Sri Lanka: A Call for Responsible Unionism — Putting People First

While it is never desirable to see genuine unionists facing trouble, the decision to take action against those who disrupt the smooth functioning of the state enterprises is a welcome step.

2 mins read
Ceypetco Filling Station, Yatawatta, Sri Lanka [Photo: Special Arrangement ]


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The decision to send over 20 trade union activists on compulsory leave has generated a mixed response from the public. While some have applauded the move as a necessary step towards curbing the rampant corruption and political motives that drive many trade unions in Sri Lanka, others have criticized it as an attack on workers’ rights and a threat to the very fabric of democracy. We hope that the current US Ambassador, will not allow her cute tweet bird to cry foul against the ruling government for violating democratic values and workers’ rights, given the close relationship she maintains with them. It seems like a case of turning a blind eye to the faults of one’s allies while condemning even the slightest actions of one’s enemies.

However, it is important to view this decision in the larger context of Sri Lanka’s current political and economic situation. The country is still reeling from the effects of the chronic mismanagement of the national economy by every subsequent government to please their stooges, which has brought about unprecedented challenges to the entire nation. In such a crucial time, it is imperative that state enterprises such as Ceylon Petroleum function smoothly and efficiently to ensure the well-being of the people.

Unfortunately, many trade unions in Sri Lanka have become highly polarized and corrupted, with leaders pursuing their own selfish interests rather than the welfare of the general public. This has led to social disorder and contributed to the country’s current precarious situation. In this light, the decision to send activists on compulsory leave can be seen as a necessary step towards restoring order and ensuring that state enterprises operate in the interest of the people. We hope that the government have a well-formulated contingency plan in case of institutionalized sabotage.

Of course, it is essential to protect workers’ rights and ensure that their interests are safeguarded. However, this should not come at the expense of the greater good. As Thomas Paine argued in his book “Common Sense,” common sense dictates that the power that has sought to subdue us is the most improper to defend us. In this case, the power of corrupt trade unions must be curtailed to ensure the smooth functioning of state enterprises and the well-being of the people.

While it is never desirable to see genuine unionists facing trouble, the decision to take action against those who disrupt the smooth functioning of the state enterprises is a welcome step. The current political leadership in Sri Lanka is navigating the country towards sheltered water after overcoming huge waves and bad turbulence. However, it is essential to recognize that Sri Lanka is still on a rotten bridge, as pointed out by our regular columnist Tisaranee Gunasekara in her column.

It is evident that the primary concern should be the welfare of the people and the overall benefit of the nation, rather than the interests of certain individuals or political parties. Trade unions have a vital role to play in ensuring that the rights of the workers are protected, and their grievances are addressed. However, it is imperative that they also act in the best interests of the nation, and not solely for their own benefit.

The action taken by Minister Kanchana Wijesekara is a step in the right direction towards bringing stability and order to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. As responsible citizens, we must all work together to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient. It is time for the trade unions to rethink their strategies and approach towards national issues. The public will not tolerate longer brutal behaviour where the basic needs of ordinary folks are held hostage. We must all work towards a common goal of creating a prosperous and equitable society, where everyone’s rights and needs are respected and met.

We cannot allow petty political motives to dictate basic necessities of our ordinary folks, and we must all work towards the greater good of the nation. The trade unions must act responsibly and ensure that their actions are aligned with the best interests of the people they represent. We are passing through a crucial time, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger and more united.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email:

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