May Day: An election is approaching



A.E.Goonesinha and D.S.Senanayake

An election is approaching and all the political parties are ready to hammer and tongs at one another. Each promising the never-ending promises made over the years.

All the trade unions will be split up and taken under the wing of each party to make sure they shout the loudest.

Thus trade unions are robbed of a day to celebrate their rights. And: In all this mayhem, no politician remembers to pay tribute to the man who gave the workers their rights.

May Day was not created by A.E. Goonesinha for political rallies and marches. It was created to celebrate the worker. So, at least before all the madness starts, a tribute to this gentleman of decency and honesty should be priority.

The father of the Labour movement and trade unions in Ceylon – the former Minister of state and mayor of Colombo – A.E. Goonesinha!

Alexander Ekanayake Goonesinha was a gentleman who rose against the British hierarchy to free the worker and give him dignity and rights.

It was not an easy task at the time. There were Sri Lankans who fraternised with the British to win favours and who denounced and agitated against men who fought for the rights of the workers.

Days were spent in prison for the cause. Finally it proved successful and A.E. Goonesinha represented Ceylon at the British Empire Labour Conference in London in 1928 – to register May 1st as the worker’s day in Sri Lanka which was first held in 1927 under the leadership of A.E. Goonesinha.

He was also responsible for obtaining Universal Adult Suffrage from the Donoughmore Commission in 1928. Sri Lankan workers and the general public, regardless of income or eduation, were given the right to vote – including women’s franchise which is hardly ever mentioned today.

A.E. Goonesinha was one of the key persons in the struggle for independence. He was never one to mince his words. He was forthright and outspoken and worked only for the worker’s betterment in society. He later went as ambassador to Indonesia and Burma.

He was aksed by SWRD to join his party for the 1956 election, but A.E. Goonesinha did not agree with his policies and contested for his labour party. Today’s politicians jump from party to party according to their own private agendas. It’s a case of make hay while the sun shines and let the country go to the dogs.

Strength, determination, dedication, bravour and courage and above all integrity: A.E. Goonesinha was born on 1st May 1891 in Kandy. A symbolic sign that one day he would make May 1st a day of dignity and respect for the labourer.

Today’s May Day rallies have nothing to do with respecting the labourer. The labourer is used for shouting slogans and for walking behind politicians who want to swell crowds and show their power.

It is hoped that political parties and leaders will forget party politics and unite to work together for the mutual welfare and benefit of Sri Lanka.

Yasmin Koch


    Mission: Impossible 7.