Sri Lanka security high for early May Day rallies

April 30, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police stepped up security in the capital Monday as political parties prepared to stage May Day rallies a day ahead of the rest of the world, officials said. Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels launched a suicide bomb attack in 1993 during a ruling party May Day rally and assassinated then president Ranasinghe Premadasa.

The May Day rallies were advanced to April 30 because the international labour day coincided with the most important Buddhist festival known as Wesak, celebrated on the fifth full moon of the year, a government official said.

This year, May 1 will be celebrated across most of the Buddhist world as the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of the Buddha.

Police said the advanced May Day rallies in Colombo were so far low key, but the Marxist JVP, or the People Liberation Front, was expected to turn out in large numbers later Monday.

“We have brought policemen from outside Colombo to reinforce the security arrangements in the city,” a senior officer said.

Sri Lanka has also ordered all liquor stores to close from Sunday for five days as a sign of respect for Buddhists, who form a majority in the nation of