Sri Lanka Marks International Workers’ Day with Rallies and Processions


Yesterday, Sri Lanka joined the rest of the world in observing International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day, to celebrate the contributions of labourers and the working classes. The day originated in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, and was designated as a day in support of workers by trade unions and socialist groups in the late 19th century.

May 1 was chosen as International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886, where a peaceful rally in support of workers turned violent, resulting in the deaths of 38 civilians and seven police officers. The day is also tied to the labour movements in Sri Lanka, with the first May Day rally held in 1933 under the leadership of A.E. Gunasinghe, who formed the Labor Party to ensure workers’ rights.

Political parties and trade unions in Sri Lanka marked International Workers’ Day with various events, including rallies and processions organized in towns across the country. The United National Party (UNP) held its May Day rally at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, but President Ranil Wickremesinghe did not participate in any of the UNP’s May Day events.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) May Day rally took place in Campbell Park in Borella, led by the party’s leader, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s (SJB) May Day parade, themed “Struggle at the workplace for the victory of the motherland,” commenced near the P.D. Sirisena playground in Maligawatte, gathering at the E.A. Gunasinghe playground in Borella.

The May Day rally of the National People’s Power (NPP) was held in front of the Viharamahadevi Park, while the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) commenced their procession from Delkanda Junction towards Ananda Samarakoon Open Air Theatre, where the party’s rally was held. The Supreme Lanka Coalition (Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya) organized its May Day rally in Colombo Hyde Park.

Special security measures were in place for the May Day rallies and demonstrations. The Police Media Spokesperson, SSP Nihal Talduwa, stated that nearly 3,500 police officers were deployed for the May Day parades and rallies in Colombo City and for traffic duties, urging organizers to hold their parades using only one lane of the road to avoid obstructing the general public.

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