Worker crowded out – Two die at JO rally due to excessive heat

Two die due to excessive heat at JO Galle Face rally (Daily Mirror)

Two Joint Opposition (JO) supporters from Nivithigala and Kandy died due to excessive heat during the May Day rally at Galle Face Green today, police sources said.

They said the victims were identified as Victor Silva (80) from Kandy and W. Indrani (60) from Nivithigala.

They were pronounced dead on admission to the National Hospital in Colombo, Police said.

Worker crowded out

(Island Editorial)

Another International Workers’ Day has come and gone. It was like Sinhabahu without the Lion’s son, the eponym. Yesterday’s rallies, in our book, did not serve anyone useful purpose. This year, too, workers, eclipsed by politicians, have achieved nothing on the day dedicated to their cause. Only political leaders have got a mega ego boost. Their servile supporters who, well oiled and dazed, shouted themselves hoarse, and trudged along hot macadam roads under the scorching sun must now be fighting hangover and nursing leg pains.

Thousands of buses, both SLTB and private, besides many trucks and vans were seen disgorging men and women of all ages in Colombo and Kandy for the rallies of the SLFP, the UNP and the Joint Opposition (JO). It was an unseemly scramble among politicians to show their strength and their rallies amounted to an utter waste of time, energy and resources.

Cartoon added by TW from Ceylon Today

Funds for May Day political circuses usually come from moneybags, including anti-social elements, with huge slush funds at their disposal; they wilily back both main parties. The party in power is never short of funds with financiers falling over themselves to help it. It can also help itself to public funds. Those who are in the political wilderness spend a fraction of the ill-gotten wealth they have amassed while in power, on their May Day rallies and other such events, in a bid to make a comeback. They consider it an investment.

There are numerous unsolved problems troubling workers in both public and private sectors and fuelling trade union struggles. It is these issues that should constitute the main planks of May Day platforms. Sadly, political issues take precedence over them and workers, going through fire and water, so to speak, in trying to safeguard their rights have to settle for political speeches full of rhetoric and devoid of substance and sense on May Day.

The JO, which has undertaken to play a messianic role to help the working class in distress, also did not take on the government the way it should over the EPF losses and the proposed unconscionable tax on workers’ savings. One of its heavyweights had the gumption to tell this newspaper about a week before May Day that there were far more important issues to be taken up!

The JO leaders who carried out pump and dump frauds in the stock market with EPF monies while they were ensconced in power now fear legal action against them. It is hoped that they have not struck a deal with the UNP at the expense of workers’ interests to go slow on bond scams, EPF losses etc. The government and its political enemies are wary of going all out to destroy each other just like the nuclear capable nations which fear MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction. They act with restraint much to the consternation of their backers.

The government is cock-a-hoop about a recent vote in the EU parliament in favour of granting GSP Plus facility to this country. Workers’ having been let down by the Opposition, the independent trade unions, if any, should seriously consider informing the EU that the present government has not only caused a massive loss to the EPF through bond scams but also is contemplating a huge tax on workers’ savings. The EU should also be informed of Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne’s declaration that the government is mulling over putting former army commander turned Minister Sarath Fonseka in charge of the armed forces and the police to deal with trade union agitations.

Meanwhile, intriguingly, the EU Parliament has chosen to gloss over the indefinite postponement of local government elections here for political reasons. Is it that the EU no longer uses rulers’ respect for people’s franchise as a yardstick of a country’s democratic wellbeing in granting trade concessions to developing nations?

If the SLFP and the UNP are really confident that turnouts at their May Day rallies were satisfactory and indicative of their real strength and popularity, then there is no reason why they should fear local government elections. They should go for mini polls without postponing them further. Let no lame excuses be trotted out.