Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his May Day message, said that this year, workers all over the world have to celebrate May Day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, much like national religious festivals, International Worker’s Day also has to be celebrated without the usual activities that we have been accustomed to.
His message said, “Although the marches and meetings that demonstrated the workers’ strength and unity are not taking place, we have a way of demonstrating our strength and unity. That is by giving the encouragement and assistance of the working population to those battling to eradicate the pandemic by following the rules laid down by the health authorities.
It must be stated openly that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting on the future of the working population. Making the working population aware of these challenges on a day like today will help overcome these challenges. Our expatriate workers, employees of industries dependent on foreign investment, and those in industries such as tourism are all facing the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. The responsibility of safeguarding the working population of hundreds of thousands in these sectors rests with the government.
The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing into question the viability of the open economic system accepted by the world so far. It is also teaching us that Sri Lanka too should change the economic policy followed by us so far.
Even at this moment, we are working with a strong will towards facing the situation that would arise in the future. Even though there has been a curfew in the main cities in the country for over a month, essential items such as food and medicines have been maintained without any shortcoming. We are continuing to pay the salaries of over 1.5 million public sector employees and providing livelihood assistance to over 7.4 million who have been denied the opportunity to earn their day-to-day living. At this difficult time, we have also taken steps to afford tax benefits to protect industries and enterprises that have an impact on the working population. Having rallied the strength of the working population and having battled and won against the world’s most ruthless terrorism, we would not be fazed by challenges such as this. Blaming the past and lamenting is also not our style.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that all would have to place their faith in a unique economic policy and a self-sufficient economy as a solution to the emerging situation. We, who have for a long time, been following a policy of strengthening the state sector and building up the national economy are greatly encouraged by these ideas taking root among the people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that all would have to place their faith in a unique economic policy and a self-sufficient economy as a solution to the emerging situation
Therefore, on this World Worker’s Day, the health sector, tri-forces, state sector employees and all others engaged in battling the COVID-19 pandemic should be saluted by the working population. We accept these challenges with courage. We have received the temperament for this through our association with the working population.