turn against the very Government which funded their education. This is exactly what is happening today. Doctors, engineers, university academics etc. who received their education thanks to the munificence of the State are turning against the very State. How the GMOA doctors feel about what they are doing is anybody’s guess. It is thanks to the State that they are today minting money from private medical practice. Surely, they owe a duty to the State to give something in return. What the GMOA doctors are asked to part with in terms of the new tax regime no doubt amounts to a drop in the bucket for them given their unaccounted earnings. Ditto for the CEB engineers who are in the top earning bracket as are the university academics whose private earnings through consultations and other avenues are anybody’s guess. They too deserve to be probed to ascertain their past records while in the universities as are the future recruits.

It is time that the Government took a firm stand with regard to protests and strikes. It is clearly obvious that the work stoppage was timed to target the IMF decision on its USD 2.9 billion aid package to be made on the 20th of this month. Like UNP MP Vajira Abeywardena proposed, the Essential Services Act No 61 of 1979 should be invoked to deal with the strikers by seizing their movable and immovable assets. If not there is no knowing for how much longer and how frequently strikes may occur crippling Public Services and causing hardship to the people. Needless to say, the Government owes it to the public to ensure the smooth running of all essential services. The new step to prevent rogue elements entering the public service, while commendable, is not the immediate answer in dealing with the present wave of strikes. More tangible action is called for. Late President J. R. Jayewardene never gave into unreasonable trade union demands. He did not compromise vis-a-vis the wage demand of the July ’80 strikers. Some 4,000 workers lost their jobs but JRJ did not relent. Had he not been decisive there would not have been any Free Trade Zones in this country. His uncompromising stand sent the right message to foreign investors who usually fear setting up business in countries where there is industrial unrest. It is such decisive action that is called for if we are to halt this vicious cycle from continuing.



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