May Day (International Labour Day) was marked with much pomp and pageantry by several mainstream parties yesterday. The events drew busloads of grassroots party supporters and other visitors. The Joint Opposition rally at Galle Face Green saw unprecedented numbers turning up to hear Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa speak.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) held its rally in Gatambe, Kandy, with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena. Large crowds were also seen at the United National Party (UNP) rally held at Campbell Park, Colombo, where Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe presided.
In an unusual move, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) held a rally in Jaffna one day prior to May Day, in addition to its main rally held at the BRC Grounds in Colombo.
Judging by the majority of rallies held across Sri Lanka, May Day celebrations have become more about the political maneuverings than workers’ rights. Smaller rallies, however, have attempted to stay true to the core principles of May Day.
For example, a small, non-parliamentary leftist party called the New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party (NDMLP) held a rally in Matale, with the support of workers from the plantation community. The NDMLP also held concurrent rallies in Vavuniya and Jaffna.
Below are photographs from some of the May Day events Roar was present at.
Maharagama: Mahinda Rajapaksa supporters from Matara, on their way to the Joint Opposition rally in Colombo. Image credit: Roar/Nishan Casseem
Joint Opposition supporters from the South arrived by bus loads on May Day. Image credit: Roar/Nishan Casseem
Joint Opposition supporters from Tangalle, taking a travel break. Image credit: Roar/Nishan Casseem
The UNP held its rally at Campbell Park in Borella. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
An army officer on duty watches as crowds of UNP supporters walk past. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
The pachyderm at the party. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
One of the supporters at the rally takes a break. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
Something worth a photograph? Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
Staying hydrated: the harsh afternoon sun was bound to have taken its toll on the many participants of yesterday’s rallies. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
Former MP Rosy Senanayake participates in the UNP’s May Day rally. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
May Day rallies aren’t only for the young, as it turns out. Image credit: Roar/Nazly Ahmed
An NDMLP party member hands out flyers prior to the party’s May Day rally in Matale. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
Children, women, and men from Matale’s plantation community prepare for May Day. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
An NDMLP supporter behind a banner declaring allegiance to ‘Proletarian Internationalism’. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
For the Up-Country Tamil community, May Day is a family affair. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
The majority of NDMLP’s supporters in Matale are Up-Country Tamil plantation workers. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
NDMLP party members lead the rally in Matale. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma
A street vendor observes NDMLP’s May Day rally. Image credit: Roar/Shiran Illanperuma