Socialists call for media freedom, peace, democracy and socialism.
On Friday 16 January, solidarity protests were organised at embassies and consulates around the world, in response to the murder of Lasantha Wickmeratunge, Sri Lankan journalist and editor of the Sunday Leader, by thugs apparently protected by state authorities. Lasantha’s killing represents yet another atrocity perpetrated with impunity under the dictatorial Rajapakse regime, determined to crush all opposition to its corruption, and the waging of its bloody war against Tamil-speaking people.
In the latest developments, the government has been claiming ‘victories’ at the expense of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam), recently having driven the Tigers, along with 100,000 innocent civilians, out of the town of Kilinochchi. More than 300,000 refugees are now crammed into an area 25 miles wide around Mullaitivu, where the ‘Tigers’ are resisting the Sri Lankan Army onslaught. A human tragedy on the scale of Gaza is in train.
CWI protestors have condemned the Lasantha killing, but also argued the case for a genuine solution to the 25 year cycle of war and repression in Sri Lanka, on the basis of a socialist alternative to the dead-end of capitalism and communalism.
Protests took place in England, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, and Sweden among other countries. In response to the call from the CWI and the Civil Monitoring Committee for messages of protest to be sent to the Sri Lankan authorities, a flood of letters were sent from around the world, including from elected councillors and trade union activists from Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, and Britain. Below are some short reports from a number of the protests.
Cédric Gérôme, Brussels
A dozen activists from the PSL/LSP (CWI in Belgium) gathered on Friday morning, in front of the Sri Lankan embassy in Brussels, in reaction to the recent murder of the chief editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge. This action took place within the framework of an international campaign of protest organised by the CWI, on the initiative of the United Socialist Party, our Sri Lankan section.
We intended to protest against the violence (intimidation, ‘disappearances’, murders, kidnappings..) of the Sri Lankan government and its supporters, not only against journalists, but also political and trade union activists, members of humanitarian organisations, and all those who oppose its policy, in particular its war against the Tamil Tigers, being used as a pretext for a campaign of persecution against the Tamil community.
Two of our members were received by the ambassador. He asserted that our action was based on a ’misinterpretation’ of the ongoing conflict in the country. Asserting without the slightest irony, that Sri Lanka is a ’socialist state’, and claiming to be an expert on Marxism, the ambassador spoke for some 20 minutes, about what he considers as a ’good war’ conducted ’only against the terrorists of the LTTE’ (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). He suggested insidiously that those who oppose the policy of the president Rajapakse are on the side of the terrorists and that the civilians killed by the governmental forces are just ’collateral damage’. We did not wish to pursue this useless dialogue any longer…
The conditions in which our CWI comrades of the United Socialist Party are building support for socialism in Sri Lanka are extremely precarious and dangerous. We want to express to them our unconditional support, and our will to engage other solidarity campaigns if necessary.
On Friday 16 January, around 50 protestors gathered at the Sri Lankan embassy in London at a protest called by the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales). Protestors expressed disgust at Lasantha Wickmeratunge’s ( a prominent Sri Lankan journalist and editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper) murder, which was regarded by all present as but one aspect of the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of media freedom. The murder of Lasantha was intended by the government to send a message: that all who seek to speak out about government corruption, or to tell the truth about the government’s persecution and military assaults on Tamil-speaking people in their execution of the 25 year long civil war, face repression or even death. The response of the protestors to this message was a determined demand for media freedom, peace and democracy. Two letters were handed in to the embassy, from the Socialist Party and the CWI International Secretariat, demanding a response from the High Commissioner to the violence against the Sri Lankan media by the government he represents. Our representatives were refused entry to the embassy to relay our concerns.
Socialist Party slogans and placards were unique on the demonstration in the clear programme they put forward, demanding media freedom and an end to attacks and killings. Crucial demands included those for:
- A socialist alternative to the quagmire of capitalism and communalism in Sri Lanka
- A united struggle of Sinhala, Tamil and all of Sri Lanka’s workers and poor against the war and clan rule in Sri Lanka
- The replacement of the dictatorship of warlords and capitalists with a democratic socialist society, in Sri Lanka and throughout the South-Asian region
- The use of the resources of society to benefit the majority
- Democracy and freedom of speech for all.
On Wednesday 14 January, members of the Socialist Party organised a protest outside the Sri Lankan consulate, against the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge. Protestors held placards declaring: “Stop state collusion in murder of journalists!” and “Lasantha Wickramatunge murdered by thugs connected to President Rajapakse”.
A protest letter from the Socialist Party and Socialist Youth was handed in to the embassy.It condemned the murder and highlighted the trampling on democratic rights in Sri Lanka. It also called for a genuinely independent inquiry into the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge and expressed the Socialist Party’s determination to continue to expose the harassment and violence against those who speak out against the government.
"When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me,"
These now famous words of the murdered editor, Lasantha Wickramatunge, were quoted at the protest at the Sri Lankan embassy in Stockholm, Friday 16 January. Angry protesters from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) and supporters gathered in temperatures of minus 5 degrees, outside the embassy. A protest letter, signed by the party’s eight city councillors, was delivered and embassy staff promised to forward it to the government in Colombo. By the end of the protest, the protesters had been approached by two men, connnected to the embassy, who took photographs of us. The murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge has also been reported in an article, in the newspaper of the Swedish Journalist’s Union.
Berlin: Handing in protest letter
Berlin: ‘Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka!’
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