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 Post subject: President talk tough
 Post Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2005 1:38 am 
President talk tough

By Uditha Jayasinghe / 01APR2005

President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday pledged that she would go ahead with plans to restructure the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board despite threats by JVP-backed trade unions to cripple the country with all out strikes if the government went ahead with the controversial moves.

In a hard-hitting speech at a BMICH ceremony to award 2500 appointment letters to nurses under the Government's programme to recruit 15, 000 nurses, the President vowed she would not sacrifice the interests of 20 million people for the selfish interests of 14, 000 CEB employees.

Speaking a few days after government ministers and officials agreed to reconsider the restructuring plans in the face of a major strike threat by JVP trade unions, the President said she believed restructuring was essential for the welfare of the country and that she would not allow a few people to treat National assets as their "Ammage Boodale" or mother's property.

"We cannot run a government like this. Democracy does not mean pleasing everyone. There was a time we thought like that but now all I am concerned with is a 51% majority. The remaining 49% can do whatever they like. I do not care. We tried to explain to the strikers that the CEB is carrying a debt of more than 10 billion rupees and if it is restructured we could reduce the price of electricity and also pay back the loans," the President said urging public servants not to be misled by self-serving ploys of the Unions. She pledged the government would retain ownership of the restructured state institutions.

Turning to another controversial issue, the President alleged that the Eppawala Phosphate deposits were being "dug out in spoonfuls by a bunch of robbers helped by another set of crooks forming the "phosphate corporation". She said every Government that tried to make full use of the deposits had been "frightened away by hunger strikes staged by a few fools but that would not be allowed this time. Ms. Kumaratunga pledging to protect and foster workers' rights urged them to come directly to her government to settle their grievances instead of going through trade unions.

Hitting out at the recent spate of strikes in the health sector, the President said it was a life or death area and no one in this sector had the right to strike.

Referring to the earthquake and the threat of another tsunami last Monday night, the President said it underlined the urgency for the government's plan to set up a 100 - metre buffer zone despite opposition by several parties.

Admitting that the Government had failed to control the escalating cost of living the President claimed it was due to the escalation of fuel prices in the world market.

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