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Unionists are doing politics under the guise of seeking solutions: Johnston Fernando

a year ago

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  • Johnston claims electricity trade unions holding public hostage for political demands
Referring to the recent threats of union action by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Trade Union Alliance, Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando stated it is unfair for trade unionists to take people hostage and deprive them of electricity for two days as a means to win their political demands. The joint union had warned it would resort to union action, including protests, unless the agreement to sell 40% of the Government’s shares in the Yugadanavi power plant in Kerawalapitiya to US-based New Fortress Energy Ltd. is put on hold. Responding to journalists’ queries during an inspection tour to observe the finalising of the work on the New Kelani Bridge, which is to be concluded and launched this month, the Minister charged that the trade unionists have mixed some of their professional grievances with the political agendas of the parties they belong to. “People should understand that these unionists are actually doing politics in the guise of winning solutions for the problems in their professions. We can recall how they opposed the Eastern Terminal Development Project of the Colombo Port a few months back. The end result was that Sri Lanka had to give away the Western Terminal, which is larger and could have been more profitable. Trade unions have a national responsibility. Whenever there is a threat to national interests, they should give priority to them over their political agendas,” the Minister said. “Now they have threatened to discontinue services in the power and energy sector and keep the country two days in the dark over the Kerawalapitiya power plant project, which could help people obtain electricity for a lesser price. There cannot be corruption if people can get electricity cheaper. If the unionists stand for more expensive alternatives, then there are questions. They try to deprive people of their chance to get electricity cheaper than now.” Commenting on minor parties in the governing alliance holding separate meetings and press conferences on various issues showing differences of opinion, the Minister said: “We are an alliance and there are minor parties that have been given independence to hold separate meetings. We saw that they have been holding such meetings during the recent past. It is their right. That is not a problem for us as a government. All our allied parties meet every two months to discuss as a single entity.” Responding to a question by a journalist that farmers countrywide were staging protests demanding fertiliser and lamenting that they cannot start their cultivations for the next season, the Minister said that in his district, more than 95% of farmers have begun cultivation. “I know that situation is the same in several other districts too. Farmers have started their work for the next season. We should find the actual reason for not starting cultivation in certain districts. The media should reveal the names of those who fund the protesters. We have been given an assurance that the fertiliser problem will be solved in a couple of days. In addition, we have assured the farmers that we would compensate for their losses if any. What else is the reason for protests? There are a few businessmen who channel funds to political party activists to get people for protests. The fund-givers’ objective is political instability. The media should expose them,” he said.   

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