patriotism and concern for workers

On every occasion whether politicians are addressing a school prize giving or a religious function we hear most of them waxing eloquently about the Darusman report. The May Day rallies of certain government affiliated political parties gave wide prominence to the falsity of the report and even had effigies of the UN Secretary General and in certain instances burnt the effigies. One does not think that anyone in the country ever considers the  report to be factual but considering the hype generated by the politicians who appear to have nothing to say about the economic reality affecting the marginalized, one wonders whether the Darusman report is being used as a red herring to divert the focus of the people from the every escalating cost of living and the deprivations they suffer. In fact even trade union action that is contemplated by certain sections is deemed to be unpatriotic since a united front is advocated by all political exponents who make emotional speeches against the report! The collection of signatures against the much publicized pensions act too will be the label of being unpatriotic.

One however tends to wonder how the ministers view their obtaining various perks and privileges and even salaries given as against the actual economic realities that exist. According to Minister Dinesh Gunewardene answering a question in Parliament the total amount paid to Ministers and deputies for two months from May 01 to July 01 last year amounted to Rs 78.2 mn. In addition to the salaries the ministers and deputy ministers are entitled to allowances for transport, housing, communication, offices, newspapers and entertainment. Given such emoluments provided to the ministers and deputies it is no wonder that they are often unaware or unconcerned what happens to the voters who trusted their promises and gave them the vote. After all chances are that for another five years they will not need to seek votes and anyway if after that they do lose at the elections they will continue to get a pension for the rest of the lives and the pension will be commensurate with the incomes they now get. One wonders whether they would have to contribute for such a pension!

The workers’ rights really do not over bother politicians for the present form of globiliazation we have and our close dependence on the World Bank and the IMF loans prevent even those politicians who may be even slightly concerned about the existing situation to refrain from making any remarks. Due to our dependency on such loans the present government is totally committed to further liberalize trade, remove trade barriers, promote privatization and reduce regulations. Even though it may not be public knowledge in return for loans we will be forced to adopt severe structural adjustments. As a result of this compliance to IMF and World Bank requirements we can already see that  there is inadequate spending on public services such as health and education.

In fact most hospitals don’t have even the very basic facilities to serve the poor and marginalized. Most hospitals request patients to purchase drugs that are not available in the hospitals. In fact recently it was commented that a person who suffered a severe heart attack and was advised to get an angiogram done at the hospital had gone thrice to the hospital and each time he had been turned back once because the staff was not available, the next time the machine was not functional and the third time so many of the people who had been unable to get it done earlier had arrived and as such it had been impossible for him to be given the test. The poor guy may pass away before he ever gets the test done! Education is also in a similar plight and the number of school drop outs is increasing yearly.

Given such a climate how on earth can any trade union agitate for their dues , Regulations are passed and imposed  and every few appear to know what regulations will supersede their inherent rights as workers to seek their just dues. Pay levels are low except for those who are in specialized professionals and apprentices or euphemistically called sales executives find that their allowances at training are so low that without sales commissions they are unable to get a sustainable income.

Given the prevailing dissatisfaction and helplessness of the poor and marginalized the best instrument available  to use is to whip up patriotic fervour in the hope that like the utopia promised at elections the people will forget their travails but what has been said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.”

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