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Workers’ rights lost in quest for presidential elections

02 May 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • People anticipated that the celebration would be the launch of the presidential election campaign
  • President called for the support of other parties namely SJB and NPP 
  • Anura Dissanayke said neither Ranil nor Sajith coulde create a discplined socety 

By Daily Mirror News Desk   
May Day was observed yesterday in the country and elsewhere across the world , but the question remained whether it was done in a befitting manner as usual in Sri Lanka with politics taking center stage rather than the rights of workers.   
The day has been observed across the globe since 1886 commemorating the supreme sacrifices of the workers at Hay Market, Chicago, in the United States for working eight-hours a day and upholding the rights of the working people.  
Working people had to sacrifice their valuable lives in tragic bomb attacks and police atrocities on May 1, 1886 and the following days.  
However, the true spirit of May Day has disappeared for years if not for decades in Sri Lanka .This year is not an exception with the political parties from all hues making the event an opportunity as a show of power targeting nothing but the presidential elections.  
With the presidential elections pending this year , the country is virtually set in an election mode though the official work for the electoral process is slated to begin only after July 17.  
In the run up to May Day , politically savvy people anticipated that the celebration would virtually be the launch of the presidential election campaign by the mainstream parties .  
True to their anticipation , it not only turned out to be the virtual launch of the election campaign but also the platform to announce the presidential candidates and to make election pledges .  
Missing at the core was refined,  enlightened addresses with inputs for reforming the current labour laws in keeping with requirements of the free market economy for the benefit of employees and employers alike.  
Poverty rate rose to 22 percent in the wake of the economic crisis. The economic growth has to be boosted to ensure benefits for all . The current labour laws introduced in a socialism oriented economic context have to be modified to suit the requirements of the current context . But no discourse took place in this regard .  
President Ranil Wickremesinghe did not delve into such details in his speech. Still he called for the support of other parties namely Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and National People’s Power (NPP) to support the economic programme to be implemented. He also elaborated how he restored normalcy after a period of strife two years ago.  
For the SJB , it was nothing but a platform for the announcement of election pledges even though it has not been declared yet .  
The pledges included the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in full , fresh probe on Easter Sunday attacks, creating smart farmers and fishermen, creating a conducive environment for the investors, creating employment opportunities and creating Silicon Valley type IT zones in every district. Other pledges included paying a higher interest rate for the deposits of senior citizens and creating smart schools.  
“No one in my party has obtained liquor licenses. I will cancel all liquor licenses through a resolution in Parliament when my government comes to power,” he said in this regard. “No one in my party can be bought over by monetary rewards,” he said.  
The faction of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by Maithripala Sirisena even made this an opportunity to announce Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe as the presidential candidate, let alone labour rights.  

There was nothing more than that from the SLFP to highlight the rights or even the sufferings of the working class.  
Speaking at the NPP Matara District May Day rally, party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said neither Ranil Wickremesinghe nor Sajith Premadasa could create a disciplined and law-abiding society.  
“We have proved in our four May Day rallies that we are a well-disciplined people’s force. The other political forces lack discipline. Our May Day rally is the most well-organized May Day rally and the procession. This type of organizational power and discipline are needed for this country. This country lacks discipline and it is full of crimes. The government also lacks organizational power. These governments and parties can only drag along this destruction. Can Ranil bring about discipline? Can Sajith do it? Neither of them can create a disciplined and law abiding society,” he said.  
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) also made it an event to discuss politics targeting the presidential election.  
Its leader Mahinda Rajapaksa made a political speech critical of the political opponents and tried to boost the morale of the rank and file of the party by saying only the candidate backed by the SLPP will win the presidential elections .  
“Only the SLPP- backed candidate will win the elections. We will announce it at the right time . Until then anyone can dream of becoming the President,” he said.  
As expected yesterday was yet another May Day in Sri Lanka where politics took center stage and the rights of workers were conveniently ignored.