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Country’s biggest bugbear


“Most opposition parties, meanwhile, decry the move as a wasteful and unnecessary exercise. They overlook the disruption that had occurred in these councils as a result of the change in the balance of power in them. They also fail to appreciate the democratic choice given to the people to indicate their choice of policies. They forget their repeated challenge to test the wishes of the people by holding elections. They now cling on to the argument that it is a general election that the country needs.” (Image: Champika Liyanaarachchi )
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-Daily Mirror Editorial

(July 07, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) This country’s biggest bugbear undoubtedly is division and partisanship. Division and diversity of opinion is, no doubt, inevitable and even welcome in countries and societies where democracy prevails. Such diversity arises from views and opinions formed after proper study and evaluation of issues. But what our country is afflicted with is acute division arising from prejudice and selfishness. All problems and issues are viewed from political party prejudices. Most persons, groups and organizations are unable to view common problems affecting them devoid of such considerations.


The manner in which the proposed general strike is viewed by various parties is among the latest manifestations of this weakness. The extreme difficulty of living with their meagre salaries that the wage-earners experience is a common problem. It is commonly felt by all classes of public and private employees irrespective of their political or other affiliations. And all these employees expect some relief to face their difficulties and demand a salary increase. President Mahinda Rajapaksa invites unions for a discussion on the matter and offers a nominal increase.

Most unions among them being those affiliated to the ruling parties go away satisfied. The unions affiliated to opposition parties refrain from attending this meeting and choose to pursue their press for a substantial salary hike.

Now, while some unions are determined to go ahead with the scheduled strike on Thursday, the ruling party-backed parties are opposing it. Leading among unions for the strike are opposition party backed ones while others claim to be independent.

The ruling-party unions repeat the government arguments against the strike and assert that although the salary increase offered is palpably insufficient, they have obtained an undertaking for a further increase in a few more months. So they see that there is no need for a strike, while the JVP-affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) has submitted four conditions to call off the strike.

The government is urged to accede to these conditions if it is unable to grant the main demand of a 5000-rupee increase. Thus the difference in approaches obviously is partisanship.

It is the interplay of the same partisanship that one observes in several other issues confronting the country. Take the issue of the present elections for Sabaragamuwa and North Central provincial councils. The persons, organizations and parties backing the government see the exercise as a prudent move to give the people the democratic right to make a choice of the policies followed by the government vis-a-vis those of the opposition parties and also to get these councils to function properly. They overlook the expenditure involved and the mayhem that could result from conflicts and clashes among parties thus going back on their own argument that all disruptive activities should be avoided to enable the government to complete the war against terrorism.

Most opposition parties, meanwhile, decry the move as a wasteful and unnecessary exercise. They overlook the disruption that had occurred in these councils as a result of the change in the balance of power in them. They also fail to appreciate the democratic choice given to the people to indicate their choice of policies. They forget their repeated challenge to test the wishes of the people by holding elections. They now cling on to the argument that it is a general election that the country needs.

It is the same division of opinion that one observes in regard to the serious question of the ongoing military campaign against terrorism. The groups and parties that support the government see the achievements of the security forces as very significant and have supreme confidence that the campaign will be carried until total elimination of terrorism. They have no doubts about the veracity of the information they get particularly from the state media. Neither do they have any considerations about the costs in terms of money, lives and destruction involved in the execution of the war. The opposition parties, on the other hand, ignore the senseless prolongation of terrorism by the LTTE and the indirect support their attitude offers to terrorists.

Similar polarization of attitudes could also be observed on the question of the present harassment of media personnel. This indeed is the result of intense politicization that the country has suffered for long. The most urgent national need, therefore, is to find a way through which the damage to the country caused by such divisive attitudes could be minimsed.

( About Editor: Champika Liyanaarachchi is the Editor of the Colombo based English daily – the Daily Mirror. She is the first woman to edit a national daily in any language in Sri Lanka, and also the youngest ever editor. She is also the Sri Lanka representative for the international media rights organization - Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres). She is a recipient of the Woman of Achievement in Media award presented by the Sri Lanka chapter of the Chicago based international organization working towards advancement of professional women Zonta International. Champika specializes is defence, constitutional affairs, human rights, and minority rights.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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