Govt. blinks on May Day as MR pulls plug on power tariff hikeView(s):
UPFA partners break ranks for separate rallies to voice their displeasure at the ruling party’s policies
Bolstered by the growing public opposition to the recent electricity price hike, political parties and groups opposed to the government took to the streets in large numbers on May 1, making it the rallying cry, but President Mahinda Rajapaksa managed to deflect the criticism levelled at the Government to some extent, by announcing a reduction in the tariff hike.
President Rajapaksa who presided at the ruling United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) May Day rally, announced the concession to loud and enthusiastic applause from thousands of party supporters gathered at Campbell Park in Colombo. Despite many of the ruling Alliance’s partners opting to hold separate May Day rallies, except for the Mahajana Eksath Peramuma (MEP), the enthusiasm of the crowds was not dampened, either by the absence of some prominent partners of the Government, or the wet weather.
The SLFP-led celebrations of the UPFA, put up a prominent display of their achievements under the various programs undertaken by the Government, such as “Divi Neguma”, “Maga Neguma” and other large scale projects. Massive, extravagant floats depicting developments in agriculture, fisheries, aviation, as well as the arts and culture, were also on display.
President Rajapaksa who spoke almost as soon as the meeting began, detailed the Government’s contribution to uplift the conditions of the working class. “The opposition has no issues, so they are clinging onto this electricity hike,” the President said.
Among those who held their own May Day rallies was Minister Wimal Weerawansa of the National Freedom Front (NFF), who not only opted to go it alone, but also made a defiant speech, in which he said he was not afraid of losing his ministerial post, if he has to do so for the sake of the country.
The bone of contention with the Rajapaksa administration was the decision to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), which Weerawansa said he opposed, as it would mean handing over police and land powers to the Council. “The reason I did not attend the UPFA rally is because there are certain things I will not be able to tell on that stage,” he said.The main opposition United National Party (UNP) held a low key May Day related meeting at its headquarters “Sirikotha” in Kotte, and later held a larger rally in Kurunegala. The UNP’s youth wing, Yovun Peramuma held a separate rally in Badulla.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that his party will work towards toppling the Government. “The indifferent attitude towards the rising cost of living shows that the Government has no concern for the public,” he said.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) had its party loyalists gather in Colombo for a well organised and well attended rally. Many trade unions affiliated to the JVP, also participated in the rally representing various sectors. The procession consisted of participants mimicking well known personalities in the Government, while issues such as military training for university students, the electricity price hike and the plight of farmers were also highlighted by them. JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe addressing the rally, said that the capitalist policies of successive governments have meant the death knell for the working class in the country, and vowed to fight to improve their working and living conditions.
Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka led the May Day celebrations of his newly registered political party, the Democratic Party (DP), with a rally held at the Buddhadasa Stadium in Pelawatta. A crowd of around 4,000 attended the meeting, where Mr Fonseka criticised the actions of the Government, particularly the control the Rajapaksa’s wield over every sector in the country, as well as the corruption within.
“The Opposition must unite to topple this Government and work for the benefit of the people,” he said. His wife Anoma and MP Jayantha Ketagoda were among those present at the rally. Minister Basil Rajapaksa who attended the UPFA rally later in the evening, flew to Nuwara Eliya to participate in the rally held by it’s Alliance partner, the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC). Addressing the rally, Minister Rajapaksa vowed to provide better housing for the estate sector within the next year.
CMU deplores blatant exploitation of labour in SL
The Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers’ Union (CMU) passed a resolution in which it noted that, thousands of workers in this country are virtually compelled to work for more than 8 hours a day, and more than 48 hours a week, in breach of legal limits, by paying them very low basic wages per day, thus making it necessary for them to work two or more hours per day, as overtime, for 6 days a week, even to earn barely enough to sustain themselves and their families.
CMU General Secretary Bala Tampoe said it wishes to draw attention to this deplorable exploitation of the workers of this country, especially those who work on a casual basis or, are employed through labour contractors, as well as workers employed on a regular monthly basis in the garment manufacturing industry.
The CMU, he also said, is ready to join other unions that are willing to organise a day of national protest, against the new system of electricity tariffs, by way of a general strike in the private and public sectors.
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