Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/375/4216
Indian Ocean tsunami disaster
Sri Lanka appeal
SRI LANKA is, after Indonesia, the area hit hardest by the tsunami. Officials in Sri Lanka have estimated so far that more than 30,000 people have died, 40% of them children, and another 5,600 are missing.
The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) can report with great relief that, after heroic efforts to establish the whereabouts of all its members, the United Socialist Party (USP - the CWI's section in Sri Lanka) has found that it has sustained no direct loss of life.
The tsunami had crashed into areas where many USP members and their families lived and worked. One national committee member in Galle, comrade Piyatilake, was missing for days and the worst was feared. His workplace was destroyed and two people standing near to him at the moment the wave struck were swept to their deaths. Piyatilake himself was severely injured and hospitalised but has now returned to his home to recover fully.
More than 25 USP members and their families in the south and east of the island are homeless, most living in makeshift camps and in urgent need of water, food, clothes and medicine. Many party members have suffered the loss of close relatives and all could face problems of drinking water shortages and the threat of diarrhoea and disease.
The CWI is calling on all its members and supporters to come to the aid of the USP as it organises help and protection for its members. Financial donations can be made through our website or by post (see below), so we can arrange more shipments of water purifying tablets and medicines. We are also sending bulkier items by container - clothes, materials to provide shelter, basic foods and other essentials.
AS THE tsunami struck, Sri Lanka was beginning to recover from 20 years of civil war, which ravaged the north of the island and decimated its population. A real prospect of reconstruction existed, however limited, under capitalism. Now millions of Sri Lanka's people have been thrown back into a dark night of poverty, shortage and uncertainty.
While dealing with the survival of our own members, the USP will also be trying to make a political response to this disaster. With posters, leaflets and papers our members will be aiming to put forward a programme of demands to deal with the situation and expose the real causes of this disaster and the inadequate response of the government.
FOR A full and rapid recovery resources must be poured in by imperialism - in the form of the World Bank and IMF - which have squeezed the population dry with their neo-liberal programmes of privatisation and deregulation and failed to fund protection from the elements. All foreign debts should be immediately cancelled, not just postponed.
The actual reconstruction needs to be controlled by elected committees of workers and poor people to ensure maximum assistance to those who most need it, regardless of nationality, religion and political affiliation. Unity needs to be cemented amongst workers and poor people. They can have no faith in capitalist politicians. Outbreaks of communal conflict must be prevented as the struggle for scarce resources continues.
However, a permanent solution to the problems facing the workers and poor of Sri Lanka will only be found through a socialist transformation of society and the establishment of a government of their own directly elected representatives.
The United Socialist Party of Sri Lanka will be redoubling its efforts to build a powerful workers' party with a socialist programme. Its members need every support they can get in the hour of most need.
United Socialist Party
Sri Lanka is a country often divided along ethnic, as well as class, lines. The disaster has revealed great acts of solidarity between the Tamil and the Sinhalese sides, and some appalling incidents of state and communal sabotage.
Over decades, members of the United Socialist Party (USP) - at the risk of their own lives - have stood for the unity of the working class and the right of self-determination of the oppressed Tamil-speaking people. We are the only organisation that produces a paper, Red Star, in both Tamil and Sinhala languages.
In 2003, the members of the USP and the Janaraja Joint Health Workers Union (which is affiliated to the USP) played a key role in a successful strike of 91,000 healthworkers countrywide. They were striking for a 40% wage rise, the same rise that had just been granted to doctors.
The USP also stood in 21 out of 22 districts in the general election in 2004, coming first out of all the left parties. Three months later, in the provincial council elections, the USP stood in 14 out of 15 districts where elections were held. Polling 21,732 votes - double the votes in the general election - USP candidates often came in third or fourth place and in Galle and Nuwara Eliya received 3,896 votes and 2,278 votes respectively.
The USP gained recognition as a socialist party that was prepared to fight the big capitalist, communalist parties. This is a big achievement for a small socialist party without the resources of the main parties. Now the party is struggling to regain its fighting capacity.
See www.socialistworld.net for more details.
How you can help
The statement below explains ways in which Socialist Party members can assist our section in Sri Lanka.
We will be sending goods to Sri Lanka by container in the next two days and again next week. If you can spare tents or plastic sheeting, light clothes (including underwear) or light bedding please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. On 10 January, the comrades of the USP will again set out from Colombo to each of the worst-hit areas, hoping to take supplies for the most needy.
If you are able to obtain any basic medical equipment, such as boxes of rubber gloves, bandages, wound dressings, water purification tablets, etc. Please email the above address as soon as possible.
Socialist Party members have already been asked to give large donations to our week's income appeal, which will fund vital international work as well as the general election. Nevertheless, we are asking that you give an additional donation to the Sri Lanka appeal fund to help our members and to enable them to produce political material as soon as possible.
Please donate via the CWI website or use the account detailed below. There is also an appeal sheet attached for collecting from supporters, the public, trade union branches etc.
Donations can be made:
Online at www.socialistworld.net
Add the words Campaign Sri Lanka to the comment box. An appeal sheet can also be downloaded from the website.
Directly to: Campaign Sri Lanka, Lloyds TSB, Leytonstone branch. Account number 0023293, Sort code 30-95-03
By cheque to Campaign Sri Lanka, c/o Committee for a Workers' International,
PO Box 3688,
London, Britain, E11 1YE
Tel: ++ 44 20 8988 8760,
Fax: ++ 44 20 8988 8793
Messages of support can be sent directly to the USP in Sri Lanka :
In The Socialist 8 January 2005: