Sri Lanka: Twenty-fifth aniversary of bloody pogroms nears

President Rajapakse greeted with angry protests in London

Tamils in London gathered in front of the Commonwealth Office to protest

Twenty five years have passed since the ‘Black July’ of 1983 when thousands of Tamils were killed by Sinhala thugs, largely organised by the political elite of that time. The then president, J R Jayawardene, made no attempt to protect the Tamils. He famously said: “I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people. Now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion. The more you put pressure on the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here. Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy”. (Quoted in Daily Telegraph, UK 11th July 1983)

Since then, the country has been plunged into economic turmoil and bloody war. Among all the successors of JR Jayewardene, the current president is regarded as the most racist president that the country has ever seen. There is a widespread fear in the country that the black July of 1983 may be repeated, only that this time it will cost more life and long term damage.

Despite the fact that all human rights lobby groups condemned Sri Lanka as one the world’s worst in terms of its human rights record and that, this May, UN member states refused to vote for Sri Lanka to be on the Human Rights Council, its president was invited to attend the Commonwealth meeting held in London last week.

On 10 June, Tamils in London gathered in front of the Commonwealth Office to protest against Rajapakse and against Gordon Brown. The Metropolitan Police were forced to extend the gathering space as the number of people turning up to protest exceeded 1,000. A small number of Sri Lankan government supporters also turned up with the national flag to give support to Rajapakse, probably organised by the embassy in London.

Socialist Party slogans were welcomed by the protesters. When interviewed by the leading local Tamil television station, ‘Thebam’, Socialist Party representative, Lois Austin, pointed out that, “This protest is very important as it will send a message to both Rajapakse and Gordon Brown that the Tamils living in this country will not be fooled by promises of peace in the distant future. Gordon Brown, together with Rajapakse, has no intention of solving the problems in Sri Lanka or respecting the Tamils’ right to self-determination”.

This same argument was made in the leaflet of the party which had a massive impact on the protesters. Quite significantly some even read the slogans out loud, chanting them. One of them was: ‘The Killing of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Upcountry people must be stopped! Peace negotiations must be started immediately with the representatives of ordinary people involved’. This was quite significant as recently many Sinhala people have fallen victim to a number of bus and train bombs in the south of the country.

The United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka has been arguing for united action for a long time. In the recent eastern province election, the USP was the only left force that participated. In some constituencies in that election, the USP pushed back the support of Sinhala communal forces such as the JVP (People’s Liberation Front).

At the London protest, in the space of two hours we sold all the copies of the Socialist that we had – around 50 – and ran out of two different supplies of hundreds of leaflets. Even though ‘the Socialist’ had no particular material on Sri Lanka, it got an echo amongst the people on the demonstration as its front page called for a new workers’ party with the headline: ‘Don’t just be angry. Get active!’.

The mood of the protest can be summed up by the passer-by who stopped to give support. “I am struggling to support myself here as well as people at home in Sri Lanka. Prices are rocketing. The majority of the people now live in utter poverty. Tamils have suffered a great deal in that country and elsewhere. It’s time we all unite to put an end to it!”. The man who is Sinhala came back five minutes later asking, “Where is the socialist I was talking to?” and gave us a donation.

Socialist Party leaflet in Tamil for protests in London 10 June (pdf).

English translation

Rajapakse: End the War Immediately!

The Sri Lankan masses – ordinary Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Upcountry people – have been plunged into more and more poverty as prices have been rocketing and unemployment increasing. They also face death and disappearance while the country’s war-mongering president plus his relatives, friends and fellow killers have been enjoying a luxurious life.

There are some leaders not invited to this summit on the basis of their human rights record. But Rajapakse is no less a human rights abuser and doing everything to repeat the tragedy of 1983. Why did the ruling class in Britain invite this racist president?

We must unite with the British working class to fight against oppression everywhere.

  • The 25 year long bloody war must be ended immediately.
  • The killing of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Upcountry people must be stopped immediately. The peace talks should be started with representatives of ordinary people involved.
  • The right to self-determination of Tamil people must be allowed while safeguarding the rights of all other minorities.

The United Socialist Party (Sri Lankan section of the Committee for a Workers’ International) has been fighting to unite Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Upcountry people against the chauvinist government. In the recent elections, the USP was the only left force to participate. In that election the USP pushed back the support of communal forces such as the JVP. The USP has also been leading the fight against killings and kidnappings in the south.

The Socialist Party (England and Wales), also a section of the CWI, has been fighting for united action of oppressed against the oppressors,

If you would like to join the fight of oppressed people in Britain, in Sri Lanka or around the world, join us! Contact us on the following address, E-mail or phone.