The Socialist 9 February 2006 |
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Sri Lanka: Back from the brink of war?
JUST A week or so ago, the four-year long ceasefire in Sri Lanka's
civil war was on the verge of collapse.
Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)
In seven weeks more than 100 people had been killed, most of them
members of Sri Lanka's armed forces. But on 23 January, two key figures
involved in efforts to renew peace talks arrived in the capital,
A resumption of the war has been inherent in the situation. Tensions
and hostilities have escalated since the election as president, last
November, of Mahinda Rajapakse. He was backed by Sinhala chauvinist
forces - the JVP (People's Liberation Front) and the JHU (Buddhist
Monks' organisation). They do not want any talks to take place with the
separatist Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), especially if there
is any hint of granting some kind of autonomy to the North and East of
the island, let alone self-determination.
The JVP and JHU totally opposed the LTTE's request for talks to take
place in Europe and also opposed the involvement of Norway's development
minister, Erik Solheim, as an intermediary to get the talks re-started.
But last week both Solheim and the veteran LTTE leader, Anton
Balasingham, who lives in London, visited Sri Lanka to hold talks with
both the Tigers' leaders and the government. Big pressure has been put
on Rajapakse by US imperialism and other capitalist governments to
negotiate. These parties want peace in order to continue their trade and
business at the expense of the workers and poor of Sri Lanka.
Now the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have agreed to in Geneva,
Switzerland, in mid February. This brings the country back from the
brink of war. Local elections are going ahead in March and the labour
movement can renew its struggle against privatisation and cut-backs.
The new president, Rajapakse, promised to stop privatisation but he
will come under huge pressure to continue the programme he was
implementing as prime minister of the People's Alliance government. The
only alternative is a socialist struggle.
Siritunga Jayasuriya, (the United Socialist Party - CWI, Sri Lanka -
candidate, who came third in the 2005 presidential election), warned on
live television, immediately after the new president's acceptance
speech, that a movement would be organised in the streets when workers
and poor people saw he had broken his promises. The communalist forces
Rajapakse had unleashed would threaten the fragile peace and in
particular the lives and security of the island's Tamil-speaking people.
Since the election, Tamil-speaking people in Colombo and elsewhere
have been subjected to daily police round-ups and detentions. Thousands
have been fleeing their homes for areas beyond the control of the Sri
Lankan state. Thousands have joined a new exodus to India for safety,
knowing that a renewal of the fighting will lead to very heavy loss of
life and destruction in the LTTE-held areas of the North and East.
Lately in the East, around Batticaloa, there have been so many
kidnappings, allegedly by state forces, that the LTTE leaders have
threatened to pull out of the Geneva talks.
The USP has been supporting all demonstrations of Tamil-speaking
people against harassment and have got wide publicity for their stand. A
broad movement against the resumption of the war is developing and the
USP is fully involved. They are calling for the trade unions and all
left forces to come together to create one single voice of protest. Now
the USP is preparing to put forward candidates on a fighting socialist
programme in the provincial elections of 29 March.