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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 114

A revealing episode in the Sri Lankan election: troops......

[b]A revealing episode in the Sri Lankan election: troops deployed against striking workers[/b]

By Saman Gunadasa – World Socialist Web Site

The brutal class reality behind all the false promises being made in the November 17 presidential election was graphically exposed by the line up behind the government’s decision to deploy troops against striking health workers on October 27-28.

The current minority government is headed by the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) whose candidate Mahinda Rajapakse has been promising to raise the salaries of government workers and to improve the health system. But confronted with a two-day strike by health workers for better pay, his health minister Nimal Siripala de Silva invoked his powers under the current state of emergency and despatched thousands of armed military personnel to public hospitals to carry out their work. Around 300 soldiers and police were deployed at the national hospital in the capital of Colombo alone.

Health Minister de Silva tried to blame the opposition United National Party (UNP), declaring that “this strike has been organised according to the wish of a political party opposing the government.” But the UNP, which is just as hostile to the working class as the SLFP, did not claim responsibility for the strike or come to the defence of the health workers. In fact, UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe had nothing to say at all on the issue.

The silence came as no surprise to health workers who know from their own bitter experience that the UNP is no better than the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In 2003, when the UNP led the ruling coalition, it sent thousands of military personnel into hospitals to break a 13-day island-wide strike by health workers calling for a pay rise and an end to salary anomalies. In this case, the UNP did not even bother with the legal niceties of declaring a state of emergency to justify the blatant use of military in civil affairs.

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