Sri Lanka: Tsunami people on the streets

"Demonstrations are escalating. From yesterday morning until today, homeless people in the East of the Island occupied the main road from Ampara all the way up to Batticaloa.

Siritunga Jayasuriya, Secretary of the United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka, spoke to Clare Doyle of the cwi on Wednesday 9 March. cwi online.

Tsunami people on the streets

"They camped there, did their cooking there and would not move until a government official came and heard their demands. USP full-time worker, Jabar was in the negotiations voicing the peoples demand for proper shelter.

"The government official promised to get something done and the blockade was lifted but, as a refugee doctor told us, ’The rains have started. We have no homes and nowhere to go’. Living in the camps has become impossible and everybody is back in the schools and temples that they were forced to occupy immediately after the Tsunami hit. They have had enough suffering without these further bureaucratic and politically motivated delays.

"In the East and in the South the homeless people have been snapping up the ’Tsunami People’s Voice’ – a broadsheet produced in both the Sinhala and the Tamil languages with resources made available through the Campaign Sri Lanka, initiated by the cwi. On a big protest demonstration in the South, between Matara and Galle, people were taking the broadsheet and then shouting out the main slogans with great enthusiasm. One of the USP full-time workers, our comrade Mahinda, was making a speech, voicing the anger of the people when the Fisheries Minister (a member of the radical chauvinist JVP) turned up and tried to pull him away from the crowd.

’"Who are you?’ and ’What are you doing here?’ shouted the Minister. ’Who are you to be pulling me away?’ Mahinda replied, ’I was born and bred here and the people want me to speak for them!’. The minister was told in no uncertain terms by all the protesters that he should go away. ’Leave our brother alone!’ they shouted. ’Go and sort sort out some housing for us!’. Many of these people are fishermen but wanted nothing to do with this Fisheries minister! They wanted Mahinda to lead their demonstrations and took him to visit their camps, see the conditions there and speak to the people about the USP’s ideas for their struggle.

"The discontent and anger is mounting by the day. The people most affected by the Tsunami need at least decent temporary homes which can be built very quickly. They also want to be able to rebuild their own homes, where they want and not be told they have to live in government-ordained areas. The USP is backing the Tsunami people all the way and voicing their just demands against corruption and for total compensation, not more loans and debts. If the country’s debts are being lifted, why is there not money available for reconstruction? Where is the money donated from abroad for relief?

"Our resources are fully stretched to reach everyone and take up their pleas for help. Now we are considering an initiative to really bring home to the government that they must act quickly or move aside. The Tsunami people themselves have to organise and make their voice heard. We will do everything possible to channel their anger into a campaign that gets results."

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