26 October, 2020

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Northern PC Elections, The May 21 Token Strike And More

By Kusal Perera

Kusal Perara

It is certainly historic to have a broad trade union front in Colombo, meeting with the TNA leaders to appeal for the support of the Tamil voter in making their May 21st Token Strike a success. More so, when that trade union front includes the two major affiliates from the UNP and the JVP apart from other major trade unions like the FTZ&GSEU, LJEWU, UPTO and the FUTA playing lead roles. It is also historic and politically a new shift, when the TNA leadership made no bones about their opinion about especially the JVP and the UNP led trade unions in noting that the Tamil people especially in the North were in the dark without electricity for many years while the trade unions were not even bothered about their plight and that electricity for the Northerner is a luxury. But, the TNA pledged their support to this campaign and the token strike on 21 May with no conditions laid, for removal of tariff hike in electricity as a common man’s issue.

Meanwhile there is also much speculation in local media as to who would run as the CM for the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) Elections on the government side, the Rajapaksa regime says it would hold in early September this year. Accepting this announcement for NPC elections as one that would not be defaulted upon after the CHOGM gets all set after mid year, this is an attempt to draw attention to some issues the opposition parties should start working on, from this day.

The customary, alienated scavenging for election law violations and weeping over them during and after elections, will not be any answer for the NPC elections. Media briefings and heavy report writing had never been answers in curbing pre and post election violence and violation of laws during elections, even in the past. Change of social status in relation to ruling party politics does not necessarily start from the day of nominations for elections. That would certainly not be the case in the North and not how this regime would work in the North. Therefore, the government and the Elections Commissioner have to be held wholly responsible in maintaining a status quo on everything that is “North” and from now on.

Any change in land alienation, settlement and resettlement of persons what ever their numbers are, subtle changes of the voters registry if a tab is not kept from now on, are all values that would change the equation in any election. So would the role of State officials who would be called upon to perform the way, ruling party politicians in the province would want them to. Thus the political necessity to keep all State intrusions and interferences in the North under observation.

The electoral registry, the demography, military presence, police and their transfers, role of State officials right down to Grama Seva Niladharies (GSN), allocations for numerous State and semi State funded projects, details of land ownership, micro and small enterprises owned or managed by the security forces and by different ethnicities and anything else that could or would be thought of as factors that may infringe on a fair election, if not a free and fair election needs to have very close monitoring. All of these factors can and would impact on the Northern society if the Rajapaksa regime is allowed to tamper with them, from now on. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the opposition political parties to help maintain an environment that could give the people a fair and a reasonable opportunity in deciding the outcome of the election. That is one aspect of democracy and life begins there, at least for the Northern society.

  1. The call for international election monitors by the TNA is thus a necessary call, but not one that should stop where all election monitoring had stopped in the past. This call for election monitoring should be for a South Asian Election Monitoring Team, the Rajapaksa regime will not be able to label as “imperialist manipulations or as Western interference”. It should consist of men and women from human rights and democratic fora in South Asia. A recognised, reputed team of men and women from People’s SAARC forum, to start monitoring all State and political activities in the North, from now on.
  1. Election monitoring per se is no complete answer, but only an important imperative in the election for NPC. Politically, the more important factor is the alliance the Opposition could present to the Tamil people of North to vote for at the elections. It is here the role of Wickramasinghe‘s UNP count, in how they propose to position themselves in the North. It is positive and good, the UNP and Wickramasinghe has taken up issues of land grab and disappearances in the North, lately. That also has an agenda of creating a political base for the UNP. It is their political right to be there and work there. But it is also the responsibility of the UNP to ensure they don’t play too far in breaking up the anti Rajapaksa vote at the elections to the NPC. Therefore the best the UNP can offer the Tamil people in the North at this point of time, is to help boost the voter strength of the TNA. There is no space for now in the North for two separate slates against the Rajapaksa campaign. It has to be accepted, the best slate is that put forward by the TNA with the UNP providing its political support. If the UNP can assure the Tamil voter in the North from now on, they would go with the TNA at the NPC elections, that would be a winning move, to have a clear majority for the TNA governed NPC.

This would also help bridge the North-South gap, a necessary political requisite. For now the broadest alliance is being facilitated within the trade union movement although the May Day saw a scattered trade union and political party presence. The Rajapaksa regime has played catalyst in creating a broad trade union front that for the first time in recent history includes the JVP and UNP trade unions in alliance with other independent trade unions. The recent price hike on electricity tariff, despite the presidential compassion, has left the urban workers and the middle class uncompromisingly hurt and annoyed. The grand trade union alliance that was in the making forged themselves strong against the electricity tariff hike even before the May Day. They have now declared a “Token Strike” on 21 May against the electricity tariff hike and have politically gained the support of the UNP, the JVP and even the TNA.

This is a new political direction that once again paves opportunities for a participatory factory floor-ground level alliance against the Rajapaksa regime on issues that cut across ethnic and religious identities. One that has garnered support for and pledges for participation at the May 21st Token Strike from independent and respected trade unions like Bala Tampoe‘s CMU (Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union) and the LSSP affiliate, the CFL, leaving a very sectarian Vikramabahu and his starved and lean collection of trade unions standing as “blacklegs” against the workers’ strike action and supporting this Rajapaksa regime by default as “Left” scabs in the TU movement.

That blacklegging by Vikramabahu has not been able to have any decisive impact on the working class campaign taking an anti Rajapaksa projection. The May 21st Token Strike if successful would therefore have a politically invigorating social psyche that would also provide another boost against the Rajapaksa regime at the NPC elections. Thus the Token Strike on 21st May and the impact it would have on a common political platform that comes as a decisive factor in the next few months. It is this political change the UNP would have to capitalise on with an alternate programme, if Wickramasinghe is, as he says, out to topple the regime in another year.

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Latest comments

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    Mark my word: This coming-up (May 21st) strike will also be flop like all those much publicised but failed Springs. People are in no mood to follow strikes led by ass politician.
    Leela

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      Were you there when strikes took place in May 1977 and the downfall of Mrs. B’s Govt. began? So could it be not history will repeat?

      • 0
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        If the strike is about the electricity hike, it will be a failure. The first 90 units per month cost less about Rs 12 per unit, one of the lowest in asia or Europe. (90 units per month is 1080 units per year. The average usage in srilanka is about 8 billion units per year divided by the population of 20 million. That gives us about 400 units per years. So people get cheap electricity for up to three times the national user average.

        This is a strike without a convincing reason.

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      “Word”? But you have said many words no… Which one should we mark? Ass? Flop? Aiyo leela tell aney :D

    • 0
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      Leela:
      That so? What are you and your masters going to offer the workers, a few candles free of charge to eat the free buth packets you b..s give them to go with the “shots” they are provided for Dutch courage?

    • 0
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      May be Leela was not born at that time. Or else a chooty girl doing “choo’ inside the Jungie. Pity on her.

    • 0
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      Leela (aka Leelaratne ex Govt.Servant)

      You are frightened that this time it would be a stepping-stone to
      the much envisaged Spring and therefore make this prediction?

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    I do not think you can connect the elections and the strike. What is significant is the growing unity of the opposition against the tyrannical regime as well as the involvement of the TNA in national political activity. The economic problems are mounting and public disenchantment with the policies of the regime increasing.

    The backing down of the regime in the face of intense local and international pressusre in the Azad Sally affair has brought into question the behaviour of the defence secretary who is actively supporting the extremist BBS. The misuse of the PTA by the defence secretary has also been highlighted. Other undemocratic acts such as the confiscation of civilian properties by the military in the North are also subject to intense local and international scrutiny.

    • 0
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      In the USA, even a the uttering of a few words against the regime by a Muslim is enough to bring the FBI and the CIA to your door. So, if a muslim politician is politically unwise enough to talk to a foreign news source about armed struggles, while also foul-mouthing the president and his family, what happened could have been much worse if he had been an American muslim doing the equivalent thing.

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      No Problems when I come back.You will do as I say or I bring big axe from France.I am ready to come back.Rajapakse lie I live in Tamil Nadu Narzareth.

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    The article has taken quite a down to earth view.

    If distress alone can cause a revolution, then the world should be in a state of perpetual revolution wrote Trotsky.

    Fundamental to a revolution was organization was his view. For the months preceding the revolution, he gives an account of how as the days advanced, the frequency of strikes increased and so did the no. of strikers. Closer home we saw it in 1977.

    Now we see the beginning. But the organizers have to bargain for the adroitness of the regime and the power of the state to forestall the token or to break the subsequent ones.

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      Leon Trotsky couldn’t even save his own skin. Forget him and follow
      someone else if you don’t want to be a looser.

      • 0
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        and yet his legacy lives on… shows you how much of the subtle things in this world you dont understand, mr. “putin”

  • 0
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    Isn’t Ranil already in Sambandan’s front pocket?.

    Why don’t you demand “South Asian profile” Ms Pillay as the Chief Election monitor?.

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      He is not talking about Pillay, because he is not as stupid as you, I guess, from what he has written and even in previous articles.
      AS

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    KAS:
    FYI: Ms. Pillai is not South Asian but South African. Kusal did not talk of African monitors, but only of Asian monitors.

    Factual: What you have quoted in not not factual. What the President said is not change for up to 60 units only. From there on it is raised.
    Your calculation of consumption of electricity is per capita. It includes even new born babies. What the per family of consumption (of a family of five)? Then, according to you, it is 2000 units per year and 166 per month per family. see how much more one has to pay. Don’t try to compare us with the countries in Europe and other countries with good economies. Our per capita income is low and our salaries are low and ordinary people cannot bare high increases. The problem we have now faced is that the CEB is running at a loss because of corruption all over. Why is much hyped Norochcholai not functioning properly. Mr. Premajayantha, when he was the Minister of Power gave an assurance that when Norochccholai is done he will give electricity rates by half. What happened to that promise? It is all corruption, amongst politicians, Ministry officials, Board members and its officials.

  • 0
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    It’s probably the best opposition alliance next to backing General Fonseka for presidency. But the timing and the cause is of irrational. There will not be much enthusiasm created.

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