Sri Lanka: Civilian bus tragedy could mark return to full-scale war

Early in the morning on Thursday, 15 June, two claymore mines exploded destroying a bus packed with farmers, workers and children.

Over sixty were killed and another 40 injured. This worst incident for many years took place in Kebithigollewa a remote village about 20 kilometres north of Anuradhapura – the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, populated predominantly by majority Sinhalese. It comes after weeks in which killings by the state and other forces have become a daily occurrence and minority Tamils are constantly hounded by the police and army in the capital, Colombo.

The reaction of the Sri Lankan government to the bus explosion was to order immediate air strikes against strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have de facto control over the North and parts of the East of the island. Talks to save the cease-fire declared in 2002, which many hoped would end the 20 year long war, have foundered. The last ones planned to take place in Oslo did not go ahead and this latest escalation of the situation could mark a return to full-scale armed conflict.

The LTTE itself denies responsibility for the Kebithigollewa tragedy. Their leaders have been making very war-like speeches about the "coming campaign", the "ultimate war". They have been threatening a ‘blitzkrieg’ rather than the "inch by inch" approach to achieving control over the territory they regard as their homeland. But they say they do not target civilians and blame this atrocity on dissident LTTE elements working with the Sri Lankan Army.

Socialists take initiatives

Whoever is responsible, the United Socialist Party – CWI in Sri Lanka – condemns this terrible attack on ordinary working people, women and children,. They report that the fear and tension in the capital Colombo, and elsewhere in Sri Lanka, has dramatically heightened. There are fewer and fewer people moving about.

The USP, now seen as the main left force in the country, has linked up with other left and minority parties who are opposed to the war and fighting all attacks on democratic rights. The party is also conducting an independent campaign of its own – against war preparations on both sides.

Their posters and their paper stress that it is the working people and poor farmers – both Sinhala and Tamil – who have to carry the main burden of war. Already, before the vast human and economic costs begin to mount up again, prices of basic necessities have been rocketing and people are ground down by poverty and crippling anxiety.

Only the working people can find a solution to the horrors of the national conflict. The USP continues to demand that the rights of all oppressed minorities be honoured, including the right of the Tamil-speaking people to self-determination, with autonomous rights for the Muslim Tamil-speaking people in the East. It stands for a united struggle – against chauvinism and communalism, against terrorism and war, against the rule of the bosses and the land-lords.

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