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Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Sri Lanka war: Rajapakse regime in renewed army offensive

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The Sri Lankan Army is pursuing a relentless and bloody battle for the last piece of ground held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north-east of the country. Ignoring mounting international pleas for a ceasefire and a declared halt to the fighting by the LTTE, they have pushed their way into the tiny area still occupied by thousands of refugees.

By Elizabeth Clarke, Socialist Party

Sri Lanka’s defence chief, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, brother of the president, described the Tigers’ declaration as a ‘joke’ and told Reuters: “There is no need of a ceasefire. They must surrender. That is it!”

On 27 April, the Sri Lankan government declared that the military operations in the north were over. Their main concern, they hypocritically announced, was ‘the safety of the civilians’.

The United Nations (UN) has reported at least 6,500 dead and thousands more injured and starving as a direct result of the government’s most recent onslaught. The UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, arrived in Colombo at the weekend to plead with the Rajapakse warmongers, but the government continues to deny that their approach has been erroneous.

Elections held last weekend in the western province of Sri Lanka – in and around the capital Colombo – gave the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance a massive majority over its closest rival, the United National Party. Around two-thirds of the vote (65%) went to the UPFA, giving them 68 seats, against the UNP’s 30% and 30 seats. This left just six seats occupied by other smaller parties. The Sinhala chauvinist JVP (People’s Liberation Front), not at present being in the government coalition, was pushed down to just three seats, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to two and a local Tamil party – the Democratic Unity Alliance held on to its one seat.

The ruling Sinhala racist regime will take this as a resounding endorsement of its drive to defeat the LTTE and crush the aspirations of the country’s minority Tamil people.

It was notable, however, that the UNP, which has taken an anti-war stance over a number of years now, managed to retain all the five seats that fell within the Colombo area. They are predominantly Tamil neighbourhoods but had been subject to vicious intimidation by government-promoted thugs. Elsewhere, especially amongst the Sinhala population, war weariness and fear brought out the vote for the ruling clique.

Socialist campaign

In this extremely unfavourable situation, the United Socialist Party conducted a courageous campaign against the capitalist parties and for policies to bring change for working and poor people. The votes were few but the party remains the main standard-bearer for genuine socialist ideas as well as the right to self-determination for the Tamil-speaking people.

USP general secretary, Siritunga Jayasuriya, commented after the results were declared: “The government used all the electronic and printed media to promote the government party candidates. There was no news on the state radio or TV about opposition candidates or policies.

“In Colombo, UPFA candidates were known criminal offenders up to their eyes in charges of bribery, killings, rape, passport forgery, etc. The disgusting, nationalist Sinhala contempt for Tamils was expressed by one of the government’s leading ministers, supposedly responsible for Health. He said the Colombo people are ‘grass-eaters’ [meaning in the Tamil areas that voted this time round they were no better than animals].

“Sri Lanka is going through a grave economic crisis. It is still hoping for an IMF loan, but even that will not cope with the huge budget deficits. The working class will be asked to pay a huge price for this. But they will come back strongly within a given time to fight off the attacks on their living standards and livelihoods.

“The present period – the massive swing towards communal nationalist politics – is like what happens with the monsoon rains. The water is still flooding everywhere. It is impossible to stop it. It takes time for the flood-water to go away but it will in the end. We will hold on to our beliefs and fighting programme to prepare for big class battles in the not too distant future.”

For more background material see: Bloody end to war, no end to national conflict

Also visit the Stop The Slaughter of Tamils campaign site

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