Sri Lanka: World-wide protests over murdered MP continue.

Protests at the murder of prominent Tamil MP, Nadarajah Raviraj, continue to pour in to embassies around the world and directly to the office of the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse.

On Wednesday, the day of Raviraj’s funeral, protests and meetings took place in a number of cities around the world. (See previous report with accounts of what happened at Sri Lankan embassies in Austria, Belgium, Britain and Israel).

World-wide protests over murdered MP continue.

Pakistan

Khalid Bhatti, Socialist Movement Pakistan reports on a protest meeting held on that day of more than eighty activists, mostly from trade unionists in condemnation of the Sri Lankan military death squads

‘On Wednesday 15 August, the SMP hosted a meeting in solidarity with its sister organisation in Sri Lanka, the United Socialist Party (USP) and in commemoration of the Tamil MP assassinated there by communalist, sectarian death squads. Over eighty trade unionists and left political activists attended to listen to speakers explain the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka and the drift back to civil war.

‘The audience listened with horror to the account given concerning the spate of kidnappings and assassinations of Tamils in Colombo and elsewhere. They heard about the work of the Civil Monitoring Committee investigating these brutal events – a body chaired by Siritunga Jayasuriya, secretary of the USP.

‘Members of the Mazdoor Kissan Party (Workers’ Peasants’ Party) and the Awami National Party (Peoples’ National Party) also attended. Trade unionists from both the private and public sector made up the majority of the audience and came from the Telecoms, Railways and the Post office. Resolutions were passed unanimously calling for an end to the drive towards war and a halt of all death threats, kidnappings and assassinations.

‘The trade unions represented there will write letters of protest to the Sri Lankan embassy in Pakistan over the next week. SMP members will organise a protest meeting in Islamabad over the next few days. On the same day that SMP members held their meeting in Lahore, CWI members in Kotli, Kashmir also held a meeting.

Sweden

Laurence Coates from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI, Sweden) was one of the speakers at the lobby in Stockholm.

‘”Stop the killings, stop the war!”, we shouted in the megaphone, protesting outside Sri Lankan Airways’ office in Stockholm city centre on Wednesday 15 November. It is a crowded place, with a lot of people passing by on their way to lunch or just shopping. Many stopped and read our placards.

‘We distributed hundreds of leaflets and collected signatures on a petition. The leaflet was also given to the staff of Sri Lankan Airways, who said they understood and more or less supported our action outside their office. This was despite our message that the Sri Lankan government has blood on its hands.

‘The message sent by our 5 elected RS councillors and our party in Sweden last week included the following:- ”We are greatly angered by the news of the murder of Sri Lankan MP, Nadarajah Raviraj. Terror gangs have for months now been attacking and murdering Tamils and now those defending the rights of the Tamil-speaking minority in Sri Lanka. The fact that these gangs are able to kill a prominent MP is proof of the cover-up and shielding of the assassins by the state.

‘”This murder is particularly political and in line with the policies of racist and communalist groups within the camp of the government. Nadarajah Raviraj was Tamil, representing Jaffna in parliament. Over the recent months, he was active in the Civil Monitoring Committee, a committee that with clarity and courage protests against the killings and abductions.

‘”We fully support the work of the Civil Monitoring Committee, an initiative toward peace and against communalism. We are alarmed by the threat against leaders of this committee, particularly Siritunga Jayasuriya, the leader of the United Socialist Party. The USP has, over the years, built support for a class answer to the national question of the Tamils – a solution that would benefit all workers and poor on the island, both Sinhalese and Tamil-speaking”.

‘We continue our protests, and will raise the issue as widely as possible. This week, we have an article plus a photo of Siri on the front page of our weekly paper, Offensiv.’

Germany

Aron Amm writes from Germany: ‘For the second time in two weeks, we went to the Sri Lankan embassy in Berlin to hold a lobby. This time we handed in letters of protest about the Raviraj killing. There were eleven of us including members of SAV (Sozialistische Alternative CWI, Germany), activists of the trade union left, members of the new party – WASG (Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice) – and one representative of a left-wing Berlin Sri Lankan exile group.

‘Representatives of the embassy received the protest letters from the Executive of the SAV’ and from the Executive Committee of the Berlin WASG. They told us their stories, saying that the government could not be responsible for the death of the MP or even covering for those who were. The Sri Lankan government only attacks terrorists and they believed that the Tamil MP was murdered by Tamils. At least they discussed a little bit with us this time. Last time they chased us away, denying even our democratic right to protest outside the embassy!”

Still more protests needed

There has been a wave of concern, internationally, about the Raviraj murder including in government circles, as imperialism fears the renewal of outright war in Sri Lanka. Siritunga Jayasuriya reports that it looks as if the government is worried.

As far as our campaign is concerned, there have been more than 60 e-mails that we know of dispatched to the government of Sri Lanka since this outrage. Among them is one signed and sent by the Secretary of the Fire Brigades’ Union in Britain, Matt Wrack and another from Ian Fitzpatrick, EDS Group President, Public and Commercial Services Union (UK). It finished with:

‘Linked up in a world-wide campaign, I and many fellow members of my trade union will continue to make as much noise in protest as we can.

‘As a member of the largest civil service union in the UK, I can assure you that many of the 330,000 PCS members that are in the UK have already been raising the issue with the UK government, the UK labour movement, in the press and at the Sri Lankan embassy in London. We will be there again on Wednesday. We have no intention of stopping as long as the lives of activists and opponents of the war are in danger.

‘We demand action to stop the killings! The government’s protection and cover-up for the murder gangs has to stop!’

Another message was sent from Christine Lehnert, socialist councillor in Rostock, Germany and one from Claus Ludwig, Cologne City councillor, Left council group Cologne/Germany. Another councillor, this time from Ireland, wrote:

‘My name is Mick Barry and I am a councillor for the Socialist Party in Cork city, the second city in the Irish Republic.

‘I read with horror of the assassination of Nadarajah Raviraj MP. I am aware of his work in the Civil Monitoring Committee as I am aware of your Government’s links to racism and communalism.

‘I do not consider your Government to be an innocent, neutral third party in these matters. You have the power to stop the killings and you have the power to stop the cover-ups.

‘Socialists in Western Europe, like myself, have for many years been inspired by the work of Siri Jayasuriya, the leader of the USP. This man is clearly now in some danger given the situation you have allowed develop.

There must be no more killings and no more cover-ups and if anything happens to this brave man the labour movement of all of Ireland will know who to hold responsible.

‘Yours sincerely, Cllr Mick Barry’.

Keep up the protests

Many more messages should be on their way and phone calls are still being made.

Of course, it is not easy or cheap to phone the president himself, but a barrage of phone calls to local embassies will still have an effect.

Socialists and trade union activists around the world have a chance to say that enough is enough in Sri Lanka. No to war and terror! No to killings and kidnappings! Honour the democratic rights of all, including all oppressed minorities! Yes to the unity of working and poor people of all nationalities and all nations!

Please keep the protests and the solidarity donations rolling in. (See previous articles for details)

A fuller report will be made on the effect the protests are having and on the general political situation in Sri Lanka following this brazen and politically significant murder in Colombo.

Boston

One message from Boston, Massachusetts reads:

‘To Whom It May Concern: ‘I have learned of the murder of Nadarajah Raviraj, Tamil MP and member of the Civil Monitoring Committee, and feel great consternation and outrage at this situation. I need not tell you that this man courageously stood against dead-end ethnic sectarianism and for true human interests and needs, for a true way out of Sri Lanka’s ethnic deadlock.

‘Now he has been murdered by gangsters. Now the government of Sri Lanka allows the murderers, these political cowards, manipulators, violators, to live unpunished, while a true and courageous man, strong enough to put his principles before the public, lies dead, having given all.

‘Now the question arises: Is the government of Sri Lanka itself strong enough to put its principles before the public, to be true and to stand behind its words which condemn the murder, or will it prove itself just as cowardly and unprincipled as the disgusting perpetrators of this deed?

‘The people of the world are watching. The people of Sri Lanka are watching. Now you must act. To do anything less than bring these murderers to justice will defame the legitimacy of this government. What does this government represent, the interests of the majority of the Sri Lankan people, or the interests of a few conspiratorial gangsters?

‘There is one way out of this impasse: No to sectarian killings! No to war! For workers unity and socialism! Sincerely, Dennis Prater’.

US trade unionist

Message from trade unionist, Tina Rua, November 16, 2006

To the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse

Re: Assassination of Nadaraja Raviraj; kidnappings and murders of activists and Tamil people

Dear President Mahinda Rajapakse,

I have heard news about the kidnappings and murders of activists and Tamil-speaking people in your country, Sri Lanka, by sectarian forces and death squads and how your government refuses to prosecute these groups in order to stop them from committing these crimes against humanity. On November 10, 2006, Nadarajah Raviraj, a Tamil MP, was assassinated outside his home in Colombo by one of these death squads. Prior to his murder, he had received death threats because he defended the Tamil people’s right to self-determination. Other pro-Tamil activists are also targets of death threats and fear for their lives.

These killings and kidnappings need to stop now! I urge that your government take action against the death squads that have killed and kidnapped countless Tamils, activists, and now Raviraj, one of the MPs of your government by doing the following:

Set up an independent investigation into the murders of Raviraj and other activists and civilians.

  • Stop the free movement of paramilitary groups in Sri Lanka. They are involved in abominable acts against the population of Sri Lanka.
  • Stop the abuses against the Tamil-minority. The Tamil people have a right to food, housing, healthcare, electricity, water, and other items necessary for a decent life.
  • Stop the attacks on the defenders of the Tamil people, including the poor, the oppressed, and the working-class.

People have the right to self-determination, to determine the social, economic, and political aspects of their lives. The Tamil people have the right to determine who politically represents them. Since your government has refused to take action against these sectarian death squads, I believe it should be held responsible for the death of Nadarajah Raviraj.

Sincerely, Tina Rua,

member of AFSCME Local 3650 and

member of Socialist Alternative, Committee for a Workers’ International, USA.

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