22 August, 2019

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What Will Happen To The 6% Of GDP For Education Campaign?

FUTA Ended Strike: What Will Happen To The 6% Of GDP For Education Campaign?

By Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

After one hundred days of continuous strike action during which FUTA was able to generate a tremendous public debate on education, the FUTA Executive Committee having met 11th October, 2012, decided to suspend its strike action as of 12th October, 2012 taking into consideration views expressed by a majority of sister unions.

The government’s response to the 100 day FUTA trade union action has been in the form of a cabinet note, letter issued by the Secretary to the Treasury and a joint statement regarding the agreements reached by the two parties.  While noting the proposed policy initiatives suggested by the government in response to the demands made by FUTA, it is our view that these do not completely address the very serious and critical issues raised by FUTA during its trade union action.

The FUTA is especially disappointed that the government has failed to make a specific commitment with regard to the 6% of GDP for education campaign.  After three months of continuous trade union action, during which FUTA was able to mobilize tremendous support for increasing allocation for education from among members of the public, trade unions, civil society organizations and political parties, the government’s response is limited to what has been stated in the Note to Cabinet presented by Ministers Basil Rajapakse and S.B. Dissanayake on 12th September 2012.  While FUTA notes that the government has accepted in principle to allocate more funding for education in line with international benchmarks in the cabinet note, it is disappointing that the government has failed to specify a road map as to how it plans to increase allocations for education.

While several initiatives have been suggested with regard to respecting university autonomy and academic freedom, whether these suggestions will translate into specific initiatives and bring about a change of attitude among those who have been responsible for the erosion of university autonomy and academic freedom remains to be seen.  FUTA, while welcoming these initiatives, will be closely monitoring how meaningfully they develop in the future.

Further, the government’s response to our demand in regard to the salaries of academics made in order to address the issue of recruiting and retaining qualified staff is currently only in the form of an assurance and is devoid of any specifics or modalities. By letter dated 9th October, 2012, the Secretary to the Treasury has undertaken to address the demand, in consultation with FUTA, within the next five years starting with the 2013 budget.

It appears that the government is unwilling at this juncture to provide specific solutions to the issues we raised, through our arduous campaign of hundred days. In view of that reality, continuing with the trade union action was thought futile by a majority of our sister unions, especially given the immense hardship caused to students. However, the membership remains defiant in its commitment to achieving its demands in the long term.

We will continue to monitor whether the government follows up on the assurances that have been made and we retain the right to take appropriate trade union action if these assurances are not fulfilled.  With regard to the 6% of GDP for Education campaign, the FUTA intends to continue its campaign collaboratively with other like-minded unions and civil society organizations, mindful that the campaign is no longer a mere FUTA campaign but a national campaign which we will continue to lead.

FUTA takes enormous pride in that it was able to sustain the trade union action for so long despite severe hardship faced by its membership through our unwavering commitment to a higher cause. We are equally proud that that we were able to build such a broad platform in support of our campaign.  We stand tall as we were able as a trade union, to go beyond narrow professional interests and campaign on issues of social importance. The experiences of the last 100 days have served as a tremendous factor in reawakening the academic community to be mindful of its social responsibilities.  This reawakening will serve us well in the months ahead of us as we continue to struggle for our demands.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported our campaign in various ways.  We express our appreciation for the role of the all religious dignitaries in attempting to mediate between FUTA and the government, especially when discussions had come to a halt.  Our gratitude is also due to all the retired academics, including former Vice-Chancellors who supported our cause and expressed public support for our campaigns as well as the solidarity shown by academics around the world. We are especially thankful to our fellow trade unions, other civil society organisations and conscientious public representatives who joined our campaign with conviction and determination.  To all the media organisations and media personnel who covered our campaigns, and who provided us the space to tell our side of the story at a time when our access to the media was severely constrained too we express our appreciation.  To our students, who stood by us and supported us at such tremendous cost, we can only say that this fight was for you and for future students.  You continue to inspire us to remain in this profession.  We remember with sadness and deep respect the two students who lost their lives while participating in a protest campaign.

We may have ended our strike, but our campaign to enhance and protect the public funded education system in this country is far from over.

*Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, President/FUTA

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    The FUTA was fighting against a very stubborn administration and a higher education minster with a damagingly intransigent attitude. It was the tremendous public response the FUTA struggle received that the government was compelled to sit and negotiate towards a settlement.
    All struggles will not end with the protesters winning all their demands but the key factor to be considered here is compromise. Whilst struggling to win their demands, the academics also have to consider the students who are suffering without access to their hard earned university education.
    Every right thinking citizen should commend the FUTA actions towards winning their justifiable demands and their compromise considering the situation of the long suffering students.

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      This is a very interesting thghuot: that the rise of standing armies and the military industrial complex in the US after World War Two may have something to do with a shift in the way courts interpret the Second Amendment. I think the shift began much sooner. The Civil War killed militias commanded by the States certainly no Southern State could form militias during Reconstruction.To replace this military establishment, the US has kept a standing army, albeit a small one, in place since the Civil War, at first to enforce Reconstruction, then to fight aboriginal Americans who resisted westward expansion, and later to support capitalists in their struggle with Organized Labor. It seems that the war which actually started the military industrial complex (manifested as railroads in its earliest days) was the Civil War, not World War Two.This did not keep citizens from forming their own private militias (e.g., the KKK, Pinkertons). These private militias served the same purpose Southern States needed their official militias for at the time of the Founding: protection of elites against insurrection against the establishment, usually from brown people but also from organized labor and the poor generally.And this is ultimately what gun nuts want to protect today: their power to arm themselves in militias of their choosing against others who would change society and take from them what they claim as a birthright. The real fear is not government tyranny a ridiculous concept if you believe we live in a Republican Democracy, which they presumably do but the fear that others might use government to protect the rights and political power of people unlike themselves whose views they do not share.After all, the key manifestation of tyranny for these people is redistribution of wealth. Torture, surveillance of private citizens, drug war forfeiture, confinement of citizens without trial on the order of the executive, and shunting of political speech to free speech zones during political campaigns all markers of government tyranny bother them not in the least. In the end they want their guns so they can protect their stuff from poor people. They want guns because they are scared.

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    You says that “With regard to the 6% of GDP for Education campaign, the FUTA intends to continue its campaign collaboratively with other like-minded unions and civil society organizations”
    It is very unlikely that other like minded people and civil society organizations will join the 6% band wagon in the future.Government is scraping the barrel to bridge the budget deficit by increasing the prices of cigarette,liquor,diesel,cement, chicken and lot more before the budget in additions to local and foreign borrowing.Also budgetary allocation have to make for wasteful expenditure under the guise of defense expenditure. Under this circumstance P.B.J is struggling to maintain present 1.89% on education which is a difficult task.Therefore clamoring for 6 % for education from SL Government Budget is like waiting for GODOT.Wage earners,in formal and informal sectors are well aware of the govt financial situation when they go to the market to buy their basic provision. So the 6% is something asking from the sky to fall.Govt. will make promises by issuing not only one letter but hundred letters.FUTA got roped.

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    FUTA talks about autonomy and politicization, which are issues yet to be solved, we have to wait and see if the govt keep its promises,

    But here at Peradeniya, the so called acting deputy vice chancellor (DVC) is going to stay for an official term of three years – on the recommendation of higher education minister- because the candidate helped the minister & govt to mess up FUTA struggle by appearing (acting dvc) on national TV and making damaging comments about the academics and their salaries.

    DVC position is something that the vice chancellor make the appointment based on merits, where focus is on student welfare. The acting DVC has got conflicts with students and staff as his merits, and the political henchman vice chancellor is on the course of appointing him as the DVC of this prestigious (??) university.

    So, has the minister already started going and violating the promises and conditions agreed ?

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      The government and the minister will take every effort to give the impression that they came on top of the negotiations and the FUTA have stepped back from their original demands. We will see these efforts culminating in time to come. Any populist government’s thinking is that they should not bow down to trade union actions, however justifiable they maybe.

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    Dr. Devasiri

    1 FUTA should have asked for a time frame for 6%/GDP. For salary increase they seem to have done and got 5 years commencing from 2013. At least a wee bit could have been accommodated within the 2013 budget. Anyway what is promised too may start after 3 years (within the next five years!) just before the Presidential / Parliamentary election which could attract university dons to sign mass support statements to be published in news papers for President Rajapaksa!

    2. Academic freedom , university autonomy are subjective issues. Again these will be subjected to decisions by stooges like VCs and UGC Chairman deciding what is best. For example some VCs like Colombo, Kelaniya and UGC Chairman showed where they stood on these issues. Do you expect them to support you in your quest for academic freedom,autonomy etc.

    3 Yes Sir, you retain the right to take appropriate TU action if the government does not deliver, but the people will not come after FUTA next time, knowing that FUTA gave up, deceived by empty, hollow promises of a crafty shrewd bureaucrat, i.e. the Sec Finance. He has outshone you academics. What an evasive letter he has issued which you carry as if you are carrying on your head like the relics of Lord Buddha!

    4.Good you thank many others, but please note that the only winner was Min Basil Rajapaksa. He must be elated. The loser will be Min SB Disanayake who will be transferred to another ministry at a reshuffle. The former has shown his astuteness in hoodwinking all these PhDs, MScs and student bodies, trade unions, politicians who you thank, without forgetting people like us who anxiously awaited for 6% / GDP, who did not receive any solace!

    Now I may say Two Cheers to BR and Sec/Fin for saving a grave situation for the students awaiting AL results and those aspiring to be undergraduates. A Cheer to you for getting the salary problem of academics sorted at least vaguely. No cheer at all to SBD who should be sacked from the Cabinet for the mayhem caused. But I cannot say Three Cheers to any one of you, because all of you do not deserve to be cheered or waved at! All lost cases!

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    Good you decided to stop the STRIKE at this point. Students lost valuable time and I can imagine the hardships undergone by the dons. All strikes have to come to an end, some time. I am sure the government did not give anything with respect to 6%, purposely, to stop the public support to FUTA. Already I see critisism of FUTA by people on this issue. People who understand the difference between a “battle” and a “war” could understand what has happend at this juncture. In my view, what Nirmal has said is that this particular “battle” (strike) is over. The “war” is not over. May be the government is more on the winning side of this “battle”. (FUTA has not totally lost) To win public confidence back, FUTA may have to show that the “war” is not over and FUTA is actively in it by leading the cry for 6% in a publically visible manner.

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    Dr. Nirmal, Dr. Anurakumara, Rohan Fernando, who were negotiators of FUTA with the government have shown that they are exremely happy with the outcome of negotiation.
    However, many university academics feel that they are being betrayed because they hurried to end the strike and colourwash the government shamefully.

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    Struggle by FUTA in the entire University system is over. However, struggles at individual Univesrities are yet to commence. Specially at Open University, Peradeniya, Colombo, Kelaniya etc. where dirty politics played a major role in appointing political henchmen as VC’s and DVC,s. Guys at Open University will agitate against the VC. Peradeniya academics who are known to speak out and fight against corruption and malpractices will chase the DVC and the VC too, if he comes to rescue the DVC. The same will happen at other Universities with politically appointed VC’s. All in all I see a deterioration in the system. Many young academics will be frustrated and will leave the country. This is what nincompoops, such as Hose Hennayake from Peradeniya, Open Uni Jayathilake and Vijitha, Mahendra Gunawardhana at Kelaniya, Yapa and Udawatta from Sabaragamuwa, Rajarata guy Nandasena want. None of these guys have a backbone to stand themselves. They have no proper postgraduate qualifications. They don’t deserve to be on academic staff. It’s a disgrace to have them on the staff of Universities.

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      Your version of the problem is different to that of FUTA. Taking your view into account, it would be relatively easy to sort the entire problem out, because all the government has to do is to replace the VC and DVCs. That’s hardly the problem is it? On the other hand, these are publicly funded institutes where the government has to appoint the boss, but unlike in other corporations, here the government generally select a VC from the list of names recommended by the university. The chosen person cannot always satisfy everybody, and is duty bound not to give into strikes and unreasonable demands.Today Savitri Gunasekara demand the abolition of the leadership training programme but she was quite when she was the VC. Some of the name you mentioned there certainly are funny. Udawatte did his PhD locally, can’t expect a lot from him. Won’t have a decent publication record but so is Nirmal Devasiri. What publications does he have? His website claims an authorhip of a book for him but it is his thesis. Most people, almost everybody get their thesis published in Scandinavian countries, so it is not quite a book is it? All the other publications mentioned in his wikipedia page are newspaper articles published locally.

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        Rubert Vanderkoon
        Do you need a GPS to find your way back to the rock from under which you emerged or do you need a swift kick in the you-know-whats to facilitate that re-location?

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          Truth hurts, does it?

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        So according to you, Mr RV, since the FUTA lost and the govt did not increase spending on education, the country will be stuck with mediocre lecturers with local or Scandinavian PhD and no publications and by implication, poor knowledge and teaching skills. How is that a victory for the country?

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          Sams, What victory are you talking about? In a way only winner is FUTA, who had fun for three months with full pay now. But as for their main demands, they are obviously losers. However, the biggest losers are the students who lost three months and the folks who marched behind FUTA protests. But you have got facts and figures muddled up. The country has many good lecturers despite FUTA’s threatening that good lecturers would leave the country if the salaries are not increased. Scandinavian PhDs are quite often top notch and in some cases the world’s best. It was Nirmal’s wrong presentation I was talking about. Of course there are very bad situations in new universities but that issue has not been raised in FUTA protests or anybody else.

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    Entire system needs clean up. The VC position should be held in high esteem by chasing these political henchmen out.

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    Be happy to be back at work. By demanding 6% of the GDP, a number plucked out of thin air with no plan as to how to spend it or to develop education, but making your pocket a bit deeper, you will only attract people with vested interests, hence you are bound to end up heading in the wrong direction. Next time Nirmal, if you are genuine, may be you could consult other stake holders like the teachers, principals, teacher trainee colleges, and other educationits, and put forward a proposal to develop education and research in the country (than just asking a lump of cash with no plan). There you could demand a rational budget, be it 6% or 26%. You will then get more support from those who are genuinely interested in developing education than improving their votebank, and may be we could all do it together.

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      Why are Public figures as Ministers of Education there paid by the public purse, if one is to ask proposals from FUTA next time to submit how a 6% is to be spent on Education? These Donkeys without proposals from FUTA know very well to prune funds, voted for Education, shutting schools and allowing standards in the Universities to decline, seems no concern to them. What Brains we have in this country and these shameless Jackasses come and display without any shame.

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        too much hate in this. Oh Dushta Gamini

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      With regards to higher education, the ways of spending govt. funds is very simple as many projects the academics have suggested had rejected by authorities vehemently. Govt want to spend money as they suggested but with the support of all stakeholders the proposals made by the faculties have rejected.
      With the increasing number of students in 2013, the availble facilities (lecture halls, residential facilities, laboratories, libraries, e-libraries, recreation, canteens, etc) will not be adeqaute. Deans and VC’s would have to face the student struggles. Repairs have not been done properly for lot of buildings in the university and constructions are delayed without funds and proper supervision. Finantial commitees do not approve the faculty proposal without available funds to faculties. Finatial authorities are scared of audit quarries and main strategy is not spendin money and send them back. The space and the furnishing of those places will costly. University of UGC do not think about the increasing teaching facilities for the training institutions like teaching hospitals… Students do not have places to keep their belongings while training, they do not have adequate space & furniture during lunch hours (have to take rotation during the limited period they are given), student transport to far away places for training etc.
      Most of the four year graduates have to complete a research project during their final year. University academics as supervisors of their students spent in very limited capacity for student projects from their research funds or sometimes from their own pockets. Students struggle for minimum expenditure from their stipen. Head of the depts find it’s difficult to cover up the expences of student research projects. At least university authorities should allocate maximum of 10,000.00 SLR for each undergraduate research student to complete their research. Otherwise how the qualty outcome can be expected. For quality education system of the country govt has to spend money. When we were students 20 yrs back the research expenditure was spend by the faculty. But now we go for inexpensive student research as the funding opportunities of govt is minimum. If the university ask for the annual budjet from each dept as practice at present will handover handsome ones. But at the end all faculties have to be satisfied with the granted budjets from the govt. The other important matter is the budjet allocation should be given to universities at least mid of the year as university finacial procedures takes more than five months to get approval for something to pruchase. If any authority check for the delayed purchases during perticular year due to long procedure of finacial regulations and the money which has been returned to treasury there may be a big gap. Administration responsibilities to spend given funds on time should not be put in to FUTA responsibilty. Finantial commitess of university is comprise with VC, DVC, All deans, Bursar and registrar not the all academics……

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        Mendis, More we talk in public, more we expose how weak the academic affairs in univerities is! Some of what you mention are quite often problems even in developed countries. Of course there are difficulties but even 20 years ago, we didn’t spend much on most final year research projects and in contrast, there are very interesting things one could do without much money these days. In a university much better placed than the others, a friend, also a science lecturer told me recently that he only does teaching because they didn’t have ‘ideas’ (not resources) for any new research. Those who did interesting work 20 years ago were not adequately resourced but they did so through sheer dedication and committment.While funding has always increased (may be not as percentages of the GDP but in real terms), the student number has increased only marginally in the 20 years. Anyway, excuses are one thing but what really was FUTA’s plan to spend half of the national income, when they demanded 6% of GDP? When you demand such a collosal amount in our country’s terms, did you have a plan to build ten more universities and to increase the student intake to 120000? So you can see there is room for improvement. Next time,let’s discuss a proposal to develop education in the country in public so that we could agree on an appropriate percentage to demand.

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    In the present circumstances in the country in which there is a Govt drunk with power and arrogance, blindly supported or at least being voted for in elections by the majority of the people misled by the self-claimed ‘heroism’ of winning a war, and a divided and aimless opposition, the FUTA has done well in carrying on the struggle for three months against all odds. Their action could be described as unprecedented event in the history of the country in which an organised ‘civil society group’, that too composed of people who could be called ‘soft-minded’ having launched an agitation seeking the betterment of treatment on an issue that concerns the ‘live wire’ of the country, viz: education. Whilst congratulating the FUTA for this valuable effort it is hoped that they will not give-up this struggle, although the circumstances for the suspension could be appreciated, and give the needed leadership to the ordinary suffering man to defeat the existing corrupt, communal and violet political culture which lives on the sufferings of the people relishing on the fruits of unlimited power thay they enjoy.

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    It was the Rajapakse Bros who refused to give in to FUTA. Toothless unpopular Minister SBD was used as a scapegoat. But when there was a fear the protest might get out of hand and also infect some
    schools nationally, the Rajapakse got the jitters – and capitulated, as some of us predicted. But they made it look like one of the siblings – Basil – came with a wonderful formulae to settle the intractable issue. That is good for the Marines. Fortunately, for the Rajapakses most of the voting public are lotus-eaters.

    Senguttuvan

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    Following is a quotation from the reputed economist Dr.Usvatte-aratchi from his article on Expenditure on education in the Sunday Island of October 13, 2012,

    ‘One last observation to show you that the ratio of government expenditure on education or any other category can be easily and quickly converted into the ratio of government expenditure on that category to GDP. We know that in 2011, the ratio of total government expenditure to GDP was 21 percent, that is the ratio of GDP to total government expenditure is the same as roughly five [5] is to one [1]. We also know the ratio of total government to government expenditure on education 100 is to nine [= 9 percent]. Now divide 9 into 5 and you get 1.8, which is the ratio of government expenditure on education to GDP.”
    The corollary of this is that the allocation of six percent of the GDP by FUTA is equivalent to 30 percent of the total government expenditure.
    Can this be justified?

  • 0
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    Critics of FUTA must note that following discussions with FUTA, the GOSL has made the following cabinet decisions on 29/8/2012.

    1. That the Academia of the Universities be treated as a special category, so that those with excellent academic career can be retained in the Universities and also intelligentsia serving overseas can be induced to return to the country.

    2. Cabinet to appoint a High Powered Committee to monitor the implementation of the proposals agreed between the University academic staff and the authorities concerned.

    3. Since, the intention of the Government is to develop Sri Lanka as a knowledge hub, the proposal made in the Memorandum to set up a Presidential Commission to make recommendations on reforms that should be introduced to the entire education system and on measures that should be adopted to retain the autonomy of Universities, was also endorsed.

    4. It was also agreed that there should be an effective dialogue with the University Academia and acknowledged the need for making University Academia active players of the development strategy of the government.

    These are not matters that can be accomplished overnight and therefore the government has decided to appoint a committee to monitor the implementation of these decisions. See Para 2.

    The question of the amount of resources to be allocated for the development of the education system, which would include the question of salaries, is covered under Para 3.

    Para 4. provides for a dialogue between Academia and the government and recognizes University Academia as active players of the development strategy of the government.

    It is up to FUTA to liaison with the government through the high powered committee that is to be set up and ensure that these decisions are implemented.

  • 0
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    Dewasiri can now rest on his laurels having a very handsome salary. In another three or six months he may organize another strike demanding the 6% GDP for education and along with it a demand for a further increase of salary.

    It may go on until the Professors see through him and oust him from FUTA presidential chair or the Professors greedy for more money may back him again. They really do not care what happens to Sri Lanka, the Universities or the Student, they are more interested in looking after their stomachs.

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    What happen to 6% GDP for Education of FUTE DEMANS under the leadership of DR Divasiri and DR Dhabara Amila( Rev),had been disapper for ever.There was SHORT MARCH Galle to Colombo and Kandy to Colombo orginzed by FUTA and thier political backe-packers.
    Samilar thing happen 1964 Under Dr N.M Perera, Dr Colvin R.De Silva Lesslie Gunawaradana, Of( LSSP)( Member of Fourth Internatioanl of Trostaky), So-called Communist of Peter Kennuman of CPC ( moscow) Dr S.A Wickranasinghe (Modern revisionst)and trade unions Leaders PUT FORWARED 21 DEMANDS on befalf of Working class of Ceylon.
    Under the Laedership of Dr N.M had huge RALLY was held at GALLE FACE GREEN, MASSIVE CROWD jion AT COLOMBO.Before they had long hours of demostration throught the Colombo city.Closed to 500,00 to 700,00 join Public meeting was at Galle Face Green.
    The leader of TRADE UNION JOINT FRONT,esatblished Coliation Government by Dr N.M Perea of LSSP With Mrs Banadarakye (Under the SLFP of SRDB govt SLFP ), all 21 demnad of workers DISSPAER.
    LSSP and CPC(Moscow) being to “SOCIALISM” UNDER THE SRIMOVO R.D BABADARAKE; LSSP leaders GET THREE MINISTERSHIPS TO COMPENSATE FOR 21 WORKS DEMANDS.
    Now reacently FUTA 6% GDP of Education is another Histocial SWINDLE OF MOVEMENT IN SRI LANKA.Having such replicate in our TRADE UNION MOVEMENT AGAIN IN OUR ISLAND , will be setback of rights of workers.
    This is repercussion anarchist type of inconsistent ideology of in Trade Union Movenment and its Leardership.

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