On Sri Lankan Independence Day, 4 February, Tamil Solidarity organised a protest to oppose the repressive Sri Lankan regime at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London. The protest was organised with the slogans: “75 years of repression”, “Unity of the masses – not with the government and elite”, “Fight for freedom continues, we demand our independence’’.
Despite the cold weather, more than 400 people took part with other diaspora organisations also organising protests at different times.
We chanted: “Release release political prisoners, we defend right to protest, we defend self-determination”, and for the removal of current President Ranil Wickremesinghe. While we chanted outside, the high commission attempted to drown us out by playing music very loudly. We showed our anger at this by chanting even louder as the high commission kept increasing their speakers’ volume to try and keep up!
Afterward, we organized a public meeting which heard from Siritunga Jayasuriya (Siri), general secretary of the United Socialist Party (section of the Committee for a Workers’ International in Sri Lanka). Siri spoke about the situation facing the masses in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the mass movements which took place last year.
He spoke of how protests were organised across Sri Lanka in the preceding days against the Independence Day celebrations. In the predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east of Sri Lanka a Hartal (general strike) had successfully shut society down. Protests organised in the south around the slogan: “Where is the freedom?” were brutally attacked by the state, while peacefully protesting against the repressive regime. Some of the protesters were injured badly.
Siri spoke of how people in Sri Lanka are still struggling in their day-to-day life, because of high prices and inflation. People in the south protested because they were angry at the government for spending money on celebrations while one-third of children are below the poverty line. With austerity and privatisation demanded by the IMF and others in exchange for bailing out the elite, the Aragalya (struggle) of people in Sri Lanka is not likely to be over.
Tamil Solidarity demands:
- Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) immediately – and all other oppressive laws. Drop all charges on protesters. Release all political prisoners
- Allow freedom of assembly, free speech, and freedom to dissent
- Give back all the land occupied by the military and government authorities
- We demand an independent war crimes investigation
- Withdraw troops from all occupied Tamil areas
- Stop privatisation in education and health
- Allow the right to self-determination of the Tamil-speaking people