Socialists defy ban on demos in Sri Lanka
After the bomb blast at the Colombo army headquarters on 25 April, the new president of Sri Lanka banned all May Day rallies and demonstrations. This decision was because of the huge tensions in the country and especially in the capital Colombo which they themselves have created by their policies. The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government came to power giving loads of promises including bringing an honourable peace to the country.
Now everything is going in the opposite direction and banning the May Day demonstrations was clearly violating the fundamental rights of workers to celebrate the international workers’ day.
All the big capitalist parties and trade unions who support the government agreed not to have their May Day demonstrations and rallies. But we, the United Socialist Party, condemned this un-democratic action by the President and appealed to workers to come forward to celebrate the May Day and defy the government order. The Deputy Inspector General of police telephoned the USP office and said that we could not have our May Day celebration.
Both the government and commercial media spread the news that people should not attend demos and rallies because they have got security information that there will be some incidents in Colombo. On May 1st the capital city was almost empty. In spite of the threats and discouraging news, on May 1st, the only political party in Sri Lanka which had their May Day demonstration and rally was ours - the USP.
Again, the police came to our assembling point just before we were due to start the demonstration and told us not to march. But we argued and told the police that workers have the democratic right to have May Day demonstrations and they had no other option but to allow us to proceed. We walked through the whole route and came to our final meeting point. We had an open public meeting and people in the area gave us the fullest support. All national TV gave us coverage in the evening except the government channel. This has been an example of how, even before the start of real war in the country, the democratic rights of people are being threatened. Another war means more burdens on the workers and poor people. The ordinary masses have to pay a big price for the war. Already prices of all basic goods and fuel are rocketing.
So we are appealing to all workers and trade union leaders to come forward to campaign against the war. We are campaigning for a national convention to discuss the burning issues facing the working class and poor peasantry and to discuss the calling of protest as the beginning of a campaign to halt the neoliberal attacks and the slide towards civil war in Sri Lanka.