May Day – its global origin and misuse of its dignity in Sri Lanka
Posted on April 30th, 2016

A.A.M.Nizam – MATARA

(A former Vice President of the SLFP Central Committee of Matara electorate)

In the 1880s in the United States and in Germany working conditions often were dismal and dangerous, and wages were low and the workers had to work for long hours. On May 4th 1886, a protest rally demanding 8 hours work near Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned into a riot due to Police obstructions and at nine people died and several others were injured as a result of Police shooting turning the Haymarket Square into a pool of blood.

The first international May Day held in 1890 was a spectacular success, and in about two dozen European cities demonstrations and rallies were held in Cuba, Peru and Chile. Commemoration of May Day became an annual event in many countries from the following year.

In Sri Lanka when the Left parties and Trade Unions demanded the 1952 UNP government to declare May Day (May 1st) as a National Holiday the then Minister of Finance J.R.Jayawardene vehemently rejected this demand and said that it is an alien concept and we do not need to celebrate alien Holidays.  Declaring May Day as a Holiday was one of the first acts carried out by the populist government of the late Prime Minister Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike in 1956. Since then the working population of Sri Lanka, the Trade Unions and Political parties have been holding May Day processions and May Day rallies and it had been held in some years under much repression.

This year too 3 major May Day rallies have been organized in the country in addition to some other rallies being organized by fringe political parties. The main opposition (the joint opposition), trade unions and other opposition groups opposed to the government will be held at the Lalith Athulathmudali grounds at Kirillopane, the United National Party at Campbell Park in Colombo and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s pro-government groups (the Darley Road SLFP) at the Butterfly Gardens in Galle.  The three groups are making extensive arrangements to draw much crowd to their rallies.

UNP May Day Rally

In the first place the United National Party having condemned May Day as an alien concept has no moral to celebrate May Day.  During the 1977 – 1994 UNP government period the UNP held May Day as musical shows by bringing down Singers, Musicians and other performance artistes from India and there was no workers’ issues raised or solutions to problems of working masses provided at these mega shows. In 1987 J.R.Jayawardene government banned the May Day and imposed curfew following a bomb blast initiated by the JVP near the Pettah Bo-Tree.  However about 2,000 participants defied the ban and held a May Day procession. About 300 Police personnel were called in to tear gas and shoot at the demonstrators which killed 2 persons and MEP leader Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene and Ven. Muruttettuwe Ananda Thera had narrow escapes.

This year it is reported that the UNP will have more than 500 musical and dance troupes in their May Day procession.  This has been stated by none other than the General Secretary of their party Minister Kabir Hashim.  This is going to be a completely State sponsored event and at a meeting held by westernophile Prime Minister with several Heads of Government Institutions under the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Housing it has been agreed rather ordered for these Heads of Institutions to provide meals and refreshments to the participants of the UNP May Day rally at Campbell Park.

Many employees of government institutions have been compelled to attend the Campbell Park May Day rally and in certain institutions various incentives such as distributions of motor cycles, making casual employees permanent are reported to be taking place.  Youth selected for Korean employments have been instructed to attend the Campbell Park.rally if they are to go for the Korean employments.  Meanwhile, the SLTB under the government lapdog Nimal Siripala de Silva has made arrangements to provide three thousands and five hundred SLTB buses from various parts of the country to arrive at Campbell Park, and Galle.  The notorious demolisher of public properties Minister John Amaratunge has revealed that President Eunuch Sirisena is extensively involved in providing all facilities and helping to organize the Campbell Park rally.

It is also reported that CEYPETCO filling stations have been instructed to provide diesel free of charge for buses that transport people for the government rallies and the Southern expressway has been declared toll free for buses tomorrow. It has been found that a government institution under the Ministry of Education was making busts of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several prominent politicians of the Joint Opposition to use them in the Campbell Park procession and rally to ridicule them.

Government patronized Galle Rally

Shocked by the massive and historical turnout for the March 17th Hyde Park rally and being extensively worried about the growing popularity of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Eunuch President Sirisena and SLFP lapdogs consisting those who joined the government to gain personal benefits defying the mandate of the people and those who entered parliament illegally through the National List, under the blessings and full support of the United Nationalist Party have organized a May Day rally to be held at the Butterfly Garden in Galle presuming that it could dent the growing popularity of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa..  Their biggest dilemma seems to be preventing hooting and jeering by the crowd at prominent participants in the rally since it has become a new trend in the SLFP gatherings. Therefore, the persons who organize bringing of crowds to this meeting have been strongly advised to ensure that they will not bring any potential trouble makers along with them.

Meanwhile, many incentives have been given to those who organize participants for this rally.  These incentive packages for organizers include Rs. 200,000 cash bonanza, a free bus ride to have a Holiday in Kataragama on the previous day with free meals, beverages and lodgings.  It is reported that UNPers in the Galle District have been urged to attend the Galle rally and the UNP Minister from Galle Vajira Abeywardene has also made this request to Galle UNPers. Arrangements have also been made to operate a special free train service from Polonnaruwa to Galle and back.

The Eunuch Sirisena gang has also threatened many SLFPers against attending the Kirilopane rally and the State Media (Rupavahini, ITN and TNL gave much publicity daily to the Galle meeting highlighting with speeches by SLFP lapdogs and other boot-lickers supporting the government.  The general secretary of the Darley Road SLFP Mr. Duminda Dissanayake has taken a tough approach threatening disciplinary action against members of the SLFP including Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa if they do not attend the Galle rally.  Already Hiriyala SLFP organizer the former Minister Salinda Dissanayake and the Bentata-Elpitiya SLFP Organizer and Parliamentarian Mrs. Geetha Kumarasinghe have been removed from their electoral posts and eleven new organizers who got very low preferential votes have been appointed. Mrs. Geetha Kumarasinghe commenting on her dismissal has said that this government has a people phobia (A jana beethikawa). Another 30 electoral  organizers are to be removed after 3rd May.

There are also reports that some TNA stalwarts from the North and East will attend the Galle rally to show their gratitude for and solidarity with Eunuch Sirisena for his leniency and soft attitude towards Tamil issues.

It is also being threatened that the present Provincial Council Chief Ministers and PC Ministers will be replaced on May 5th if they do not make significant contribution for the Gall Meetibg.

Joint Opposition Rally at Kirilopane
This rally is going to be the May Day rally to be held with the true spirit of the May Day under the theme of May Day Rally that would fuel life to the people’s struggle. (Jana satanata pana powana May Dina ralliya).

The government is making all obstacles and restrictions to sabotage the Kirulapone rally.  A court order has been issued banning the use of Shalika grounds to start the procession although it was booked by making necessary payments several weeks ago.  More than 90% of the Provincial Council members other than NCP, Chairmen and members of Municipal Councils, Urban Councils, Town Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas have made arrangements to attend this people’s gathering along with their supporters and they have pledged that they would go to Kirillopane using whatever transport they can find such as trucks, lorries, 3 wheelers, and motor cycles since Private bus owners have been threatened with cancellation of their route permits if they provide buses to the Joint Opposition Rally.  In addition to this they are also to be rewarded with bus fare increases from June onwards.

The very phrase of Joint Opposition has become a headache to the government and the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media Niumal Bopage has issued a directive and warning to Heads of Mass Media Institutions and Journalists ordering not to use the phrase Joint Opposition since there is a legal opposition under the leadership of Sambandan, despite the term Joint Opposition has been accepted by the Inter Parliamentary Union and the Speaker of Parliament.  Nimal Bopage’s this directive has been strongly condemned by the Leaders of Joint Opposition political parties, political organizations trade unions and religious leader saying that this man must be having  a mental disorder and he should immediately be removed from his post and sent to a sanitarium to check the soundness of his mental status.

Despite enormous obstruction by the United National Party and by Eunuch Sirisena and the lapdogs of the Sirisena supporters of the Darley Road SLFP the historical Kirillopane rally is going to be held in the full spirit of May Day with demands among other things for the removal VAT and NBT from essential goods and food items, VAT and NBT on telecommunication, hospital and educational services, reinstate fertilizer subsidy for paddy, vegetable, tea and rubber cultivators, pay an adequate price for paddy and streamline paddy purchases, immediately recommence the stalled mega projects which have made several thousand people to become unemployed, refrain from implementing drastic economic conditions imposed by the IMF including floating of the Rupee against the Dollar, stop all moves to privatize State Institutions including the national carrier, Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Harbour, cease harassment of the former President, his family members and the true SLFP supporters and progressive politicians, take legal action against Ministers and Parliamentarians who have indulged in crimes, malpractices and frauds, stop arresting intelligence unit personnel on the behest of the terrorist elements, stop release of hardcore terrorists under custody,  take strong and urgent measures against the revival of terrorism, cease signing the ETCA agreement which would open the door for Indians to enter our job market and deny job opportunities for our professionals and technicians, reduce  the cost of living competitive with the drastically falling prices of global commodity prices as given below:

  • Price of a barrel of crude oil which was US$ 96 in 2014 and it is only US$ 40 at present.
  • Price of a ton of wheat which was US$ 230 in 2014 is only US$ 165 at present.
  • Price of a ton of milk powder which was more than US$ 5000 in 2014 is only US$ 2000 at present.
  • Price of a ton of sugar which was US$ 414 in 2014 and it is only US$ 334 at present.
  • Price of a ton of urea fertilizer which was US$ 325 in 2014 is only US$ 200 at present.
  • Price of a ton of steel which was US$ 300 in 2014 is only US$ 90 at present.

The government is enjoying the benefits of above price reductions without passing the benefits to the suffering people of this country.

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