Sri Lankan Tamil leaders back suppression of oil workers’ strike
5 August 2017
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) hailed the Sri Lankan government’s mobilisation of the military to suppress recent strike action by Ceylon Petroleum Cooperation (CPC) workers. TNA leaders R. Sambandan and M.A. Sumanthiran accused the strikers of attempting to bring down the government.
The TNA, which includes the main Tamil bourgeois parties, heads the current parliamentary opposition but supports the pro-US government in Colombo.
Sambandan and Sumanthiran made their anti-democratic comments during a parliamentary debate on July 27 over President Maithripala Sirisena’s proclamation of the petroleum sector as an essential service. The oil workers launched an indefinite strike on July 24 in protest against government plans to privatise the state-owned CPC.
Using its draconian essential services law, the government mobilised the military to take over the main CPC supply centres. After the troops entered CPC premises and drove out the workers, the union leaders met with Sirisena and officially called off the strike (see: “Sri Lankan government deploys army to break oil workers’ strike”).
During the parliamentary debate, Sambandan attempted to present the government’s crackdown as “democratic” while denouncing the strike as “anti-democratic.” Echoing Sirisena’s and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s denunciations of the striking workers, Sambandan said the unions had crippled fuel distribution and the essential services order was necessary to guarantee fuel supplies “to the people without any impediment.”
Sambandan claimed the strike was part of a “conspiracy” organised by a group of opposition MPs led by former President Mahinda Rajapakse. He…