By Nimalka Fernando
(Translation of the address made by Dr. Nimalka Fernando on 1st May 2012, in Jaffna, at the UNP/TNA May Day event representing the Platform for Freedom)
We fully endorse the resolution passed on this May Day affirming the rights of migrant workers. As a woman, I am proud to state that the economy of this country is heavily dependent on female labour.
Women toil hard in the tea estates, free trade zones and in the gulf countries to bring in the much needed foreign remittance. This resolution speaks about the hundreds and thousands of such women who are working hard to bring in millions and millions of rupees into this country.
We are compelled to ask a question. What is happening to these millions of earnings under the unprincipled and unscrupulous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa?
These rulers are having fun, spending lavishly and organise mega festivals, wasting the money sent by young girls and boys working abroad.
The rights of migrant workers are enshrined in international conventions. Sri Lanka has ratified almost all such international legal instruments. But we all know one fact. The regime of Mihanda Rajapaksa has turned its back to all international obligations. We have not only signed the convention upholding the rights of the migrant workers, Sri Lanka is also signatory to several important conventions, including the Conventions related to Civil and Political Rights as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
But when we voice the plight of these women in the international arena, they threaten to break our legs and twist our arms. I would like to invite those who dare to break our legs, those who abused and threatened us to come before us now and try to break our legs. You will then see how we respond to them. When the government has broken all the pledges and has broken international conventions, are we to remain silent under threat?
It is these conventions that give us the right to make complaints. We have no other options than go before international tribunals and lodge complaints. Why are they attacking us in this manner? It is because we expose their lies and challenge them openly. That is a right given to us in the convention on civil and political rights. We are exercising this right.
Civil society considers this May Day to be a historical event. We, as civil society activists, have been working for a long period for the unity of this country – ever dreaming for peace and unity of our beloved country. We have committed ourselves bravely to this cause, even at the cost of our lives. We wish to pay a tribute to the large section representing the Sinhala community which has come to this ground to support the political vision of the leaders, both Ranil Wickramasinghe and R. Sampanthan.
Mothers of the disappeared, families of detainees, families, brothers and sisters of Tamil youth who are dead and whose memories have been destroyed are surely joining us to pay this tribute to all of you. Even their tombs are no more. We have to rekindle the memories of those tombs. Without this memory, we will not be able to build our civilization and work towards the unity of this country.
These flags therefore remind us that the political agenda for the future is not a narrow act of merely capturing power. The political future of this country is not merely dependent on capturing power. Political transformation has to take cognisence of establishing dignity as well as equality of all communities. The fruits of development have to be shared by all. The Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are all entitled to a share of development. Freedom for all should be the driving force of our vision for the future.
Dear Tamil sisters and mothers, the tears you shed and the painful sighs you heave is relieved by our presence amidst you. Let that be a hope that sweeps through the land of Lanka for the future.
Tamil brethren, if this unity contributes to break the suspicion within you, let us join hands to walk towards unity, claiming this land as ours and declare that it is us who will unite this country. With this hope, let us march forward.
Very especially, we invite you to overcome the fears that grip you.
It is the responsibility of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people in this country to stamp out this domination. It is the primary responsibility of the Sinhala community to move against this dictatorship. Remember, people in the North are engulfed in fear. Therefore brothers and sisters, you must understand that the journey you undertook is historical. It is you who will change the politics of this country. Let this unity be the clarion call for the mega change.
Let us hail victory!
Let the People’s unity be victorious!
Let the unity among the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims be victorious!