The animal kingdom is known to have some wily parasites which control the minds of their hosts and turn the latter into zombies. The National Geographic magazine featured some of these ‘mindsuckers’ in 2014; hairworms turn crickets suicidal and wasps make spiders spin their last web and transform ladybirds into suicidal surrogate mothers. Some parasites get into avian faeces to complete their life cycle by infecting snails and causing them to climb to treetops and get devoured by birds.
Animals are, however, not alone in this predicament. Some humans also allow parasites to manipulate them from within to act in self-destructive ways to the benefit of the latter. The plight of the working class in this country is a case in point. Political parasites mainly of three colours—green, blue and red—have turned workers into zombies to achieve their objectives.
Today is May Day. Sri Lankan workers have suffered a crippling blow at the hands of the present government, which, having caused a massive loss of Rs. 10 billon to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) through a mega bond racket, is contemplating a massive tax on workers’ savings in their superannuation fund. If such things had happened in any other country workers would have taken to the streets. But, here, the self-emasculated trade unions have chosen to take it lying down.
Worse, the trade union arms (or tails?) of the UNP and the SLFP will take part in the May Day processions of the two parties today, singing hosannas for the government leaders. They seem to have mistaken trade unionism to prostitution to their political masters. The Joint Opposition (JO) leaders also have a history of having workers assaulted and even shot dead to crush trade union struggles and making a despicable attempt to convert the EPF and ETF into a pension fund so as to avoid making lump-sum payments to workers upon retirement and dip into workers’ savings; they also abused the EPF for pump and dump operations in the Colombo Stock Exchange. But, workers and their trade union leaders will shamelessly march in the JO procession today.
It is a pity that workers have chosen to lick the boots of UNP and SLFP leaders. The SLFP and its leftist allies have unconscionably used workers as pawns. In the 1980s, they, in an abortive bid to unsettle the seemingly monolithic JRJ government, called a general strike, which caused about one hundred thousand public sector workers to lose their jobs. Today, the UNP and the SLFP are savouring power together and workers are unashamedly grovelling at the feet of the leaders of these two parties.
Our Rathu Sahodarayas, who were honeymooning with the JRJ government on the sly, pulled out of the 1980 strike at the eleventh hour, betraying the workers. A few years later they gunned down rival trade unionists who refused to toe their line during their abortive second uprising. Having prepared the ground for the current UNP-SLFP political marriage, the Rathu Sahodarayas are today shedding crocodile tears for the workers and being mildly critical of the government over the proposed tax on the EPF. They staged street protests against the Rajapaksa government’s attempt to introduce a private sector pension scheme as part of its plan to convert the EPF and the ETF into a pension fund. But, today, they are only shouting slogans without resorting to action. What has made the self-proclaimed revolutionaries act with restraint? This is the question workers ought to ask the JVP leaders.
Workers have been left without anyone to fight for their rights with might and main because the trade union movement––or what passes for it––is manipulated by the mind-sucking political parasites. Unfortunately, workers haven’t realised this simple truth. The time has come for them to break free from the clutches of wily politicians if they are to win their demands. Let that be their May Day resolution.