Sri Lanka: ‘Confessions’ of Sinhala worker ‘Terrorists’ opens way for more government attacks

The situation in Sri Lanka has become even more difficult for the left forces, especially the activists fighting against the war and against the repression of the rights of the Tamil-speaking minority.

All the country’s media are carrying alarmist articles about Sinhala terrorist (pro-Tamil Tiger) ‘rings’ operating in the capital city. This stems from the abduction of two Sinhala Railway-workers’ Union leaders and a subsequent government press conference at which it was announced that the trade unionists and some journalists had ‘confessed’ to links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Arms and bombs were said to have been found in searches of their homes and further names have been linked with them. The trade union leaders were subsequently shown on national television ‘confessing’ to the links.

Every Colombo-based newspaper is whipping up hysteria about ‘Sinhala Tigers’. The Sri Lanka Daily Mirror of February 8 talks of areas targeted for the terrorist attacks which include Nugegoda, the area where the anti-war rally was prevented from taking place (see reports).

In this situation it is necessary first to demand that the government explains how two people who were illegally abducted then appear in the hands of the government. Secondly, independent inquiries must be held into the treatment of these ‘prisoners’ before their ‘confessions’ were made and filmed for public showing.

The socialists and human rights activists of the Civil Monitoring Committee would make such demands, immediately condemning the role of the Sinhala chauvinist government in these events. It would also make clear that its own courageous campaigns in defence of the rights of Tamil-speaking people, up to and including the democratic right to self-determination, in no way means they condone the terror tactics of the LTTE. The recent material used in the campaign against the raid on the meeting place of the United People’s Movement and the material of the United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka) makes this point perfectly clear.

The USP has also always explained that such tactics as individual terrorism do not advance the cause of workers and poor people but gives the state an excuse for harsher repression against all opposition.

In this deteriorating situation, it is vital that socialists and activists in the workers’ and human rights movement maintain their campaign of solidarity with the left and democratic forces in Sri Lanka.

Important progress in the campaign

In the past week the tally has been rising further of signatures and protests demanding that the Sri Lankan government stops its flagrant violation of human and democratic rights. (see International Appeal. Sri Lanka Campaign against chauvinism and oppression).

26 councillors in Lulea, Sweden, signed the protest letter. “They were mainly from the Green party, Left party and the Social Democrats, but even some Moderates (conservatives) and Christian Democrats. Both the council leader and the speaker signed the statement now sent to the Sri Lankan embassy and government.”

At the council meeting in Haninge (south Stockholm) on 5 February, seven councillors signed the statement, including the two councillors from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna. “More would have done, but there was no break and a long meeting.”

Significantly, this week saw the Swedish Foreign Minister replying to a written parliamentary question from the MP, Ulf Holm.

“Sverige Riksdag (Sweden’s parliament)

Answer to written question 2006/07:574

5 February

Answer to question 2006/07:574

Peace activists in Sri Lanka death threatened

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt

Ulf Holm has asked me which initiatives I will take against the background of death threats against peace activists and escalating conflict in Sri Lanka.

The government looks seriously at the situation in Sri Lanka and has expressed concern over the recent development in the country. Sweden has for a long time supported the peace process in Sri Lanka, through aid and through participation in the surveillance force Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). Sweden has also actively contributed to give the serious situation in Sri Lanka attention in the newly formed UN council for Human rights. Sweden and the international community has also reacted to the humanitarian crisis that is a result of the military conflict.

The Swedish aid has over recent years focused on supporting organisations in the civil society and institutions of the judicial system in order to strengthen conditions for peace, democracy and respect for human rights. This includes among other things support to mechanisms protecting participants in civil society, for example journalists. Resources has also be used to rebuilding after the tsunami.

After careful considerations the EU in May 2006 decided to list the Tamil organisation LTTE, (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) as a terrorist organisation. Sweden left SLMM in August 2006 when the LTTE announced they no longer regarded observers from EU countries impartial. The government supports Norway’s’ continuing peace initiatives and is prepared to consider sending such observers again if circumstances allows.

SLMM has, in talks with both parties, underlined the importance of respecting the armistice from 2002. In October 2006 peace talks were conducted in Geneva between Sri Lanka’s government and the LTTE. The talks, however, led to limited results and a new date for next meeting was not set.

There is no military solution to the conflict and it is highly important that both the government and the LTTE abstain from violence. Even if the parties have the main responsibility to reach an end to the conflict, Sweden will, together with the other Nordic countries and through the EU, continue efforts to facilitate the parties to go back to the negotiation table.”

This parliamentarily worded- reply in itself shows that the international campaign against chauvinism and repression in Sri Lanka is being taken seriously. The Sri Lankan government is being forced to listen to protests from high places.

Haim Baram, a famous Israeli writer and broadcaster, has also sent his condemnation of the Sri Lankan government’s actions. He has for decades been a radical and anti-war campaigner and a staunch defender of Mordechai Vanunu, jailed for revealing secrets about Israel’s nuclear capabilities.

He writes: “Dear Sirs, I urge you to stop at once the wanton and murderous violence against our fellow socialists in Sri Lanka. As an Israeli writer, I have always opposed the occupation of the Palestinian territories and all forms of oppression. You must also demonstrate your commitment to democracy and human rights, and revert to peaceful conduct. Yours Faithfully, Haim Baram, Jerusalem, Israel

This week the Dublin Regional Organiser of the Building and Allied Trades’ Union sent a protest on behalf of his powerful organisation, demanding action to stop killings and attacks and also action against Mervyn Silva , the deputy minister who led the violent attack on the UPM rally. Similar protest letters have also gone to the Sri Lankan government from student representatives in Greece and from the CWI forces organised in Xekinima. The comrades of Socialist Resistance (CWI) in Russia are holding a protest demonstration in Moscow this Saturday, February 10. Other plans are afoot in various countries around the world, including the tabling of parliamentary motions.

More reports will be carried on this site and the pressure must be maintained. As the events of this week underline, the stakes for socialists and other activists in Sri Lanka are too high to allow us to ease up.

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