For the first time since independence from British rule, the Sri Lankan government had ruled that there would be no national holiday on 1st May because it was too close to a Buddhist religious festival. It was postponed to 7th May and many see this as a move to gradually abolish the traditional way of recognising the struggle of workers and poor people for a better society. Public demonstrations and rallies were also banned.
The United Socialist Party defied the Sri Lankan government’s ban on holding the traditional May Day demonstration on 1st May. We went ahead with a successful demonstration and public rally in Colombo. A lot of police were there but they did not intervene to stop our demonstration. The government retreated from its original position due to pressure from working class organisations.
Of course, there was a smaller number of people attending May Day rallies this year because the traditional holiday had been cancelled. People taking time off work on May 1st to celebrate the international day of workers’ solidarity would lose a day’s pay.After the demonstration, the USP held a roadside rally with a temporary ad hoc stage because of the ban on having May Day rallies on public grounds. Around 145 people attended the USP May Day events with comrades and sympathisers from most parts of the country.Four organisations in total went ahead and held their May Day meetings and demonstrations in Colombo on Tuesday – the joint trade unions, the Nava Sama Samaja Party, the Front Line Socialist Party and us – the United Socialist Party.