Of that timely saffron offer
Posted on September 30th, 2012

Editorial The Island – Courtesy The Island 

The government has adopted the proverbial carrot and stick approach in trying to deal with the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) on strike. Minister S. B. Dissanayake has offered to pay the striking dons their salaries for the last three months if they report for work on Monday or Tuesday. The FUTA, which completed a long protest march on Friday, has rejected the minister’s offer out of hand contemptuously.

While the government and the FUTA are playing some game of chicken with the university crisis worsening, the Maha Nayake Theras have expressed their willingness to step in to settle the dispute. The prelates’ concern is to be appreciated and their offer commended. But, it is only wishful thinking that they will be able to make the warring parties soften their positions so easily.

True, political leaders make it a point to go running to the Maha Nayake Theras every so often but it is doubtful whether they heed the latter’s advice. When the UNP’s leadership tussle came to a head last year with the party’s ginger group going all out to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe at an internal election, the prelates went so far as to issue a joint statement endorsing Karu Jayasuriya’s leadership bid. But, Wickremesinghe was re-elected leader! Some of the Maha Nayake Theras failed to remain independent and impartial at the last presidential election, but they could not sway the electorate into doing as they said. Their involvement in such mundane political affairs which are best left to lesser mortals has done them no good and considerably impaired their ability to rally a politically divided public for causes they choose to champion, unlike in days of yore.

The Maha Nayake Theras’ mediation offer has come at a time when those who are desperate for political traction or seeking to settle scores with the government are trying to dovetail the FUTA agenda with theirs. Some of them have even called for a regime change, which obviously is not the goal of the strikers. If the people want to get rid of the incumbent government, and the Opposition is capable of dislodging it democratically, so be it! But, it is self-defeating for the university teachers to allow their struggle to be hijacked by some bankrupt politicians bent on turning it into a political struggle to achieve their political objectives. Lessons that history offers need to be learnt.

In 1980, it may be recalled, the political parties currently in power including the SLFP backed the state workers who struck work demanding a pay hike of Rs. 10 a day and turned it into a political battle, unwittingly enabling the then seemingly monolithic UNP government to crush it without public resistance. The JVP, which let down the July strikers by breaking ranks with them at the eleventh hour, and the UNP, which sacked over 50,000 workers in one fell swoop, are today backing the FUTA strike while the July strikers are still demanding justice from an SLFP-led government after three decades! A JVP breakaway group which calls itself the Real JVP responsible for gunning down a vice chancellor, several teachers and undergraduates to suppress dissent in the name of a macabre cause in the late 1980s is staging marches in support of the striking university teachers. What an irony!

Wily political elements looking for straws to clutch at may help the FUTA with the much-needed numbers for its protests but they will surely ruin its chances of mustering popular support for its apolitical cause. They are the ones who threw in their lot with Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the last presidential election and ditched him after his defeat. They employ the so-called karapincha (curry leaves) method””…”””…”they use and discard people! Today, they wouldn’t touch Gen. Fonseka with a barge pole. It is hoped that the FUTA will see through their wiles and prevent the over-politicisation of its trade union struggle.

What is needed urgently is to bring the FUTA and the government together to resume talks and make them negotiate till a solution is found. Only the Maha Nayake theras have, we repeat, realised this need; others are fishing in troubled waters.

2 Responses to “Of that timely saffron offer”

  1. David Appuhami Says:

    It is a well-known fact that ant-Buddhists activists are behind FUTA and FUTA leader Ranjit Devasiri himself is an ex-Roman Catholic Priest. Either Mahanayake has gone nuts or he is in the payroll of catholic church.

    Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri is a so called historian who thinks “Sinhala Society has been built under four Mythologies. Buddha`s visit to Sri Lanka, Advent of Prince Vijaya, advent of (Reverent)Arahath Mahinda Thero and King Dutugemunu`s war to vanquish King Elara. According to his study, Sinhalese accept these four Myths and Tamils accept the homeland theory ,because they would liked like to believe it”(Ref wikipedia). He is an Anti- Mahawamsa revisionists, rewriting history to promote LTTE separatist agenda, labelled any return to the past with the scholarly reverence that it deserved as the “Mahavamsa mentality”. The main aim of the revisionists was to denigrate the Mahavamsa and all the values that came with it.

    That’s why “Some of the Maha Nayake Theras failed to remain independent and impartial at the last presidential election, but they could not sway the electorate into doing as they said. Their involvement in such mundane political affairs which are best left to lesser mortals has done them no good and considerably impaired their ability to rally a politically divided public for causes they choose to champion, unlike in days of yore”.
    So wake up Mahanayake !!!!!!

  2. Mohan Says:

    why call him an EX-Roman Catholic. Why not blame the whole thing on the catholic church as we usually do.

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