Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day, which is observed annually on May 1 in Sri Lanka and the world at large. 

The day, which has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement.

May 1 is observed as an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival, however, it became associated with the labour movement in the late 19th century after trade unions and socialist groups designated it as a day in support of workers. 

The date was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago in the US, in which a peaceful rally in support of workers led to a violent clash with the police, leading to the deaths of at least 38 civilians and 7 police officers.

While 60 police officers and 115 civilians were injured. Those who died due to the clash were hailed as “Haymarket Martyrs”.

In Sri Lanka, the holiday is tied to labour movements for trade unions and political parties.  The first May Day rally in Sri Lanka was held in 1933 under the leadership of A.E. Gunasinghe, who formed the Labour Party to ensure workers’ rights.

May Day was declared an official holiday in Sri Lanka in 1956 under the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna government, led by former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

Labour Day commemorates past labour struggles against workers’ rights violations, including lengthy workdays and weeks, poor conditions and child labour.

Several political parties and trade unions in Sri Lanka are preparing to mark International Workers’ Day, with various events including rallies and processions organized in towns across the country today.

Accordingly, political parties and trade unions have organized 40 rallies and processions and 19 May Day commemorations across the island today.

The United National Party’s (UNP) May Day rally will be held in front of the Maligawatte Police in Colombo at 2.00 p.m. today with the participation of several leading members of the party including President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile, the President’s Media Division reported that President Wickremesinghe is scheduled to participate in two May Day rallies in lieu of International Labour Day. The May Day Rally organized by the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) to commemorate International Labour Day commenced at 10:00 a.m. this morning at the Kotagala Public Grounds with President’s participation.

The National People’s Power (NPP) has organized 04 May Day rallies across the country today in the Colombo, Jaffna, Matara and Anuradhapura areas, MP Vijitha Herath said.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has also organized two rallies today, one at Chatham Street in Colombo and another rally in Nuwara Eliya area.

Moreover, the May Day rally of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) will take place in Campbell Park in Borella.

The censured Chairman of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) former President Maithripala Sirisena stated that the party’s May Day rally will be held in the Gampaha area today.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Police announced that all security measures are in place for the May Day rallies while special traffic plans are also underway within Colombo city.

Police Media Spokesperson DIG Nihal Talduwa says that 10,000 police officers have been deployed to ensure the security of the rallies and processions.

In the meantime, DIG Talduwa added that strict legal action will be taken against the undisciplined bus drivers during this period.

source adaderana

May Day Rallies in Colombo