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    Public duty never to be jeopardized by self-interest

    October 21, 2019

    Today a few people can cause immense sadness, create confusion and disorder in many people’s lives.Some trade union leaders not only of the transport sectors but also among school principals, teachers, doctors and medical specialists have turned out to be of a very low social consciousness. Medical Officers for example are surfacing problems of political strategies in view of elections. They are propagandizing consciousness of their over-blown problems as if they had the only solution which the authorities are ignoring.

    The recent railway strike has highly inconvenienced and harassed hundreds of thousands of innocent men and women workers in the government and private sector. Those who went home usually between seven and eight in the evening were forced to go home between ten p.m. and midnight, bringing heartburn to their family members.

    What do these strikers do to other people who go about their normal daily routine? First of all, they upset their regular routine. People find it difficult to find alternative transport to get home in time. They get late. They cannot attend to what they have planned to do. They become extra tired. People at home become worried and anxious. Till their loved ones are home, they are restless. And all get up earlier than usual in the morning, to make sure that one gets to the workplace, if not in time, at least a half-hour late. They lose rest.

    Education system remains defective


    Commuters were inconvenienced due to the recent railway strike. Picture by Sulochana Gamage
    The intelligence, social education and awareness of the trade union leaders are at such an abysmally low level that they are not able to foresee the enormous strain and trouble they cause the general public. Their self-interest has displaced the consciousness of their public duties. If they were to be at receiving end of similar treatment due to the stoppage of work of other people, they would vent their wrath and curse even in obscene language. Among the other helpless are many voiceless and sick patients who had made appointments to see specialists and consultants and they could not do so due to the strike.

    With all the educational facilities and learning that the country boasts about, many of the trade union leaders have not become more civilized or more human and sensitive to the basic feelings of other people.

    There are a number of categories of work and professions that are of central importance to the daily life of the people. In fact, most of the services to the public, from humble workers to judges who hear cases of law are of such importance that none of them can be neglected.

    Otherwise, people would not be employed in them. Of course, fair adjustment of wages need to be done from time to time and mutual understanding between employers, employees and TU leaders are necessary. Any disruption of any of their services becomes a great inconvenience. Just think of the street sweepers and drain cleaners. Think of the workers who look after the cleanliness of the hospital environments. When they stop work for two days, not only the stench spreads, the whole operations of the hospitals are obstructed and the physicians and surgeons and nurses are helpless. Ultimately, again the poor patients face further suffering.

    Fancifully overblown patriotism

    All these should be avoided. Civilized ways should be found to solve problems that could prevent strike action and disrupt society. It is not right for a minority of workers to try to put forward one’s own views and secure what may be one’s rights by recklessly trampling on the human dignity and rights of a large majority of people, including helpless women and children and put them into great inconvenience. Study hours of thousands of schoolchildren were irreversibly wasted. The principals, teachers and their trade union leaders struck work and upset the whole school system. The principals, teachers and their trade union leaders were selfishly more sensitive to their own short-term needs than to the life-long needs of the children to whom they should be examples.

    Today there are so many services essential for life. They cannot be obstructed. The persons providing those services should always be in service, for which of course they are paid.

    It is the government’s duty to so legislate that those services essential to the community of people are always available. Setting right the right order of society is the duty of those who seek and get elected to do so. Unfortunately, once elected they prioritize the wrong rank and order of what needs to be done and spend unnecessary funds on them. They fancifully overblow their own and their parents’ patriotism at public expense and built museums to them!

    Authors of the EPF

    Around 1954 the greater promoter of Social Justice Fr. Peter Pillai, O.M.I., prompted H.E.P. de Mel the UNP MP for Talawakelle and brought about legislation to initiate the Employees Provident Fund. It was unanimously passed. Dr. N.M. Perera was so elated that he told Mr. De Mel, “You should have been one of us.” But the Government fell and it fell to Bandaranaike to approve the bills and make it law.

    Today the EPF has become a unique fund of workers and has a fund of over a trillion and self-interested politicians are eyeing it as to how to tap it for their selfish gain. The SLFP seems to have not only hijacked the EPF as if it is their own creation, they do not want to remember either Fr. Peter Pillai or H.E.P. de Mel, two patriotic Christians. The UNP is no better in its memory.

    Even after seventy years of free education, civic consciousness and social cohesion have not grown. People have got accustomed to get almost everything free without any social obligation on their part. It is a great draw back that the teaching profession has not supplied over the years. It is time that the Principals, teachers and trade union leaders thought of it.

    Losses caused by one person

    Just one person neglecting his duty could cause immense damage to the country. The watchman sailor did not observe the iceberg that the Titanic hit and the whole ship went down. The meteorologist was not at his post when the tsunami came; and the damage was incalculable. When the President hatched an anti-constitutional conspiracy, the damage cost 52 billion rupees. The Easter Sunday attack exposed the neglect of duty at the highest level of authority and again the damage was grievous and immense. And none of the responsible are brought to account; the people suffer heavy losses spread over generations.

    Over sixty years the words of U.S. President ring over our ears: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Rather ask what you can do for your country. Most of our Presidents, Ministers, MPs. Ambassadors and a good many public servants do not seem to have heard of it.

    Otherwise they would not have so shamefully gained millions by defrauding the country. Education cannot instill a civic and social sense that the Principles, teachers and TU leaders do not have.

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