South Asia tags:
Sri Lanka: War looms after Colombo bombing
ON 25 APRIL a suicide bomber attacked the car in which the top Sri Lankan army commander was travelling. Eight people were killed and the commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, was seriously injured.
The bomber, assumed to be from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), had penetrated deep into the army headquarters complex.
This attack looks like a clear declaration of war. "This is the direct result of the failure of either side in the peace negotiations to implement the agreements made in Geneva on 21 February.
"This must be a turning point now in the direction of war," said Siritunga Jayasuriya of the United Socialist Party (CWI, Sri Lanka).
"There is a panic in the city. Workers are leaving their offices and factories and making for home. The measures to be taken by the government will become clear, but it will probably include a banning of all public assemblies, including the May Day rallies traditionally organised by all parties in Sri Lanka," added Siri.
Senan of the Socialist Party, England and Wales, explains the background.
The LTTE had already announced that they will not be attending the planned peace talks in Geneva. They had been calling more and more loudly for the government to stop the killings of Tamils in the country, especially the gruesome attacks in the East around Trincomalee. Finally they rejected sitting at the same table as Sri Lankan government officials.
The talks were aimed at breaking the log-jam in negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government that has existed since a ceasefire was signed more than four years ago. A resumption of the civil war in Sri Lanka, which started in 1983, would be a disaster for all workers and poor people of Sri Lanka - Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala alike.
Last week was the bloodiest since the ceasefire was agreed. More than 80 people have been killed in the last two weeks alone. According to the Northeast Secretariat on Human Rights, at least 62 Tamils have been killed in the north east of the island in the past two months.
Despite all these killings the Rajapakse government of Sri Lanka has not made any real attempt to continue the peace negotiations. In fact their 2005 presidential election promise was to abandon the 2002 peace agreement and start new peace talks, which the LTTE has vehemently opposed.
Due to the pressure from Sinhala communal forces such as the People's Liberation Front (JVP) and the Buddhist party (JHU), the government wanted to discontinue the peace talks. But international pressure from the imperialist powers to get the talks re-established, expressed by the Norwegian mediators, forced the government to make efforts towards new negotiations.
This led to the JVP pulling away from the government alliance, including standing separately in the recent local elections. Now the Sri Lankan newspaper, Lankadeepa, has reported that President Rajapakse is going to ask the JVP to join the government again.
WHEN THE LTTE announced its refusal to go to the Geneva talks, the Colombo Stock Market all-share index fell by 98 points, losing more then $250 million dollars in value. Also, big fuel price rises have been announced including kerosene, which is vital to millions of working and poor people, by a massive 25%. Consequently, fare rises on public transport went up and other huge price rises have already been announced. Fertiliser rocketed from 350 rupees a 50 kg. bag to 1,250 rupees! One of the big promises of Rajapakse in the election was to keep this at 350 rupees.
In the event of war being back on the agenda, we can expect the government to announce yet more harsh price rises to support war expenditure.
Despite the government of Sri Lanka's unwillingness to continue the talks and its hostility towards the LTTE, the US administration announced its support of the Sri Lankan government and called on the LTTE to "cease these violent attacks, to return to the cease-fire implementation talks and to engage constructively in the search for a political solution."
They also commend the "continued restraint of the government in the face of these provocations."
"Now, in the light of today's events, we can expect even less "restraint" from the Sri Lankan government," says Siri. "As a party, the USP will have to step up its demands. Stop hostilities, end the killings whether from the Sri Lankan Army side, from the paramilitaries or from the LTTE side.
"We will do our utmost to pursue the demands against war and against war spending and for an immediate increase in salaries for all workers, including in the private sector. We cannot continue to live this nightmare!"