ECONOMYNEXT – Amid growing discord within, Sri Lanka’s crisis-riddled government is using heightened COVID-19 concerns as an excuse to cancel all May Day events, the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said.
Former JVP parliamentarian Sunil Handunneththi told reporters yesterday that a snap decision taken to cancel May Day rallies and events purportedly in view of rising COVID-19 cases in the country was in fact an attempt to save face.
The government’s pandemic task force said yesterday that all major political parties had consented to foregoing May Day celebrations a second year running. With new cases detected in the Pamunuwa shopping district and at a state bank in Colombo at the end of the April holidays, the health ministry had warned of a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in the next four to six week, leading to the decision. According to Handunneththi, however, it was prompted by factors that had little to do with the pandemic.
“Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) officials and representatives of all parties met yesterday at a police Deputy Inspector General’s office in Colombo to discuss the allocation of grounds to the parties for their May Day rallies. Later in the evening, the task force invited the party representatives to discuss health guidelines to be followed at the rallies.
“But it was eventually decided at this meeting to cancel the rallies altogether, citing health reasons. We do not agree with this decision, because if it was actually due to pandemic concerns, there were a lot of events that should’ve been cancelled before May Day rallies,” the ex-MP said.
Handuneththi claimed the ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ discussions that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa holds around the country attract over a thousand Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party supporters per event. The Sinhala & Tamil New Year period, he said, saw hundreds of thousands move about, across the island.
“The government is unable to organise its own May Day rally due to the crisis it’s facing, so this is an attempt to avoid it,” he said.
Before the decision to cancel May Day events were announced yesterday, ruling coalition partner the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) had announced its intention to hold a separate rally outside of the SLPP-led alliance. The former parliamentarian said other constituent parties were also deciding whose platform they should get on.
Claiming that the government has led the country to economic disaster and has also violated the rights of the working class, he said the JVP cannot agree with the decision to cancel May Day. (Colombo/April21/2021)