Many health professionals have gone on strike in Sri Lanka, though this has been suspended for a fortnight by court order. Other workers too are threatening industrial action if their pay is not raised to match the cost of living.
Over a hundred artistes and intellectuals earlier called for major change to tackle the island’s economic and political problems and crack down on corruption and abuse of power.
Judge Sujatha Alahapperuma (sister of a government minister) issued an order suspending the strike. Supplementary medical staff such as pharmacists and physiotherapists are demanding better salaries and conditions of work.
Other public and private sector trade unions may also strike if their grievances are not addressed.
“Hidden beneath the superficial development being carried out by the government through its various infrastructure projects, which are funded by costly foreign loans, is the reality of the erosion of the economic well being of the people,” stated a Public Appeal By Artistes, Intellectuals and Social Activists.
Veteran filmmaker and teacher of cinema Dharmasena Pathiraja and Professor Kumar David were among the signatories. They warned that “The government is also facing a fiscal crisis” and “inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations are also at the point of breaking up.”
They called for “Equal rights and equal opportunities to all ethnic and religious communities”, “fundamental rights to all citizens”, “no space for corruption, inefficiency, and oppressive, authoritarian rule”, “devolution of power between Centre and periphery” and “sovereignty for the people.”
Amidst widespread popular discontent, the authorities may find it harder than usual to brush away calls for change.
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