A Govt Unfit to Govern

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Sri Lanka’s near two-day-old private sector-led petrol bowser operators’ strike was called off yesterday afternoon.

The strike began on Sunday ‘May Day’, otherwise known as ‘Labour Day’, a day set aside internationally to recognise the workers or the proletariat, worldwide.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Petroleum Private Tanker Owners’ Association (SLPPTOA) Chairman Kusum Sandanayake told this newspaper that the strike was called off after reaching a compromise with the Government. SLPPTOA is responsible for transporting Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation plc (LIOC) fuel to fuel sheds functioning countrywide.

The wildcat strike, which took place on Sunday, was a result of CPC primarily not being willing to increase the kilometre cost of bowser transportation fares as demanded by the SLPPTOA and also not considering the increased cost of insurance which SLPPTOA members have to ferret out, he said.

“Nonetheless we reached a compromise with the authorities yesterday, though our expectations fell short by between
Rs 25-30 per km from what we asked for,” said Sandananayake.

He further said that their fuel cost or price is formula driven, revolving round diesel prices. “What the authorities need to do is to stick to the formula and so adjust our prices, which they however didn’t do,” SLPPTOA Chairman said.

 “The Government previously said that they could do without the SLPPTOA by transporting fuel by train and by CPC bowsers, we don’t want to argue with fools,” said Sandanayake.  “Though the Government’s price hike, to end the strike, falls short of our expectations, we didn’t want to continue with our strike action, cognisant of the fact about the hardships the masses are already undergoing,” he said. The SLPPTOA is an apolitical organisation, said Sandanayake.

Nonetheless, the SLPPTOA’s Sunday wildcat strike caught a nonchalant SLPP Government, who cares less about the suffering masses, flatfooted, as it was the masses who suffered, not the SLPP Government.

Prior to the SLPPTOA’s Sunday’s wildcat strike,  the masses previously suffered from the lack of fuel ‘at the pump’, ie kerosene, diesel and petrol, due to the SLPP Government’s lack of US dollars to import such essentials, despite record high price increases of fuel at the pump, another first in independent Sri Lanka’s 74-year-old  history to date.

Consequently, prior to Sunday’s wildcat strike, at least in the past five months, beginning from last December (2021), at the latest and up to at least a few days ago, the masses suffered from a lack of fuel encompassing kerosene, diesel and petrol, resulting in several queue deaths, by having to wait long hours in such fuel queues exposed to the elements, sometimes as much as nine hours a day and yet having to return empty handed in several such instances.

The SLPP Government doesn’t hold itself accountable for such fuel queue deaths or for fuel shortages. It’s in this backdrop that the SLPPTOA launched its wildcat strike on ‘Labour Day Sunday’.

 A nonchalant SLPP Government, deaf and dumb to the masses’ sufferings, saw the public undergoing another round of suffering,  this time, however, not due to the SLPP Government’s lack of dollars to import such essentials, but due to their lack of intelligence, literally and metaphorically.

Was not the Petroleum Ministry or the country’s intelligence services attached to the security forces and the Police unaware of such developments?

 The Petroleum Ministry functions under Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, whose Ministry Secretary is K.D.R. Olga, the security forces function under the Defence Ministry whose Minister is President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ministry Secretary General G.D.H. Kamal Gunaratne (retired) and the Police under Public Security Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, its Secretary Major General (rtd.) Jagath Alwis and IGP, C.D. Wickramaratne.

The SLPP Government is good at arresting suspects allegedly having had planted a grenade at a church in Colombo, where, subsequently, all such suspects were released on bail on a Court order, but not good enough to sniff out and preempt a key strike impacting fuel supply and distribution, though lasting under two days, but yet, causing additional burdens to the already downtrodden masses.

An inefficient Government, insensitive to the cries of the suffering masses, is unfit to govern.