Since May Day was declared a holiday for Sri Lankan workers in the government, bank and mercantile sectors in 1956, it has been a day celebrated with much enthusiasm through the years.
However, things this year are different with the entire country under curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic and missing are the colourful rallies that symbolize the day. Instead political leaders issued their usual May Day messages to mark the day while some used communication technology to exchange views with their comrades.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his May Day message saluted the working masses who are making boundless sacrifices in the face of challenges before the nation caused by the COVID – 19 outbreaks.
“Many were the challenges we faced and overcame throughout history. In each such instance, working class in the country is the segment that was directly affected and at the forefront. History has proven their resilience and commitment, which, indeed is a great credit to the working class. It is certain that we will win the battle against COVID – 19 as we had conquered all the difficulties in the past, hand in hand with the working class,” the President said in his message.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in his May Day message called on the government to protect both the public and private industries. "We must protect the working public in this situation, we can only face this challenge if we have a healthy workforce that remains resilient in the face of a collapsing economy,” he said. He also released a taped video message to mark the day.
The JVP in its message warned of anti-democratic measures that are being adopted by the Government in the guise of fighting the coronavirus . The JVP also conducted a virtual May day rally over its official Facebook page using the platform to address Party members.
Some stalwarts of the leftist’s movement who, through small in number, have kept the fight for workers’ rights alive through decades also used modern technology to reach out to their comrades.
Sylvester Jayakody, General Secretary at Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU) held a virtual May day meeting with members of 24 trade unions under the CMU this morning to keep the spirit of May Day alive.