By Malinda Seneviratne –
Thirty two years is a long time to wait for justice. Too long for some. So long that some decided to take matters to their own hands: they killed themselves. It’s been thirty two years and four months, and still, after all these years, there are those who continue to petition for redress or for some kind of relief so bring closure to a union action whose architects didn’t suffer much and indeed moved to greener pastures of one kind or another.
The strikers who lost their jobs have spent decades petitioning. The parties that persuaded them to take to the streets had already lost political clout by then and had to cling to the SLFP’s coattails for relevancy. The leaders, at least. They were included courtesy a bland mix of compassion and tokenism, just to secure a red/left hue to the blue. They could do nothing. Relevancy of appeal got some currency during major elections, simply because championing causes is part and parcel of politics.
Promises were made. And forgotten. The strikers grew old. Some died. Time took fight out of heart. But some persisted.
The problem is that even the youngest of the strikers (let’s say they were 20 then), would be over 50 now. The vast majority of those who have survived three decades of disappointment would be over retirement age. Those who are 64 cannot be in ‘lesser need’ than those who are 65.
We are not a society or a polity that is blind to wrongs done or to the distress of our fellow creatures. Those who suffered from natural disasters benefit from a largesse that is an integral part of our cultural make up. The state intervenes. Individuals and organizations do their part. Victims of human-made disasters do not go uncared for either. The state intervenes. Individuals and organizations do their part. We saw this and see this in post-war Sri Lanka. Even prisoners get their sentences reduced.
Rs. 5000 is not enough, but it is better than nothing. Yes. The better-than-nothing should not be dished out as generosity but as part compensation. And that compensating cannot be selectively done.