Unrest looming large
The king is found to be without clothes, once again. All Kevattayas, including Siyambalapitiya and Cabraal, were spinning fairy tales about the state of the economy, non conditional gifts that would come from the IMF and money bags given by Christmas papas from the west and east. But the truth is out. All we have to do is to look at the IMF website to see Rajano shivering in the cold without even a loin cloth, the traditional dress of the Lions - the descendants of Sinhabahu. We were told by some pundits of the Cabinet that in these days of post modernism, the IMF/ WB thinking has changed and there is a lot of flexibility about the so-called conditions. They said there are no dictates but we are given a choice. Of course we are given a choice; we can choose to suffer under poisoning or suffocation, or starvation! Obviously the poor beggar chose to lie down in starvation. So the gentlemen of the international money lenders office will say “this is your choice not ours.” In the Letter of Intent, it is clear that the Mahinda regime has agreed to put the tax burden on the masses and to continue social welfare but with some cost recovery programme. Even the armed forces will be used for development purposes creating a new sub class of militarized proletarians. Wages will be under control while the rehabilitation and construction programme will enforce new habitats for the displaced Tamils kept encircled by barbed wire. Somebody will make money as theTamils are unable to supervise this development programme of enforcing habitats in the Tamil homeland. The inflationary pressure will affect the living standards of the people in the south as well. The promised reorganization of the Petroleum Cooperation and the Ceylon Electricity Board will deprive the energy subsidy to state services and to the poor masses. All balancing acts in foreign exchange will indirectly lower the value of the rupee.
Unplug mass unrest
Thus the social scenario is set for us by the IMF. If Mahinda follows the Letter of Intent to the letter we can expect a period of serious unrest. Strikes, riots and even hartals could be expected. This is the wisdom of many economic pundits who are quite unrelated to the class struggle.The masses expected Mahinda’s friend in need, Wimal to unplug Lanka from the rapacious IMF/ WB network. Instead we see the IMF preparing to unplug mass unrest in Lanka! The last few years the working masses supported the war mongering policy of the government due to the influence of the opportunist Left, LSSP, CP and Vasu group. The latter really consolidated chauvinist power over the working masses. However, in spite of threats of the military and para military backed government, workers came out on 10th of July 2008. It was a reasonably successful protest where Tamil plantation workers came out in a big way disregarding appeals of Minister Thondaman. In addition, there were many struggles limited to various sectors where managers had to retreat. Now, even those who were loyal to the oppressive war of the government are coming out demanding concessions and higher wages. Electricity Board worker are united on the wages issue and all trade unions may come together according to Priyantha Wickremesinghe, leader of the middle level technical workers in the CEB. The leader of the United Federation of Labour, Saranapala Silva says there is a serious breakdown in negotiations at Unilevers, as the management has surreptitiously changed the collective agreement. In many other places negotiations have dragged on, but now the workers are not prepared to mark time. The Maharagama cancer hospital nurses were demanding training and risk allowances for a long period. Last week under the leadership of the Independent Nurses Union, militant action has been taken to challenging the government decision to victimize 54 nurses. Workers who tightened their belts during the war period are now coming into the battle front from all sectors. So we can expect a wave of strike actions as the effect of the IMF conditions are felt by the workers.
Mahinda was close to many trade union centres before he became the war hero of the Lion race! He knows about workers movements and he could be sensitive to what is in store for the coming period. Will he turn to 13 plus or in the alternative towards chauvinist military repression in the south?
Dr. Vickramabahu Karunarathna
Lakbimanes Column : August 9th, 2009
Unrest looming large