Thousands of people gathered across the country to celebrate International Workers Day or May Day, with the nation’s leading political parties holding marches and rallies.
The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), along with its other constituent party leaders of the Alliance, held its rally as a common front, at the Town Hall in Colombo, under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Addressing the gathering, the President said that, “Today, if people want to change the government, it would have to be by using ballots, and not with the support of foreign, external forces.”
“If the people do not want this government, they can change it using their votes, because we haven’t any unlawful votes,” he said.
The President also said he is happy that the main opposition UNP is holding its May Day rally in Jaffna. “They are now able to go to any place in Jaffna.
They will realise that it is possible because of us,” he saidThe UNP, which, along with the TNA, held a joint May Day rally in Jaffna, called for an early political settlement that would enable all communities to live in harmony.
“The war is over now, it is enough the people have suffered. They need a solution to their problems”, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the May Day rally, said.
TNA Parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan said he expects the support of the main Opposition to win the demands of the minority Tamils.
“We have been speaking to the government to gain the demands of the minorities, but the talks have not been successful”, Sampanthan said.
A resolution was also passed at this rally, demanding an end to political victimisation and protection of workers’ rights as well as human rights, reduction in the cost of living as well as resettlement of the IDPs.
However, several senior members of the UNP did not attend the Jaffna rally. Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa held a ceremony at Hulftsdorp to mark his father’s, the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s death anniversary on May 1.
Among those who attended the commemoration ceremony was former UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya, MPs Dayasiri Jayasekara, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Buddhika Pathirana.
Mr Premadasa vowed at the ceremony to carry forward the Premadasa Chinthanaya. “My father never put his family before the country. Twenty-four-hours a day and 365 days of the year, he spent his time working for the benefit of the public,” he said.
The JVP which held its May Day rally at the BRC grounds in Colombo, said that, due to pressure from their party, the government was forced to withdraw the Private Sector Pension Bill, which would have been detrimental to workers’ rights.
“We will continue to fight for the workers’ rights, as well as force the government to reduce the cost of living, “JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said.
Many trade unions and smaller political parties too held rallies to mark May Day.