Mass protests continue
By Elizabeth Clarke, CWI
After a week of escalating protests worldwide against the mounting slaughter of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Rajapakse government announced a two-day halt to the fighting with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
This was for 13-14 April – the two days on which the Sri Lankan New Year is celebrated. But this did not constitute a ceasefire as demanded by the protesters, nor a realistic opportunity to rescue the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the ‘no fire’ or horribly mis-named ‘safe zones’.
At best a few hundred badly injured men, women and children would have been evacuated by sea to hospitals like Pulmoddai, near Trincomalee and a few thousand more civilians would have been herded into the government’s barbed-wire encircled ‘transitional villages’. In fact, a handful of people left the area.
President Rajapakse denies point blank to the United Nations that any civilians have been coming under artillery fire from Sri Lanka’s Army. Doctors and Human Rights organisations report otherwise. Civilians fleeing the area have told BBC reporters of almost constant gunfire and an acute lack of water, food and medicine. “We had nothing to eat for the last five days”, explained one man accompanying his wounded son to the Pulmoddai hospital after witnessing his wife being killed by a shell attack.
“At the end of the two days the massacre of our people will be resumed,” declares a statement of Tamils in Australia carried on the ‘Fast unto Action’ web-site. Three young men in Sydney have joined a growing list of Tamils around the world prepared to sacrifice their lives in hunger strikes demanding action from world ‘leaders’.
Paraneswaram Subramaniam is one of the two students involved in a similar protest in Parliament Square, London. His utter desperation and preparedness to die stem from the brutal facts of the last few weeks of widespread killing and maiming in the north of Sri Lanka. His mother, sisters, brother and nephew have all been killed by the Sri Lankan forces. His co-protester, Sivatharsan Sivakumaraval has agreed to suspend his fast on the promise of a hearing at the United Nations in Washington. But this is a body whose General Assembly and Security Council have not once discussed the civil war in Sri Lanka. The Russian delegation, along with a number of others, is unlikely to agree to any resolution condemning the Sri Lankan government. Even if it did, the Rajapakse government can ignore it with impunity just as Israeli government have in relation to condemnations of atrocities committed against the Palestinian people.
In the opinion of the United Socialist Party (the Sri Lankan section of the Committee for a Workers’ International) and the campaign ‘Stop the Slaughter of Tamils’, only mass action will stay the hand of the murderous Rajapakse regime – protests like those of last Saturday in London and elsewhere, plus strikes and workers’ embargoes on the transport of arms and military equipment. Only organised, united action of Sinhala and Tamil workers and poor people will finish with racist corrupt war-mongering capitalist governments in Sri Lanka.
“The people of this country are in real distress. They do not know where they are heading. The cost of living has spiralled completely out of control. The prices of basic food items have gone sky-high. Many people may be managing with only one meal a day. Some may not be able to afford even that.”
Sri Lankan Sunday Times,
A masssive demonstration of well over 100,000 people [250,000 according to the organisers], overwhelmingly Tamil, marched through central London on Saturday 11 April calling for an end to the war in the north of Sri Lanka, which is killing innocent civilians. Saturday’s demonstration followed a similar sized protest in the capital on 31 January.
The demo denounced the murderous, chauvinist regime of president Rajapakse and expressed anger at the continuing support his regime receives from the British government and big business and other western powers.
Crowds of demonstrators thronged Socialist Party stalls to sign up to the international solidarity campaign – ‘Stop the slaughter of Tamils’. This response irked some of the right-wing organisers of the British Tamils Forum (BTF) who attempted to use stewards to stop people signing up to the campaign. However, on hearing our campaign demands, many demonstrators ignored the BTF advice, including some Tamil stewards who began distributing the solidarity leaflet, written in both Tamil and English.
For reports of protests organised in different countries in response to the call from the Stop the Slaughter of Tamils campaign, including the protests in Dublin on Tuesday 15 April, see web-site: stoptheslaughteroftamils.org