Sri Lanka

On Monday 9 May, dramatic events rocked Sri Lanka. After months of economic turmoil, and weeks of mass mobilisations on the streets, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa made a desperate gamble to establish order and save his own political skin. But his brutal crackdown backfired in dramatic style. By nightfall, Mahinda was hiding in a naval base, whilst dozens of MPs’ residences were in flames. By the end of the day, eight people were dead including one MP and two police officers, and the hospitals were flooded with the injured.

A month has now passed since nationwide anger erupted in Sri Lanka, leaving the ruling class shell-shocked. The movement has shown remarkable resilience. Neither monsoon rains, nor the Sinhala Tamil New Year festivities, nor the shenanigans of a government that knows every dirty trick in the book have succeeded in defusing the rage of the masses. And yet, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains stubbornly entrenched in power, mocking the masses by his presence.

The most spectacular struggle of the Sri Lankan people since the 1953 Hartal is presently unfolding. The power of this struggle has forced the resignation of the cabinet. The government’s allies had declared their ‘independence’ in parliament. Meanwhile, Cabraal, the governor of the central bank, has resigned.

The deep economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which has entered an acute phase in the first months of this year, has resulted in the eruption of mass, spontaneous protests. The masses cannot take any more. More protests are planned across the country, at which the comrades of the Marxist tendency, Forward, will be distributing leaflets in Sinhalese and Tamil. We publish an English-language statement below, which that leaflet is based upon.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its recent history, which yesterday led to protests right outside the President’s residence, and curfews across Colombo, the capital. The country faces bankruptcy. The masses are being tortured by spiralling prices, 13-hour long blackouts, and a lack of basic medicines, cooking gas and food. What is happening in Sri Lanka is not unique to that country. It is only an acute expression of the worldwide crisis of capitalism, that is crushing poorer nations. The sort of social unrest we are seeing in Sri Lanka, we can expect to see all around the world in the period to come.

On 17 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was declared the new president of Sri Lanka. Winning 52.5 percent of the total votes, Gotabaya’s pro-nationalist party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), promised greater national security against “terrorism” and to lead the country to greater economic prosperity.

On what should have been a peaceful and calm Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka was hit by a horrific terrorist attack. Churches and hotels across the island were bombed. The explosions were so powerful that church rooftops were torn off and smoke could be seen for miles. The blasts have killed 321 at the last count, leaving as many as 500 injured. We condemn this disgusting and cowardly attack in the strongest possible terms.

On 15 November, the Sri Lankan parliament erupted in a brawl over a no-confidence motion passed against the newly appointed prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Punches were exchanged in a factional fight between opposition parties that supported the no-confidence vote and Rajapaksa's supporters.

The recent rally in Jaffna, a Tamil populated capital in the Northern province of Sri Lanka, under the banner “Ezhuka Tamil” (Rise Up Tamils!) has once again posed the question of Tamil self-determination to the fore since the bloody defeat of Tamil Tigers 7 years ago. This demonstration is an indicator of swelling discontent among the Tamil minorities. Despite Sri Lankan State’s victory over the armed separatist Tigers the national question has not been solved in Sri Lanka and the misery of the Tamil population in the North and Eastern provinces have only worsened.

More than 300 desperate Tamil refugees are being refused asylum by the Australian authorities, with the connivance of the Indonesian authorities. While governments leave these people in a terrible state, workers in Australia and Indonesia have expressed support and solidarity. Join them!

We received this interesting comment on the recent brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. It highlights the responsibilities firstly of the Sri Lankan ruling elite and its imperialist backers, but also of the leaders of the labour movement in failing to offer an alternative in the past, and of the LTTE leaders, who organised their war from a purely nationalist point of view, offering nothing concrete to the workers and peasants.

The Sri Lankan government, along with the bourgeois press, is loudly celebrating the apparent defeat of the Tamil Tigers and their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The government is saying that the long civil war in Sri Lanka that has killed as many as 80,000 people is finally over and that peace and prosperity can finally return to Sri Lanka's people, including its Tamil population. Many Tamils, rightfully, feel that this is not the case - especially in the context of the present world economic crisis ‑ and that their situation in Sri Lanka will not improve.

Sri Lanka was one of the countries worst affected by the tsunami disaster. The government is now trying to exploit the situation to its advantage, but the huge wave that struck the country has brought out many contradictions and prepared to further destabilise an already very unstable regime.

In 1994, together with the other "Left" parties, including the "Communist Party", the leadership of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP, the traditional workers' party which was originally a Trotskyist party) entered the popular alliance (PA) government headed by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) and have been carrying out an anti-working class policy of privatisation and cuts in line with the dictates of the IMF. This has led to the rapid rise of a left opposition inside the LSSP, associated with the well-known mass leader, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, the member of parliament for the Ratnapura district.

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