Sri Lanka: Facing a ‘Political Tsunami’

Sri Lanka is going through an unprecedented crisis, not only because of the murder of Foreign Minister Kadirgarmar last week, but also the failure of the capitalist government to meet the present challenges.

The United Socialist Party (USP) predicted soon after the Tsunami disaster that if the Sri Lankan government was not prepared to do the relief work properly there was going to be a political Tsunami towards the end of the year. Of course as socialists we totally condemn the killing of Kadirgarmar by a terrorist act but we do not stop there. We condemn all the killings that have taken place during the last period, including of journalists, politicians and members of the LTTE.

Since the ruling People’s Alliance government came to power in April 2004 it has not moved an inch to take the peace process forward. The PA government could not take a stand on the ISGA (Interim Self-governing Authority) proposed by the LTTE due to Sinhala communal pressures within the government from the JVP. (The JVP is a Sinhala based chauvinist communal party calling itself ‘Marxist’). Not only could President Chandrika not restart the peace talks she has become a ‘hostage’ of the communal forces within the JVP. For a long time she was unable to sign a joint agreement with the LTTE to start the Tsunami relief work. For example, she took six months after the Tsunami to sign the Post Tsunami Operational Management Agreement (P-TOMS). She signed this agreement with the LTTE on the 24th June 2005 only after the JVP quit her government, on June 15th, including 39 members of parliament, leaving the PA government with a minority in parliament.

In response to this agreement the JVP took the P-TOMS to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka demanding that a restraining order be put on the agreement. The Supreme Court gave its decision in favour of the JVP effectively undermining the implementation of the agreement on rehabilitation of the Tsunami victims between the government and the LTTE. This is a clear indication that not only the Sri Lankan government is Sinhala dominated, but also the institution of the Sri Lankan judiciary.

Since the Tsunami disaster took place on 26 December 2004, very little rehabilitation work has taken place in the whole of the country. But, in comparison with the south of Sri Lanka, in the north and eastern parts of the country, where the Tamils and Muslim people live, there has been no major relief work.

As a result of this situation a number of violations of the Cease-Fire agreement have taken place. There have been many killings in the north and the east and also in the capital, Colombo. Minister Kadirgarmar’s killing was just one of them. They demonstrate the inability of the PA government to stop the killings on all sides.

Whilst we condemn the ‘killing culture’ – including the terrorist attacks of the LTTE – we demand that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE come out with new proposals to restart the peace process with involvement of working people’s representatives. If new initiatives are not forthcoming, the possibility of war cannot be ruled out. Of course, neither for the LTTE nor the Sri Lankan government, is it easy to take the decision to go back to war; but without new proposals this seems inevitable.

After the murder of Kadirgarmar, the capitalist Sri Lankan government introduced a State of Emergency, the motive of which is to further suppress the democratic struggles of the working class, the youth and the national minorities as well as the struggles of the Tsunami victims. At the same time, the real meaning of declaring the emergency is to put the armed forces on a war footing. We have evidence from the past that the weak Sri Lankan capitalist class has shown an incapacity to solve the national question. The only way to do this in Sri Lanka is to accept the right to self-determination of national minorities by the coming together of the working class in the north, south and east – the joining together of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people in a struggle towards the transformation into a socialist society.

Although the killing of Kadirgarmar – a Tamil and a representative of the capitalist class – gained world media coverage, it diverted attention away from the day to day burning issues faced by the ordinary working class people and the poor of this country. Kadirgarmar was a very close ally of the JVP and his killing has led to an increase in communal tensions, particularly in the south of the country, whipped up by the JVP and the JHU (Buddhist monks’ main party).

During this year there have been unprecedented rises in the price of daily commodities by nearly 80%, bringing further misery into the lives of ordinary people. Meanwhile the main capitalist parties are engaged in discussing the issue of presidential elections – whether they should be held towards the end of 2005 or 2006. The decision is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

After the biggest disaster in the history of Sri Lanka, the Tsunami, which killed nearly 50,000 ordinary people and destroyed their homes, the majority of the ordinary people affected still lack homes, jobs, education and health. The issue of the presidential election it seems is being imposed upon the people by the capitalist class. They are being asked to take sides. In this situation the USP, a working class party, based on Sinhala, Tamils and Muslims, have no other choice but to stand against the capitalist, chauvinist and communal parties. The USP will stand on a clear socialist programme for the working class, national minorities and the poor of the country.

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August 2005