With the help of the thousands of donations that have been made in the last four weeks to the Campaign Sri Lanka, our comrades in the country second worst hit in the region have picked themselves up and started out on the campaigning road once more.
Many visits have been made from Colombo to the stricken areas of Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Pottuvil and the North to assist the homeless comrades and comfort the families who have lost loved ones. Help is being given in a small but useful way by the purchase of bicycles or sewing machines or whatever will enable those who have lost everything to begin to make a living once again. All the journeys cost money in hiring vehicles and buying petrol and that is supplied by the funds collected.
This week the comrades of the USP are bringing out the first 2005 issue of the bi-lingual paper – Red Star. They are also producing a special broadsheet to go to the camps called Voice of the Tsunami People which will take up the immediate problems of the victims of the crisis and put forward aspects of the programme of the USP for socialist change.
The demand for a convention of workers, the displaced and poor people to discuss the emergency and prepare a fight against the government is being taken up and circulated throughout the trade union movement by the Government Press Union. The comrades are hoping for press and TV coverage for the launch of this idea.
The party is also preparing posters and leaflets to demand action from the government to get people back on their feet and no return to war. An important demand in their propaganda is that for real workers’ and poor people’s control over the emergency programmes through directly elected representatives at all levels.
First stop, perhaps, should be the airport, where so much aid has been blocked and requisitioned by the government itself. (This includes supplies of water-purifying tablets and anti-diarrhoea sachets sent from the CWI for the protection of the comrades of the USP and their families, who will get no help from the bigger parties.) Under the guise of appearing even-handed, they are ensuring their own supporters get looked after first! CWI members are not going to rest until these goods are released.
Money and other forms of aid have been pouring into the Socialist Party office and the CWI headquarters in London. The cargo dispatched by ship to Colombo over a week ago will arrive in another week or so. It will cost between 150 and 200 dollars for each journey made to deliver the goods where they are needed.
In Sweden the comrades of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI, Sweden) have collected a marvellous 5,000 euros, half of that figure coming from the Elevkampanjen student organisation. In Australia the members of the Socialist Party there have raised over 2,000 A$. In Israel the comrades of Maavak Socialisti have collected $200, which is a large sum for them. From the USA this week we received $1,370.
Most significantly, the USP has received donations collected by their CWI comrades in India amounting to a very large sum for them of about $400. The comrades of the Parti Socialis Malaysia also made collections and sent ringits worth about $300. Their youth wing also organised a demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy demanding ‘Free Aceh!’ and ‘Cancel the debt!’ Comrades in Pakistan and Kashmir have also been showing their solidarity. The amounts these comrades raise may not be huge, but they are perhaps the most valuable pointer towards the future growth of the ideas and forces of genuine socialism in Asia.
As Rani Rasiah of the Parti Socialis Malaysia wrote in an article on the tsunami: "The overwhelming wave of human compassion shows the human face of mankind, unstrapped by creed, colour and national boundary…It shows what human nature can be…given the material circumstances. For the critics, here is proof that socialism is not alien to the human race".
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