International Labour Day marked by workers’ Mass in Colombo
by Melani Manel Perera

The Christian Workers' Fellowship organised a procession to mark the annual event. Participants later joined anti-government protest. Rev Marimuttu Sathivel called for action to “protect oppressed workers from further exhaustion and defeats.”

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Christian Workers' Fellowship (CWF) of Sri Lanka marked International Labour Day by blessing workers and their jobs, stressing that the country's government has a duty to heed the voices of the poor and oppressed as well as listen to the people who have taken to the streets in recent months to protest against the high cost of living.

On Saturday, the CWF held a Mass and organised a procession of workers carrying the equipment and tools they use in their work.

The procession, which saw people wave flags and dance, began at 8.30 pm (local time) at the Baptist church near the Lipton Roundabout in Colombo, and ended at St Paul’s church in Borella.

Participants included workers from the districts of Anuradhapura, Kandy, and Kegalle.

Right after the event, many of them headed to the Galle Face Green urban park, not far from the Presidential Secretariat to take part in protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rjapaksa.

In Sri Lanka, Labour Day became a statutory holiday in 1959, celebrated by upper-middle class Sri Lankans, this according to the CWF. This year, it coincided with a period of anti-government protests.

“Politicians say they are elected by the people, but the people are now asking them to resign. Now, they must listen to the voice of their constituents,” said Rev Marimuttu Sathivel, of the Church of Ceylon (Anglican Communion) speaking to AsiaNews.

He is concerned about the agreements that the Sri Lankan government is making with the International Monetary Fund to fix the country’s economic crisis.

“What needs to be done,” he explained, “is to protect oppressed workers from further exhaustion and defeats. The CWF is doing this on behalf of the working class.”

“In the last 30-40 years, people in the North and East have partially emancipated themselves, while the people in the South are still fighting.” To achieve this, “Sinhalese and Tamils ​​should unite and stay together while respecting their identities.”

In his Labour Day message, President Rajapaksa said that the working class has faced enormous challenges worldwide.

“In the past three years, the group that faced the most serious challenges in our country is our working class,” the president said. “They are also the ones who were resilient in the face of all these challenges and made great commitments to strengthen the national economy.”

In light of this, “The government is taking various approaches to free the people from this situation and alleviate the oppressive nature of the situation.” To this end, “I once again invite the leaders of all political parties to come to a consensus on behalf of the people to overcome the challenge we face.”