May Day: Fun sans struggle
By Nilika Kasturisinghe and Harinda Vidanage
The government is preparing for a novel celebration of Workers Day on May 1, replacing the traditional political rally with a day of relaxation for workers and their families. The National May Day on Thursday will commence at 10 a.m. and go on the next day, with a targeted 300 trade stalls, musical shows, dramas, and Hawker Street, with five star cuisine made available on the pavements.

Former trade union leader, Minister Gamini Lokuge said "May Day has always been celebrated with struggle and demand. We want to change that practice and take the country towards a productive path." The day projected to draw crowds of half a million will take place around the CMC and Victoria Park premises. Traffic arrangements will be made with parking provided.The trade stalls will include 36 BoI stalls selling products at duty free prices.

There will also be agricultural products to be sold at cost price. Rice, vegetables and fruits will be available as well as clothing. Twenty stalls will be set up at the Public Library premises. A flower show will also be held. A film depicting the services rendered by labour leaders since Independence will be screened while the drama 'Sinhabahu' will be staged free of charge at the John de Silva Theatre at 2.30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Sathutu Uyana with a free kiddies carnival will be open free of charge. A disco and talent show will be held with an art exhibition at the Art Gallery. The National Museum will be open free of charge. A free health camp and a tennis tournament by the SLTA for those aged six to sixty has been organised with a wrestling and gymnastics display. A go-cart race will be held in front of the Town Hall. There will also be a vintage car show.The celebrations will culminate in a musical show with Indian and Sri Lankan artistes.

The May Day this year will be celebrated without politics, Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said. The Prime Minister has mooted the idea as a "Tribute to the Workers", and a May Day Committee was appointed with Minister John Amaratunga as Chairman, by a Cabinet Paper in March. Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge, Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku, Minister M.H. Mohamed and several non-Cabinet ministers were appointed, along with Colombo Deputy Mayor Azath Sally to this committee.

Meanwhile the People's Alliance will hold its May Day rally at the Campbell Park, with a procession starting from the Chandra Silva grounds at Kotte.
The chief organizer of the PA rally, Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana told The Sunday Times that while the UNP government is trying to hide the woes of the working class by organizing tamashas the PA will be closely addressing the hardships of the workers.

“We don't want to draw crowds by providing attractions. All committed people will attend our rally and they will not be provided even with a bottle of water as an inducement” he said. This year there will be only one PA rally in the country.

In a May Day message Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapakse said that he categorically condemned the violation of the rights of workers and will be making an issue of this. Mr. Moulana said that President Chandrika Kumaratunga has personally set the theme of the PA rally with three components, 'Freedom for All', 'Protection of Human Rights', and 'Meaningful Peace'.

At the last meeting of the committee President Kumaratunga had said that she expected a crowd equal to that of the March 10 joint opposition rally.There were speculation that a JVP member would address the PA rally in the wake of an attempt to form an alliance between the SLFP and the JVP.

However, Mr. Moulana said that as the JVP is holding a separate rally with the participation of foreign visitors, it was difficult to link up with the PA. The JVP rally with a procession from the Jayasinghe grounds, Dehiwela at 12 noon, will hold its meeting at the B.R.C grounds at 4.00 pm. with its theme " Let's build a people's power to defeat the division of the motherland, plunder of its national resources, pruning of workers rights, re-colonialism by imperialists and win national independence and genuine peace" Meanwhile the National Workers Congress is to hold a non-political rally at its workers centre in Dehiwela at 10.00 am.
The theme for this year's meeting is "Peace through unity of workers".

Acid attack on attractive nurse
An attractive trainee nurse attached to the Colombo National Hospital suffered burn injuries on her face after an unknown female assailant threw acid on her while she was reporting for work, police said.

The 26-year-old pupil nurse from Rambukkana has been undergoing training over the last six months in Colombo. The acid attack came while she was leaving to work from her boarding house at Punchi Borella.

The Maradana Police conducting investigations told The Sunday Times that a woman wearing a helmet had fled on a motor cycle after throwing a liquid substance on the nurse who suffered an unbearable burning sensation. She had then rushed back to her boarding house and washed her face with cold water to no avail.

Police have arrested a suspect - the nurse's ex-boyfriend - who had reportedly been threatening he would not let her marry anybody else. The affair had blossomed during her student days in Rambukkana. The boy had been against some of her latest endeavours in modelling and objected to her new acquaintances in Colombo. The nurse had then broken up her affair with him and allegedly had associations with two other boys, one of whom she had met on a train.

PC R.A. Lakshan of the Maradana Police said police have yet not been able to establish the person behind the attack due to conflicting information. The nurse's two recent acquaintances are also being investigated for possibly having had a hand. So far only one suspect had been remanded, but he denies any involvement in the attack. Meanwhile the nurse is still recovering at the Burns Unit of the Colombo National Hospital.

Renewed appeal on MIA after new disclosures
The Association for Families of Servicemen Missing in Action has appealed to the Government to address the issue of servicemen missing in action following revelations by an EPDP member of more captives in LTTE custody after he escaped from an LTTE detention centre.

The Association states that though many appeals have been made to the successive Governments no genuine effort has been made regarding the missing servicemen.
"The Association hoped that with the commencement of Peace Talks that this important humanitarian issue would have been one of the foremost items on the agenda.

Unfortunately even though it had been brought up at one of the sessions, there seems to have been no in-depth preparation and the answer given by the LTTE was readily accepted", it said. The families claim that the revelation by the EPDP member renewed hope in the families that their loved ones are still there.

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