Sri Lanka: Presidential election heats up

Candidate for United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) writes to British press

To ‘The Independent’

Dear Editor,

As one of the (22) presidential candidates in the Sri Lankan election I am writing regarding the articles by Mr Andrew Buncombe and Mr Suren Surendiran in the 7 January edition of your paper.

United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) presidential candidate, Siritunga Jayasuriya

It is wrong to give the impression in your headline that Tamils as a whole have thrown their weight behind the UNP-supported Sarath Fonseka. It is only MPs of the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) who are doing that. They are politically bankrupt – kites without a string!

We believe that not only Tamils, as Suren says, but Sinhala and Muslim people as well, do not have anything to gain from supporting either of the two chauvinist war-time butchers – Fonseka or Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In the last election, the TNA together with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) advocated a boycott of the election. This gave Rajapaksa his victory – the first time in history that a president was voted in by southern voters only. The Sinhala nationalist JVP (People’s Liberation Front) urged a vote for Rajapaksa that time and participated in his government. Now they are for Fonseka! They are on record as totally opposed to any devolution of central power. This alone indicates that a Fonseka presidency will not fulfil the Tamil-speaking people’s desire for self-determination.

The TNA’s claim that there is no alternative to recommending a vote for Fonseka is wrong. There is an alternative independent candidate that Tamil-speaking and Sinhala people can vote for – that of the United Socialist Party.

I came third in the 2005 election and immediately warned the newly-elected president against stepping up his war-mongering and unleashing anti-Tamil communal forces. But the Rajapaksa government gave free rein to the horror of nationalism and the militarisation of society which have now reached an all-time peak.

For decades, including in the recent extremely dangerous period, we have risked our lives campaigning for the rights of the Tamil-speaking people, standing in elections and calling for Sinhala-Tamil unity against war, dictatorship and all attacks on democratic rights.

I am a founding member and chairman of the CMC (Civil Monitoring Commission) which investigated the brutal killings and disappearances mainly of Tamil people. I am also an honorary president of the Tamil Solidarity Campaign – an international campaign to defend the interests of Tamil-speaking people. This campaign gained the support of British parliamentarians and world-renowned activists such as Arundhati Roy. Our work has been well publicised outside Sri Lanka, including in India.

We have fought consistently for a united mass struggle to end the Rajapaksa dictatorship, not to replace it with another government of Sinhala chauvinist colouration but a democratically controlled government of workers and poor people.

Siritunga Jayasuriya, Presidential candidate for United Socialist Party

To ‘The Guardian’

Dear Guardian,

The article by Natalie Samarasinghe, niece of the courageous writer Lasantha Wickeramatunge (in your 8 January edition), has been brought to my attention. We have today held a commemoration of the anniversary of his brutal killing. As he predicted, his murder was undoubtedly aimed at silencing his trenchant criticisms of the warmongers at the top of Sri Lankan society. We in the Civil Monitoring Commission, the Platform for Freedom and in the United Socialist Party have firmly stood out against the Rajapaksas’ increasingly dictatorial regime, campaigning for press freedom and other very basic rights denied us in Sri Lanka.

Natalie quite rightly asks, in relation to the two main candidates in the presidential election – ex-General Fonseka and Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Just how much difference can there be between the president and one of the chief architects of his war?” I would say, disregarding the new democratic spots that Fonseka has painted himself with, it amounts to choosing between a crocodile and an alligator!

I came third in the last presidential election representing the United Socialist Party. The day the result was announced, I publicly warned the newly-elected president against stepping up his war-mongering and against unleashing communal forces against the minority Tamil-speaking people.

Part from campaigning with my party in nine provincial elections in the recent war-time period I have been involved as a founding member and chairman of the CMC (Civil Monitoring Commission) in investigating the brutal killings and disappearances mainly of Tamil people. I am also an honorary president of the Tamil Solidarity Campaign – an international campaign fighting for the release of Tamil people from the detention camps and for their basic democratic and human rights.

The USP has fought consistently for a united mass struggle of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Up-country people to bring down the Rajapaksa dictatorship. There is no point in replacing one Sinhala chauvinist government with another; what is needed is a government of genuine representatives of the working and poor people of Sri Lanka democratically controlled by the people they represent.

Siritunga Jayasuriya, presidential candidate for United Socialist Party

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January 2010