Sri Lanka: Campaign against chauvinism and oppression

London lobbies on Wednesday 31 January: Stop the killings! Put Mervyn Silva on trial! Hands off Siritunga Jaysuriya!

pic by cwi photographer Paul Mattsson

On 31 January the Socialist Party organised two lively lobbies in London to protest against the Sri Lankan government’s sectarian war policies and the attacks on anti-war activists and those defending the democratic rights of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. These attacks are being carried out by government-supported gangsters, thugs and militias. The lobbies were organised to coincide in particular with the return to Sri Lanka of our comrade Siritunga Jayasuriya from the United Socialist Party (USP) after the the CWI’s 9th World Congress held in Belgium.

Siri plays a crucial and outstanding role in Sri Lanka in organising the opposition against the civil war. Because of this, he has received numerous death threats and recently nearly lost his life in an attack on an anti-war rally carried out by 100 thugs under the leadership of Mervyn Silva, a deputy minister of the Sri Lankan government.

In the meantime the Sri Lankan authorities have been trying to portray Siri as an uncritical supporter of the Tamil Tigers while in reality the USP has always taken a firm position against their policy of individual terrorism.

Foreign Office and Sri Lankan Consulate

The first lobby in London took place at 2.30 pm in front of the British Foreign Office (FO) and was about 20 strong. It was aimed to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government through putting pressure on the British FO. Although the FO refused to accept a protest letter explaining our concerns, the protesters outside still made their demands clear.

‘What do we want? The killers on trial! What do we want? Silva on trial!’, they shouted. ‘No to terror! No to war! That is what we’re fighting for!’ and ‘Mervyn! Mervyn! Mervyn! – Out! Out! Out! Out! – Mahinda Rajapakse [president]! Out! Out! Out!’. Greg Maughan from the Socialist Party made a speech explaining the situation our comrades are facing in Sri Lanka and denouncing the hypocrisy of the FO. The demand was also made that the FO should forward the message to the Sri Lankan government.

At 4.00 pm a second lobby, with 25 people, took place in front of the Sri Lankan High Commission. A protest letter – signed, amongst many others, by councillors and MPs – was accepted by an official of the High Commission; but a discussion was refused us and, on the sound of the first speeches of the protesters, the doors of the embassy were quickly closed!

However, if the High Commission thought it could discourage the lobby in this way, it thought wrongly. Slogans like ‘Stop the killings, stop the death squads, stop the killings now!’ and ‘1,2,3,4 we don’t want your civil war! 5,6,7,8 defend the right to demonstrate!’ were shouted so loudly for more than half an hour that, repeatedly, people from surrounding buildings came to see what was going on!

The lobby made absolutely clear the there was a determination to keep building the Solidarity Campaign. We should also emphasise that already hundreds of people in the trade union movement in the UK as well as MPs and councillors, are involved and are watching what is happening in Sri Lanka. New actions will certainly be organised unless the sectarian violence led by the government is stopped immediately!

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February 2007