Written by Rasoja at OmeBiz
Let’s have a look at how May Day came to be (History)
May Day is the official day that celebrates workers’ rights around the globe. In fact, it is not only the celebration of laborers and the working classes but it is also considered to be a seasonal celebration in many countries. May Day is also referred to as International Workers’ Day or even Labor Day throughout different countries. Majority of countries celebrate this day, however, with the exception of countries under a military dictatorship or authoritarian rule.
The declaration of Labor Day took place after a historic event which unfolded in Chicago, U.S.A on May 4th, 1886. Following this historic day, the U.S.A and Canada declared that the first Monday in September is to be celebrated as Labor Day. Whereas, in Britain, it is celebrated on the first Sunday in May, hence, referred to as May Day as well. It was during the French Revolution, the second International meeting in Congress in Paris held on June 20th, 1889 that it was decided the May 1st of every year should be celebrated as International Workers’ Day.
Sri Lanka celebrated its first ever May Day in 1927 under the leadership of A.E Gunasinghe. Thereby, Sri Lanka marks its 132nd May Day this year. Sri Lanka has celebrated International Workers’ Day on the 1st of May for the past years and is granted as an official government and public holiday. However, due to the ongoing Vesak celebrations, the President of Sri Lanka declared May 7th to be May Day hence, announced May 7th as a public and mercantile holiday.
Back in the Day
What took place in Sri Lanka on May Day this year?
May Day is always done right in Sri Lanka, with several political parties and trade unions participating in rallies and processions in different areas of Sri Lanka. This 7th of May there were several rallies that took place which was led by political leaders, in different cities of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Freedom Party’s (SLFP) rally was themed, “Promoting Reconciliation and Inter-Communal Harmony,” and it was held at Chenkalady, Batticaloa led by the SLFP leader; President Maithripala Sirisena. The highlight of this rally was the statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena, where he said that he will not retire in the year 2020. Instead, he is determined to use the three-year experience he gained to implement corrective and effective political processes to re-build the country. The president emphasized that the working classes and supporting trade unions are able to play a momentous role in building national reconciliation. Given the context that it was International Workers’ Day, the president also stated that SLFP has ensured to abide by working class rights and privileges at all times.
The May Day rally of the joint-opposition (JO) – Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was led by the former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Samanala Grounds in Galle. Their theme was stated as, “Join forces against tax burden, selling off natural resources and Central Bank bond scam”. The individuals that led this rally emphasized the crippling economy; with cost of living on the rise and standard of living falling, they pledged that the country requires a significant change. Hence, they made use of this rally to promise to their audience that such change will be brought about after the establishment of a government in 2020.
Regardless of the changes made to May Day – from 1st of May to the 7th of May, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) decided that they should celebrate on the 1st of May to respect May Day traditions where the betterment of labor movement was prioritized. JVP also held a separate rally on the 7th of May at the BRC Grounds in Colombo. This rally spoke around the theme, “Social justice, national unity, and people’s friendly governance,” where it was led by the leader; Anura Dissanayake and a large number of other JVP activists. Moreover, during this rally, several proposals were presented where the focal point was on current political situations.
The United National Party (UNP) held its rally at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium led by Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. The theme stood as, “New energy for matured leadership”. Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe went on to state that UNP’s effective actions has caused a rise in the educated and middle-class population in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the Prime Minister expressed optimistic ideas of setting precise policies to achieve goals set for economic development after the recent setback.
At the same time, The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) held its rally at the Public Library held in Colombo. The procession was led by labourers, Buddhist Monks, Ministers: Champika Ranawaka and Karu Paranawithana, provincial councillors and other members of the party. Their main rally was held at New Town Hall, Colombo. Minister Champika Ranawaka spoke about enhancing the transport system and the livelihood of underserved families. He also pointed out that waste management will be prioritized in the drive for establishing a megapolis.
All in all, it is understood after what happened this May Day in Sri Lanka, that our leaders need to take progressive actions on addressing workers’ rights rather than making it a day of political agendas.
These are just a few of our opinions, share your comments with us if you feel that a few points were missed.