May 7, 2017 12:00 am
Let’s step towards a nations of true reconciliation ….
Christian Workers Fellowship – CWF
131 years will be completed since 1st of May was named as the World Workers Day. Sri Lanka officially began commemorating May Day since 1930. The Christian Workers Fellowship(CWF) has conducted this Mass and the commemoration of the May Day uninterrupted since 1960 and in spite of all public rallies being banned under emergency rule in 1971 and 1990, the CWF went ahead fearlessly to commemorate this event. It is 60 years since the first of May has been declared a holiday and officially named as the labour Day in 1957. The revolution in October 1917 has to be mentioned as the critical turning point of the labour day being celebrated meaningfully all around the world. We celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the revolution in 2017. Lenin who gave leadership to the revolution declared that the self-determination struggle of the oppressed is a part of the struggle for democracy.
The political changes that are taking place in the affluent western world led by America is indicative of the massive economic challengesexperienced by them resulting in the breakdown of civilian life and reaping of the side effects of the new liberal economic models introduced by themseleves. When you consider the emergence of a character like Trump and his election manifesto to make America great again and the policy regarding immigrants reveals this fact. The internal conflicts created in other countries through their own interventions have resulted in the migration of people which has now become a problem to them as evident through the policies declared by Trump on immigration. Despite the attempt to hide the truth through the mandate given by a majority of Americans, the reality of the internal conflicts has resulted in exposing the nakedness of America.
The equilibrium of the power dynamics that was maintained during the existence of the socialist camps have changed and with the breakdown of the socialist camps, America that emerged as the world superpower and the lone police authority is now being challenged and the American people who joined to the promise of Trump to rebuild. The socialist countries at that time of Russia and China has now emerged as world superpowers. The point of emphasis is the adoption of different avenues by Russia and China instead of the new liberal economic policies that was forced down upon the third world countries. The influence onthe Irish people to separate from the United Kingdom and the separation from the European Union based on the need to rebuild as an independent nation amidst these challenges and the emergence of political figures similar to Trump in France and Italy could be understood as the effects of the economic struggles faced in each of these countries. This is the reality despite the efforts to suppress the truth by trying to cite different reasons.
The gap between the have and have nots keep increasing and the statistics of those that do not even receive the minimum basic requirements and fall below the daily income level US $ 1.9 accepted as the poverty line is heartbreaking.
We strongly believe that solutions for these is only possible through an economic policy built on each person’s skill and the needs of all, instead of an economic policy that results in an unfair division of resources and the unlimited accumulation of resources amongst a few. We believe that a social system which is a Spiritual kingdom, a Godly kingdom, a socialist society where mammon is no longer the ruler is the solution required and until such a society is built, we will continue to shoulder the struggles to fight for the rights and privileges that are essentially required in the present social system. Even in a capitalistic system, we will advocate for cause of receiving essentially what is required. And for this cause we will collaborate with political movements, trade unions and all civil society organizations that advocate for these issues.
We will oppose all initiatives aimed at taking away the privileges presently established. We will not allow the victories obtained through the struggles of the progressive people to be taken away. We will not allow the privileges of free education, free health and the privileges enjoyed by the common man including the labour class to be taken away. We strongly condemn the policies to free education and health through the intervention of the state. We recognise the imminent danger of these privileges being taken away by the government that is faced with an economic struggle and will not hesitate to oppose such moves.
The Christian Worker’s Fellowship that is rooted in the above wishes to draw attention of the working community during the World Labour day to some areas that the country is currently facing and must prioritize.We confirm that these will not be limited to statements but will be merged in the struggles of the working community and all progressive communities.
National issue – Reconciliation process
This time our focus is on the national issue and reconciliation. Since this is the main political matter that needs to be resolved without any delay. Truly this is not only a political matter. It is a spiritual matter of human kindness, letting go and sharing. We do not want any community to go through the difficult unpleasant experiences of the past ever again. Without leaving the task of searching for solution to the next generation, we must provide and come up with solutions. We are committed to the best of our ability to provide solutions that would enable future generations to easily resolve conflicts that they experience. If we restrict ourselves to share based on our own narrow minded thinking, we will be responsible for the loss of reconciliation as a nation. As much as we blame those who did not provide solution in the past and those who blocked, the future generations will exponentially blame us. We do what we must do carefully.
Resettling those who are still displaced
Immediately releasing of lands belonging to the people in the North and East and creating a suitable environment for normal living.
Creating an acceptable mechanism to find ‘missing persons’.
Compensate the victims immediately
Immediately remove all military camps built on individual lands of the people
We agree that we cannot live as an isolated country based on the world affairs. Not only Sri Lanka but no other country can survive in isolation in this capitalistic process. Several stakeholders had stated that the proposed agreements to be signed with various countries by the government will pose severe challenges to the working community which has resulted in great fear regarding this dangerous situation. We cannot consider it as an unreasonable fear even though the government has stated that the fear is uncalled for considering the numerous actions taken by the rulers in adopting various policies by blindfolding the people. The speed in which the agreements are to be signed and the reluctance by the government to engage in an open discussion regarding the content has contributed to the increasing suspicion among the people.In the light of the ‘Right to Information Act’ that has been approved, we remind the authorities regarding the rights of the people to know the content of these agreements.
The rising youth restlessness shows the non-fulfillment of the election pledge to create new industries by building a secure country through an export oriented economy and creating one million jobs to eradicate unemployment. Irrespective of creating new employment, the promise to introduce contract worker, temporary workers and those employed under man -power agencies have not been fulfilled, which is shown in the rising number of protests by the people in various places.
The fast which commenced as a result of the Telecom workers not receiving a fair solution to their issue was a resultant of an election promise of providing a fair solution to the telecom workers. It is regrettable that the authorities have neither paid attention to the issues and demands of the ‘striking workers’ and the concept of ‘might is right’ has prevailed. This is like a bull attacking a man fallen from a tree.
We note that it is the duty of the state to provide employment to every unemployed citizen ensuring that the workers are eligible to benefit from all the rights and privileges presently in place.
We oppose systems that violate labour laws and function as contract systems or manpower systems or systems that recruit workers and exploit their labour violating worker rights.
We know that the majority of workers in foreign employment which is the second main income source for the country are housemaids. It has been reported that the majority are working in tragic circumstances and a large group is either lost(untraceable) or in prison. Also, mysterious deaths are also being reported. The Christian Workers Fellowship focuses its attention to this situation and suggests that local employment or self-employment should be planned instead of foreign employment for poverty stricken women. Minimally we suggest that the foreign employment should be planned for skilled levels under secure working conditions.
It is nearly 02 centuries since the colonial rulers introduced plantations to the country. Even the Indian worker community that was brought as labour forcehave an equivalent history and a majority of them still live in line- housing that was used at the initial stages.
Even though they have been able to secure certain ownerships through various struggles we cannot be satisfied with their present living condition. When you consider basic land, housing, education, health, we emphasize that these people live far below the standards of people in other parts of the country in comparison.
They should not be allowed to live in this manner any longer. We emphasize that they have been forced into an oppressedsituation, because they are still not recognized and respected as citizens of this country.
In 1930this community that was in second position of the total population are genuine workers. Even though they did not have anything other than their labour for survival, in the 1947 first free election they secured 7 seats in parliament from a total of 101 members in parliament and obtained a powerful position. Weemphasize that political maneuvering aimed at politically weakening them is still at work. Even though different governments have given various promises their salary has only increased from SLR 450 to SLR 500. Recently even though it was proposed to increase it to SLR 750 they were unable to receive the increase due to various harmful clauses in the agreements entered between the trade unions and the owning companies.
Similarly, the outgrow system that is to be introduced will push the plantation community to the semi -feudal system. Therefore, on Worker’s Day, we express our strongest objection to this system. Also, instead of the seven perches of land proposed to build a house, we suggest land ownership to develop a free and self-sufficient economy. Unemployment is rapidly increasing amongst the youth and most of them are engaged in work as labourers outside the Plantations in hotels and business enterprises and not entitled to any accepted worker privileges.
We request that new industries be established around the abandoned tea estates to provide some kind of solution to this problem. The environmental pollution in the mountain range that function as a water source for many Lankan rivers and lakes are extremely high. Even the areas separated as special perseverations by the colonialists and maintained as natural plantations are being destroyed by the plantation management companies. At a time when the President heads the Environment Ministry, we demand that action be taken to stop this exercise of destruction to the environment.
Due to the extreme dry weather conditions and the recent floods farmers all over the island are being affected. When you consider the protests held across the island by the farmers in this regard, we find that apart from the relevant institutions being unable to provide adequate and timely assistance to those affected by the disaster, there appears anemerging voice calling for more efficiently organisation considering their majority statusin the country. The main points raised at these protests were;
Reasonable price for paddy
Systematic process for fertilizer subsidy
Despite the ability to provide rice for the required consumption, the importing of rice due to the monopoly of the rice mill owners was unfair.
Despite the rapid price increase in rice, the use of a large quantity of paddy for liquor production
The apathetic intervention and response to the rapidly expanding kidney disease in the farming areas and the absence of a sustainable scientific influence.
Land shortages and water shortages
The absence of a pension scheme or systematic insurance scheme for farmers.
A system to free farmers affected by disasters from their bank loans.
Since no government to date has created a structured plan, the fishing sector that can be powerfully used for the economy of the country is now facing a grave danger. There is a strong objection by the fishing community for going ahead with the Port City Project even more than before without providing a definitive answer to the fishing sector issues related to the said project.
It can be clearly seen that the Indian fishing problem is a major obstacle to the fishing community in the North and East in their efforts to rebuild their community life having abandoned their fishing activity completely due to the war that lasted several years. The fishing resource theft that takes place using multi day fishing boats beyond the normal catch from fishing boats should not be allowed. It is not only the Indian multiday boats but also local businessman that back it up. Whilst we acknowledge that new technology should be used to develop the fishing industry, we stress the fact that the authorities should pay attention to protecting the average fishing community. We urge the authorities to be involved in an advanced diplomatic process to resolve the Indian fishing issue for a speedy solution.
We call upon the authorities to increase the current subsidy provided and to design a system that will uplift the lives of the fisher community involved in fishing and to arrest that tragic situation of the fisherman from becoming fisher laborers and creating a system to develop the environment for them to honourablycontinue in their traditional livelihood.
We should be embarrassed of the continuing situation of women being treated differently in most sectors. Even though we engage in similar professions in similar sectors there is a wage difference between men and women in most places. Similarly, women have restricted space socially evident in most sectors. The percentage of women entering higher studies have increased and in the teaching profession and legal profession there is a remarkable progress. However, women need not live in assecond-class citizens.
Especially in the political sphere, we are at the bottom level regarding women participation in comparison to other countries in Asia. Amongst 190 countries, we are positioned at 180. Recently at an inter parliamentary conference data combining 190 countries was published. According to this data India is in 148th position (11.8%). Nepal in position 48 (20.6%), Afghanistan at 54 (27.7%) , Pakistan and Bangladesh in 89 and 91 positions respectively (26.6% and 20.3%). However, when it comes to literacy we are well ahead. Much action is needed to address this variance.The recently gazettedpublication with legal provisions for women representation is welcome and encouraging. Given the present political culture, we need to identify the challenges with necessary mediation for women to engage in the political arena. Similarly, we reiterate that much greater commitment is required for a genuine representation from the oppressed class.
Law and Order and Judiciary
We resolve on this May Day to broad-base our active intervention to the social activism driving for Independence of the judiciary and governance based on law. British judge Martin Kettle writing to the guardian newspaper stated, ‘We need leaders who can clearly understand governance based on law’. Dearth of such leaders is an issue that we face in our country. The independence of the judiciary free from the political powers is more difficult than what is visible on the surface since it is a system spanning several years. Firmly establishing the independence of the judiciary is a responsibility of stakeholders of both the political powers and the judiciary. Building the trust of the people on the independence of the judiciary and impartiality is a great divide.
While political prisoners are imprisoned for over twenty-thirty years without charges being framed, there appears discrepancy in certain verdicts given to those with connections to politics and this erodes the confidence of the people in respect to the independence of the judiciary; which no doubt is surprising. We feel that the Judicial Commission needs to be granted more power. We once again appeal for release of the political prisoners in custody within the confines of the Law. We also urge for immediately repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Christian Workers Fellowship Workers Mass
We needto remember that the Christian Workers Fellowship Mass is not a religious tradition that allows us to escape the struggle in our midst. Our intention is to resolve the struggle appropriately. We need to take the struggle of the workers to the very end facing the all forces with strategy and strategic planning. This is challenging.
Today we break bread at the Christian Workers Fellowship Mass and the bread cannot be shared without being broken. There is no sharing without breaking. The extent we break will determine the hold the Lord has on us. The Lord breaks us in order for us to gift and share our lives with others. Individualism will break when we share. Jesus the worker has given us the example of breaking and sharing his life. Jesus who was the worker then and now according to scriptures sits as the judge questioning us as to how much we are prepared to break – How much will we share, for I was hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and in prison -did you commit yourself for me? What we must remember here is that even though the poor have an inheritance to the kingdom, poverty is against the Will of God. The method of the world bank and the non-governmental organizations is to provide relief from a distance and not by living a life according to our needs. It is not a real breaking and sharing. Similarly when building a spiritual kingdom, kingdom of God and a socialist society an alliance with those living according to their needs and the poor needs to be established. The responsibility of this alliance is to build a society that reigns in love and justice and those with means to get rid of greed and accept living according to ones needs, whilst redeeming the poor from poverty. We cannot embrace living according to the needs without serving the poor and we cannot be content to serve the poor without living according to our needs.
If we are to step towards a true nation of reconciliation let us start as individuals and as communities to break and share our economic, social and ethnic ties.
Christian Workers Fellowship
39, Bristol Street
Jesustodaysl 10 සතිය 2017 මැයි 07.