Most momentous May Day in living memory
Posted on May 6th, 2017

By Rohana R. Wasala

 When sovereign and ministers show perversity of mind, it is impossible even for a Sun Tzu to encounter the foe.-Huai-nan Tzu

A couple of days back, we celebrated the most momentous May Day in living memory held in Sri Lanka. I watched the five hour long Joint Opposition rally live on the Internet without any significant break, switching channels when necessary; later I also looked at videos of the other three main rallies and listened to some of the speakers. The Joint Opposition, the only coalition of forces unambiguously opposed to the present yahapalana regime, conducted what may perhaps go down in history as the largest May Day rally held since the first May Day in this country was marked in 1934 under the leadership of  the legendary A.E. Gunasinghe, Secretary of the All Ceylon Labour Federation. Hundreds of thousands thronged not only the 18.5 acre  Galle Face Green, but also the road bordering it from the Fort end to Kollupitiya; for a long time after the rally started, there were still more people marching on the road from Union Place to the venue of the rally. The JO leaders claimed that this rally was three times larger than the combined strength of the competing rallies conducted by the three main parties, namely, the SLFP (Sirisena faction) at Gatembe, Peradeniya, the UNP at Campbell and the JVP at the BRC Grounds in Colombo. The JO’s claim is not an exaggeration.  While the JO attracted the largest crowds, the other parties and groups including the principal ones held successful rallies attended by huge numbers. Like the 2009 May dawn of the current terror free peaceful era, the May Day this year brought all Sri Lankans together to focus on a single national theme. Truly a moment that demonstrated unity in diversity with far-reaching implications for the future.

It is difficult to agree with the popular criticism that gets repeated every year that the May Day is invariably appropriated by self-seeking politicians while labour concerns are relegated to the background as mere slogans or are totally forgotten. There are politicians who are genuinely worried about workers’ problems; and workers after all form the bulk of the electorate in any country. Who else but politicians can give political leadership to workers and harness their collective power to influence government policies so they become worker-friendly?

The crowds that took part in the JO rally were from across the whole island, and represented all three communities. Most speakers spoke in Sinhalese. But there were three rousing speeches in Tamil as well, one by an elderly Muslim, and the other two by two young Tamils. One of the Tamil speakers was Vinayagamurthy Muralidharan, second-in-command to LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, before their famous split. This demonstrates the interethnic harmony that usually exists among our people; it is in spite of the divisive influence of some diaspora Tamils and foreign politicos who try to exploit them for their own domestic and geopolitical ends. These elements have no empathy with us, nor are they concerned with our welfare. The so-called reconciliation efforts sponsored by them are meant to effectively undermine the normalcy that  prevails among Sri Lankans from different ethnic backgrounds.

What makes May Day this year a very consequential  event? A number of factors made it more meaningful to the people than in previous years. It delivered a clear message to the government and  to interfering foreigners (the West and India). Keep off our country. Don’t try to divide it for your own benefit. Treat us as a single undivided people. We are able to manage our affairs easily by ourselves strengthened by the legacies of our millennia old shared history and our common non-violent and tolerant  religious and cultural values, which you foreigners cannot understand. You are making hateful attempts to manipulate affairs here through subservient NGOs and UN bodies in order to harass our immensely popular leaders who are capable of establishing peace and harmony in our country without your assistance and also capable of bringing in economic development with help from genuine friends. Your interference is only contributing to the growing misery  of the innocent millions of our country. So, please stop those attempts. And, desist from interfering with their peaceful activism directed at ushering in truly democratic governance. I think this is the message that the massive JO May Day rally conveys to the international community.

At  the same time, the success of the JO rally tells those in power to be responsive to the just demands of the people, without assuming threatening authoritarian postures. All those citizens who attended May Day rallies everywhere are one people, one nation. They are not rioters. The majority of them are saying that something is not right. It is important that prices of essential items of daily consumption are maintained at an affordable level for the average household. That is the least a government can do. There are vitally more important things such as choosing efficient economic strategies that are acceptable to the majority of the people, saving the country from disintegrating into ethnic enclaves, and avoiding auctioning the valuable national assets that we have built up over decades at great cost and that we must bequeath to future generations. Raving madly against those who have a good track record will not solve any problems.

(Note on the epigraph: Huai-nan Tzu is the compiler of an ancient encyclopedic work on Chinese philosophical thought. Though his birth year is not known, he is believed to have died in 122 BCE. Sun Tzu {544-496 BCE} is the celebrated Chinese general who wrote the well known treatise on war called ‘The Art of War’.)

7 Responses to “Most momentous May Day in living memory”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Though Wimal and Mahinda made the best speeches with content, Pavithra’s speech contained the most important message to the regime. (Not reflection on any of the politicians, other than their speeches). She highlighted the eventual endgame of any dictatorship.

    In their greed to hold on to power, the government is getting ready to aim guns at the people. An army facing war crimes allegations will not be able to do so. If it does, the case against them will grow even stronger. For this reason, even the army will hesitate to use force against the people – only hope of saving them. Using violence against the people will also end all hope of getting GSP plus and retaining GSP. There won’t be any reconciliation thereafter.

    Without any further delay, the government must hold all due elections before the referendum fraud. The government has no moral right to postpone elections any longer. To his credit, Mahinda held regular elections which helped him assess people’s approval of his work.

  2. Christie Says:

    May day rally was reported in Hindu in India by Ms. Siriniwasan an Indian reporter. Other rallies had similar crowds and it is the Sinhala Chauvinists who attended the Galle Face rally.

    We are an Indian Colony.

  3. Vaisrawana Says:

    Christie, we need not be so pessimistic. It is true that Indians are acting as if Sri Lanka is their colony. In a sense, this is nothing new. The Sinhalese have survived numerous South Indian incursions, and have preserved this island as their exclusive homeland where they built up a unique civilisation. This fact cannot be ignored. Sinhalese are indigenous to this country, like Tamils are to Tamil Nadu (Tamil country). Tamils came here as invaders, mercenaries, and since the coming of Europeans, as slaves. After the collapse of the hydraulic civilisation of the Sinhalese in the 13th century due to Kalinga Magha’s invasion and the wanton destruction his lawless troops caused, invaders set up temporary administrations in the north, but these were not recognised as separate states; they were there on sufferance; the Sinhalese monarchs always claimed sovereignty over the whole of the island; we were not colonised by Indians a second time in our long history (the first time being when some intruder such as legendary Vijaya from northern India came here, conquered the ruling race, and laid the foundation for what became the Sinhalese state).

    Your observation that other rallies had similar crowds implies that those rallies were as large as the JO’s rally. If you read Dilrook Kannangara’s article “Joint Opposition can win 117 seats………” today you would have found the real position.

  4. ranjit Says:

    Only a blind stupid guy like SB will tell very few attended the JO rally at gallface on may 1st 2017. There are still stupid guys who believes in them unfortunately in my country. Gallface rally was the best and the beautiful rally i have ever seen in my life and i hope majority of our citizens will agree with me on that. Let the traitors and stupids in the Yamapalanaya think anything undoubtedly the most well attended rally was the JO’s so let’s begin to rally the people to oust this horrible, horrible Yamapalanaya government as soon as possible. Jayaweera JO and the real opposition in this country.

  5. Charles Says:

    It is time that Karu Jayasuriya the Speaker take an independent decision for once in his life as Yahapalana Parliamentary Speaker with out obediiently asking Rani, to recognise the Joint Opposition as the Parliamentary Opposition in place of TNA

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    A most uplifting and hopeful May Day rally on the GF green !
    Our heartfelt good wishes to all the PATRIOTS of Lanka, to move forward in peace & prosperity !

  7. Ratanapala Says:

    This is why Mahinda is still important despite his political warts. We need a reformed Mahinda and if not Gotabhaya to lead the nation. They only have mass appeal and necessary credentials!

    Patriots have heeded the call of Mahinda and thronged Gall Face Green on May Day. What can spineless earthworm Aappaya and Ponil say now. These are ordinary people. They have not come to get a party cap or a shirt – or to get entertained with hooch and sing songs. They are ordinary people – that is the difference. Lies and slander have not yielded the wanted outcome. After two years no, nothing, zilch to show to the people. Ponil must find out how many disgruntled UNPers have now changed sides.

    There is no point in holding onto faded and threadbare rag tag – the SLFP. It is time, like his father, Mahinda left the dying SLFP in the hands of the Aappaya and Choura Regina to give the final rights and bury for ever. He must lead to form the New Party so that he can get rid of all the useless backbiting vermin that he had with him earlier – Laxman Yapa, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Zoysa, Nimal Siripala, Susil Premajayantha, Jayasekara, Thilanga, Mahinda Samaraweera, Dilan Perera to name only a few.

    A new party must come out with new blood – a more educated, energetic and mature set of patriotic politicians. Vyyath Maga must attract more potential political leaders – many can come from the Armed Forces for they have proven leadership qualities. However they need to be educated on India, Asian and world politics and their relevant for Sri Lanka.

    The nation needs Mahinda and Gotabhaya at all costs. Jada Palanaya will everything to give them the last rites! Citizens beware. It is time all those who have got hoodwinked by Jada Palanaya lies – from all parties – SLFP, UNP and other rally behind Mahinda for a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.

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