The cwi appeal for donations to help the United Socialist Party (USP) in Sri Lanka after the tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004 has received an incredibly powerful and overwhelming response internationally.
On behalf of the USP, the cwi wants to warmly thank the numerous comrades and supporters who have so generously donated money, medical supplies, clothes, toys and other gifts. They will be of enormous assistance to those USP members who have lost everything and will contribute to building up the political fighting strength of the party.
There have been numerous generous donations from individual cwi members and supporters in many countries, as well as from trade union activists, relatives and friends.
Austria, Germany and Sweden
Workers have offered to go to Sri Lanka in order to physically help rebuilding houses. In Austria, the CWI members have been able to utilise the good relations they have with Austrian airline workers, gained through assisting them in struggle, to get vital assistance and advice in relation to delivering help to Sri Lanka.
Our newly elected councillor in Aachen, Germany, will put forward a motion at the next council meeting, asking all councillors to donate their expenses towards the Campaign Sri Lanka. Socialist Party councillors in Lewisham are putting forward a motion to the council which calls on the Blair government to cancel the debt of the countries affected by the Tsunami.
A school student from Hamburg in Germany (see separate report) wrote a leaflet and spoke in front of different classes at her school, explaining not only the need to donate money but also the need to cancel the debt of the affected countries, for fair and equal distribution of aid etc. By doing so, she ignited a number of political discussions and succeeded in raising a fantastic €436.81 from fellow students and teachers. Elevkampanjen, an anti-capitalist youth organisation in Sweden, raised a marvellous amount of €2,500 at their annual conference.
Belgium, France, England and Wales
cwi parties in Belgium, France and England and Wales have been collecting money on the streets – in France within three days of the disaster itself. Even though many people have donated money to charity already, there is a great deal of scepticism towards some of the established charity organisations among broader layers of the population. More importantly, there is a lot of distrust towards politicians and their motives including how concerned they are about rebuilding the homes of the poor on the Indian Ocean sea-board.
Again, in an impressive act of solidarity, comrades across England and Wales have collected large quantities of clothes, light bedding, plastic plates, children’s toys, tents, medicine etc. and brought it all to London for shipping to Sri Lanka this week-end.
A special thank you also goes out to the comrades in Pakistan, India and Kashmir who, despite living in poverty conditions themselves, are collecting food, clothes, medicine and even money as well. Jagadish Chandra, a full-timer for Socialist Alternative (cwi India) has gone from India to Sri Lanka to assist in the campaigning activity of the USP.
We would also like to warmly thank the comrades of the Parti Socialis Malaysia. Even though Malaysia has also been affected by the Tsunami, they have decided to collect money in support of the USP comrades in Sri Lanka. They have also demonstrated at the Indonesia embassy in support of the Acehnese fighters and against the government which allows the military to carry on its murderous ‘anti-guerrilla’ operations in spite of the cease-fire enacted by the Acehnese immediately after disaster struck.
What is the money for?
The money coming in to our appeal account is being transferred to Sri Lanka. It is paying for urgent supplies of medicine and food and financing the transport of USP full-time comrades and other members on visits to all the affected areas of the island. It will also go towards publishing leaflets, posters and a new issue of the party’s paper – Red Star – which has the front page headline: "US troops leave now!" Unlike almost all other bodies concerned with the relief effort all accounts of the money collected are perfectly open for all to see.
Given the situation on the ground – the unequal and discriminatory distribution of aid, the attempts by communalists (and government forces) to stir up of tensions between the Tamil and Sinhalese community – the intervention of the USP can play a pivotal role in trying to ensure that political mobilisation takes place along united class lines. Once the workers, poor peasants and fishermen have overcome their initial state of shock and grief, there is a strong case for trying to turn that shock and horror into anger and resistance against the government and against imperialism.
USP travels the island
Amazingly, all the USP’s members have survived the Tsunami. Those who had been reported missing have been found. However, many comrades have lost family members and beloved friends. Having lost their homes, a number of comrades and their families live under horrific conditions in camps for displaced people.
Despite difficult circumstances, comrades from Colombo have travelled the island, in order to deliver aid and to get a first hand account of the situation unfolding in the camps. They have also visited the camps in the North of the island where Siritunga Jayasuriya, the General Secretary of the USP, was able to address big meetings of the people made destitute, those who have next to nothing left (see separate report to come).
The USP received a very good response when they exposed the hypocrisy and true intentions of US imperialism and also of Indian imperialism. Both are allegedly deploying troops for humanitarian reasons but, in truth, as is the nature of imperialist interventions, are aiming for increased economic and military control in the region.
Aid as a weapon
Distribution of aid in Sri Lanka is still chaotic, bureaucratic, probably corrupt and certainly discriminatory. Under the guise of being ‘even-handed’, and being quite the opposite, the government is trying to take control over all emergency supplies that arrive at Colombo airport and elsewhere. Undoubtedly aid is being used as a political weapon; cronies are favoured and Tamil-speaking people in the North and East discriminated against. The USP is demanding that all aid and reconstruction supplies and programmes are put under the control of elected committees of workers and poor peasants.
Solidarity in its true form has been put into practice by millions of working class people across the globe in the past few weeks. Everyone who wants to make us believe that humankind is too selfish to establish a socialist and equal society can be proven wrong by this one example.
Again, we want to thank everyone for whatever contribution they were able to make and assure everyone that their donation is reaching those in need and will not only contribute towards immediate survival but to speed up the struggle towards the building of genuine socialism.