Siritunga Jaysuriya of the United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka) and a handful of associates in the ‘United People’s Movement’ escaped with their lives when over 300 armed thugs, led by a deputy minister, raided the place where a public rally was due to be held this Tuesday afternoon in Colombo.
Murderous raid on Anti-War Rally in Colombo
Marvin Da Silva, himself close to the country’s President, Mahinda Rajapakse, claimed to be acting to prevent a meeting taking place in support of the Tamil guerrilla leader, Prabhakaran – which is totally false. This junior minister was accompanied by well known gang leaders and drug dealers wielding pistols and other arms. Hundreds of thousands of rupees worth of damage was done as they wrecked the public meeting place and took over the stage.
Luckily, most of the people who had arrived early for the meeting were not in the immediate area as they were taking their lunch. Siri and other organisers of the rally were at the platform but able to escape only by running into the nearby market crowds and taking refuge inside local shop premises.
The rally, which thousands were originally expected to attend, was called under the slogans of ‘No to the brutal (civil) war!’ and ‘Against repression and poverty’. It was in response to the escalating military clashes between the Sinhala state forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and against state and extra-parliamentary harassment of Tamil-speaking people and of those who defend them and fight for workers’ and human rights.
The tension in the country had mounted rapidly since the two bus bombings which killed many civilians this week. The ultra Sinhala chauvinist organisations like the JVP and JHU had threatened to picket the meeting, and the police, instead of protecting the democratic rights of those who wanted to attend, had tried to ban it without giving any written notice. They knew there could be clashes, as e-mails had been sent to them and elsewhere with photos of up to 30 people whom they said should be "killed immediately". The faces of Siri and other left leaders were amongst them.
In the event, as preparations were being made for the rally and after it was known there would be trouble, the police in the area were nowhere to be seen. They arrived only after the goon squads had ransacked the stage and then simply looked on!
Condemnation of this murderous raid has been made to the press in Sri Lanka. At a press conference soon after the attack, Siritunga Jayasuriya held the government responsible. He accused the president of being directly behind the attack. The Sinhala chauvinist dogs, referred to by Siritunga after Rajapakse became president, are now off the leash. They must be stopped. With the government itself behind such mobs, total opposition must be mounted nationally and internationally.
See also: Government blamed for violent attack on anti-war rally organisers, posted on 15 January 2007