Posted on February 15th, 2019

Gamini Gunawardane

This may be a rare occasion that a government backed down form their stance on a Public Servant who stood upto it. Firstly we need to admire this lone woman who stood her ground steadfastly for what she believed was right. Thus she is role model for other Public Servants, particularly to the young.

This may be the first occasion where a trade union stood up and fought gallantly for its boss. That is a rare gesture. They usually fight against the boss to save their own interests or colleagues. In this event they backed her even when she had sacked so many of their errant colleagues.

Of course the Customs Officers Union represented a closed profession. They had sufficient clout to bring down a corrupt government to its knees, because their action caused a huge financial loss to the government on a daily basis. Their cause was backed by the Pettah imposters who put up shutters as they were running out of business. Besides, if the government did not relent, we would have gone into a food shortage.

Another aspect was the strategy adopted by the Customs Union was one of ‘work to rule’, instead of going in for a Strike action. That prevented the government from unleashing any violent reaction. The Union action was disciplined instead of becoming belligerent. Other Trade Unions were waiting on the fringe, if it became necessary. All that clicked well.

All this goes to show that if the Public Servants stand firm against the misdeeds of a government, a government cannot do as they please with both Public servants as well as Public Policy. If only the Bribery commission could do likewise.  Thus what is necessary is senior Public Servants is not to cringe before politicians but to be knowledgeable themselves and to stand up for what is right. If most of them adopt that stand as in the days gone by, this decay could still be restored instead of merely blaming th politicians, while continuing the game of survival.

Customs head had most of the time been held by upright men. We could recall men like D.B.I.P.S. Siriwardane and G. Kumaratunge who held themselves out against difficult and brilliant Finance Minster like Félix Dias Bandranayake. Even later men like P. Weerasekera, Lalith Heengama and Laksman Perera and the like held that position with integrity. So there is precedent. Sarojini Charles adds to this distinguished tradition.

It is also significant to mention here that there were so many campaigners who came forward to fight for anti-corruption who claim have brought down the corrupt Rajapaksa government – those NGOs, good governance people, FUTAs  and what not. But none of these campaigners raised a hum when the Director General of customs was removed by their new government, for corrupt reasons. In fact some of those individuals were found to have been milking funds from Lito Gas and the National Lotteries Board. That may have been the limits of their integrity when faced with oprtunity. So what can we say of the average traffic cop who confronts this oportunity on a daily basis?

Another disconcerting factor was lack of response to this situation from professional organizations like SLAS  union, OPA and GMOA and so many other such alert groups. One wonders what their social responsibility is?

Thus it falls on the shoulders of the Public servants of this country who are the products of Free education and Free health service and who are also enlightened stake holders of this country, as an obligation to stand for non-corruption, whatever others may do.




  1. Christie Says:

    There is only one lesson to be learned form Customs strike?

    That is the power of the Pettah Merchants (almost all Indian Colonial Parasites).

    They called a Hartal and the government and all other politicians backed down.

    Guess why?

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