UNP plans physical May Day rally

  • SLFP/JVP to go digital

  • SLPP cancels, SJB postpones


Following a high-level official decision to cancel the usual May Day rallies by political parties in view of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country, only the United National Party (UNP), which has a solitary seat in the parliamentary Opposition, will be holding a physical rally.

The ruling government party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), will not be holding a rally on 1 May, while the main parliamentary Opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), whilst indefinitely postponing its rally, announced its intention to conduct the rally after the Covid-19 pandemic situation abates. However, both, the other main government partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and the other Opposition party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), will be conducting their rallies online in cyberspace.

Speaking to The Morning, UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara said that their rally will be held on 1 May at the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya corporate office in Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte, at 9.30 a.m.

According to Bandara, the party would focus on several topics including education, health, finance, and the sale of national properties.

“This rally will take place according to the government health guidelines and the total number of participants would also depend on the guidelines. The original plan was to have a major rally and procession at the Hyde Park Corner along with the affiliated trade unions. However, our Party Leaders will hold a small ceremony and will limit the number of invitees,” Bandara added.

SLPP General Secretary and parliamentarian Sagara Kariyawasam said that the party is considering not having a rally.

Speaking to The Morning, SJB National Organiser and MP Tissa Attanayake said that the party would decide on a date for the May Day rally after the pandemic is over.

SLFP Administrative Secretary Sanath Wattegedara said that they would have an electronic rally with the participation of representatives of more than 300 unions.

“We are also hoping to hand over 21 proposals related to the country during our electronic rally.”

JVP MP Vijitha Herath said that the party is planning to have an internet-based May Day rally, using the latest technology. “Our May Day rally would start at 10 a.m. We urge all to connect with this rally to celebrate the labour and working class.”

A decision had been taken to suspend all May Day rallies and processions following a meeting with representatives of the main political parties at the National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO). NOCPCO Head and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva said that the representatives of all political parties had unanimously agreed with the decision to not hold May Day celebrations.

However, both the UNP and JVP had earlier opposed the decision, with the JVP saying that it had not agreed to any decision to the said effect. UNP General Secretary Bandara said that the UNP did not agree with Gen. Silva’s request made to all political parties at a meeting convened on 20 April not to hold the May Day celebrations.

For the third successive year, political parties are being forced to hold back from carrying out their traditional May Day activities. In 2019, the Easter Sunday bombings on 21 April caused the rallies to be called off, and last year, the Covid-19 national lockdown in place prevented public gatherings. This year, the country is again confronted with a sudden surge of Covid-19 cases.