...May Day celebrations politicised
May 6, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some places, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, socialists, communists and anarchists and occurs every year onMay Day.
May 1st is an ancient European spring festival and the date was chosen for International Workers’ Day by the Second International, a pan-national organisation of socialist and communist political parties, to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May, 1886.
The 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, the Sixth Conference called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.
Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some of those countries is it celebrated specifically as “Labour Day” or “International Workers’ Day”. Some countries celebrate Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates ‘Labor Day’ on the first Monday of September.
In Sierra Leone, workers, employers and government marched along major streets in Freetown and converged at the Miatta Conference Centre, where President Ernest Bai Koroma addressed workers and made a lot of promises to provide an enabling environment for workers and pensioners.
The celebration also witnessed the official launch of the National Employment Policy, Strategy and Implementation Plan (2015-2018), a development which many Sierra Leoneans considered to be in the right direction.
The Sierra Leone Labour Congress and the Ministry of Labour took the lead in organising this year’s Workers’ Day and workers from the non formal sectors from across the country graced the occasion. Though the Sierra Leone Labour Congress has been marking the day, this particular year was very special because the president had announced a public holiday with little consideration that the occasion was marked barely three days after the Independence Day celebrations.
Political analysts have opined that this year’s May Day celebration was more of a political circus by the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC), with the support of the congress than actually seeking the welfare of workers in Sierra Leone. A good number of marchers were in political party T-shirts with placards and banners lavishing praises on their political godfathers. Little consideration, if any, was given to the fact that a good number of those who came from various institutions were there in the interest of solidarity and quest for improved conditions of service for workers and a befitting end of service benefit.
It was reported that most of those who came from the provinces were invited by politicians, the current Attorney General and Minister of Justice being no exception.
Dressed in white and black ‘Agbada Gown’, Joseph F. Kamara moved from one point to another, waving and shaking hands with people, ostensibly in recognision of his contribution towards the fight against corruption and his new political role, but more in endorsement of rumours making the rounds that he is the heir apparent of President Ernest Bai Koroma and presidential candidate for the APC in 2018.
What was more glaring though was the well decorated picture of Kamara on majority of the dancers outside Miatta Conference Centre. “We want the President to know that JFK is our trusted candidate to replace President Koroma, we came from Makeni with our dance troop to participate in this May Day celebration,” Ahmed Kanu, a resident of Makeni stated.
The acting President of Labour Congress, Jennings A.B. Wright, stated that the rational for the observance of the day was to join other nations around the world in solidarity, to advocate for workers, and that the day is essentially significant in recognition of the hard work that has been ongoing into the rebuilding our once ravaged country.
He said the working class has always been at the forefront of the struggle for a sustainable, prosperous and a united democratic country, while paying tribute to all workers of Sierra Leone for a peaceful and stable country.
Wright and his executive awarded eminent Sierra Leoneans who in their view and estimation have contributed greatly in promoting labour issues in the country. However, the distribution of the awards clearly lends credence to the fact that the Sierra Leone Labour Congress was politically bias in the award of dignitaries.
Former President Siaka P. Stevens was awarded as one of the leaders who propagated labour issues in the country and for his contributions as a trade unionist who fostered the creation of the APC.
The award was received by the Secretary General of the ruling party, Amb. Osman Yansaneh. Another award was given to President Koroma for having served as Board Chairman during the formation of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust, his contribution to improving the minimum wage for workers and for declaring the day as a national holiday.
However, many observers maintained that the Labour Congress ought to have awarded the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah for having created an institution like NASSIT for workers.
Many who attended the programme believed that the May Day celebration was blatantly skewed in favour of ruling APC.
I rest my case.