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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Refugees and repression in war ravaged Sri Lanka

Protest outside the Sri Lankan embassy in London, photo by Paul Mattsson

Protest outside the Sri Lankan embassy in London, photo by Paul Mattsson

THE HUMANITARIAN crisis in Sri Lanka has worsened since the government forces captured Kilinochi on 2 January. Kilinochi is a key city for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have been fighting for a separate homeland for three decades.

Danny Byrne and Senan, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Prior to this capture the LTTE had evacuated more than 100,000 of Kilinochi's population to a 30 kilometre-wide territory they still control which is surrounded by the Sri Lankan military.

More than 350,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in this small area. There is not enough shelter, food and water to accommodate this many displaced people. The CWI demands an immediate end to the war; and emergency housing and food aid to those who are caught up in the horror.

So far the LTTE has not reported any details on the conditions of these displaced people. There is no sign of food supplies from the government or any aid agencies. The only independent agency that is allowed into this place is the International Committee of the Red Cross, and that is just for the exchange of dead bodies.

The LTTE has shown no intention of letting these people leave the war zone. Instead their website announced today that "civilians say that they prefer to face death on the spot rather than succumbing to serious injuries or ending up in the hands of the invading Sri Lankan forces" and accused the military of attempting genocide of the besieged people.

The government is restricting access to this area for media and relief agencies. The media in the south of the country is facing an increased threat from suspected government-sponsored thugs. They recently attacked the MTV station, and Lasantha Wickmeratunge - the country's leading journalist who had criticised the regime of president Rajapaksa - was brutally murdered.


Protest outside the Sri Lankan embassy in London, photo by Paul Mattsson

Protest outside the Sri Lankan embassy in London, photo by Paul Mattsson

The Socialist Party, the England and Wales section of the Committee for Workers' International (CWI), organised a protest outside the Sri Lankan embassy in London, on 16 January.

Around 50 protesters gathered to express disgust at the murder and to demand media freedom, peace and democracy. Two letters were handed to the embassy, from the Socialist Party and the CWI, demanding a response from the High Commissioner. Our representatives were refused entry to the embassy to relay our concerns.

The Socialist Party's slogans and placards at the protest demanded media freedom and an end to attacks and killings. They included calls for:

The situation in Sri Lanka is having an enormous impact on the Tamil diaspora. A hunger strike has been organised in Parliament Square, London, from 19 to 31 January in solidarity with the thousands who face starvation in the north of Sri Lanka.

However, the Socialist Party and the CWI, while sympathising with this sentiment, propose mass action of working-class and poor people in Sri Lanka and internationally as the only way to stop the bloody war and to change Sri Lankan society for the benefit of all.

For reports of international protests against the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge see

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In The Socialist 21 January 2009:

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