Colombo was at a standstill, stuck on the road twice last week thanks to a protest and a strike. Strikes and protests have been very frequent during the past several months and have been testing the patience of thousands of people who were left helpless due to traffic congestion. First it was the protest against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).
Then it was the Locomotive Operating Engineers Union who launched a strike on Thursday (12), bringing all train commuters to the road. The rains did not make the situation any better either. The SAITM issue seems to be a never ending one.
The Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) has been protesting for months against the institute, but to no avail. These protests have not only cause inconvenience to the public, but have also affected the academic activities in the State universities. Many Sri Lankan students who had completed their medical degrees abroad are unable to sit for the local ERPM examinations as a result of delays due to the protest.
In addition, the education of the students who engage in protests is also affected to a great extent. The failure of the government to provide an immediate, effective solution could be pointed out as a reason for the students and other unions to continuously engage in protests over the SAITM. However, the fact of the matter is that continuous protests would turn the public against the protestors if their day to day activities are affected.
The public so far have a balanced view over several issues of the country and have been sympathetic towards the protestors. But, the protestors should be mindful that in their quest to compel the government to act on the issue, they could also turn the public against them.
The railway strike on Thursday drove everyone to the streets. Thousands who depend on the trains were left helpless as buses piled up more passengers than they could due to the strike. Protesting is a fundamental right. But, there seem to be one issue or another cropping up each day, triggering protests which in turn affect the routines of thousands of people who also work hard, and have issues of their own.
Published in the Nation on October 14, 2017