LAST WEEK Channel 4 TV news broadcast further video footage which appears to show Sri Lankan army soldiers perpetrating atrocities against the Tamil-speaking minority. Calls for an international war crimes investigation are growing louder. But there is little sign that presidential elections to be held on 26 January will bring improvement to the situation of the masses in Sri Lanka.
None of the leading presidential election candidates offers any way out for the Tamil-speaking people or any of the working and poor masses in Sri Lanka.
General Sarath Fonseka, backed by the viciously neoliberal United National Party (UNP) and supported by the communalist People's Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, JVP), actually led the war offensive, butchering the innocent Tamil minority.
He worked closely with the Rajapakse government in all its horrific attacks. But now, in a breathtaking show of hypocrisy, he accuses the government of corruption and of denying democratic rights. Both are guilty of slaughter and repression.
Unbelievably, most of the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) supports Fonseka. This may be motivated by careerist aspirations but what is clear is that for the Tamil-speaking masses, nothing will change.
A joint platform of TNA MP Sivajilingam, the only Tamil candidate, and Vickramabahu Karunaratne of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) is no real alternative. Sadly, Sivajilingam also sees no major political differences between the TNA and the UNP but opposes the Fonseka candidature.
The ordinary people of Sri Lanka need a candidate who takes a principled stand against the policies of repression. Sivajilingam is not that candidate. He has a very narrow nationalist political perspective and in early January was accused of supporting the Bharatia Janata Party (BJP), a major Hindu nationalist party in India. Vickramabahu Karunaratne appears to be eager to work with the Tamil elite, regardless of their class politics.
The Tamil masses need a long-term committed fighting programme to win their rights rather than an electoral stunt.
The Sinhala masses were told the war would benefit them but the 'peace dividend' goes to the rich elite only.
The Sri Lankan working and poor masses, be they Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim or up-country people, need their own independent candidate who can be trusted to take a principled class approach.
United Socialist Party (USP) members have put their lives in danger to organise against the brutal war and oppression, for the right to self-determination of the Tamil people and to defend the rights of all working and poor masses in Sri Lanka.
USP secretary and presidential candidate, Siritunga Jayasuriya, bravely spoke against the war at its height. This was at a time when the defence minister famously declared that you are either with the government and military or against them.
This consistent approach and record means it is Siritunga Jayasuriya and the USP who the oppressed people, be they Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, should support.
TAMIL SOLIDARITY (TS) in north west England organised a rally at the office of Ivan Lewis MP on 8 January. Lewis is MP for Bury South and under-secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for Sri Lanka. We explained what the Tamil people are facing in Sri Lanka to passers-by.
TS supporters met Ivan Lewis and raised our concerns. We brought up the issues of the military camps in the north and east of the island and the plight of the Tamil-speaking refugees facing starvation in Merak (Indonesia) who are denied human rights and forced to stay on a tiny boat. We told him of the virtual militarised zones, with no access to journalists or NGOs. Mr Lewis agreed that the regime was 'pretty tyrannical'.
We challenged the assessment of Des Browne, the British government's 'special envoy,' that the country is safe for all ethnic groups and that asylum seekers can safely be returned there. This is a country where journalists and human rights campaigners, whether Tamil or not, routinely disappear.
Finally, Lawrence spoke movingly about what it means for his family members in Jaffna, in the north, to be subjected to a 6pm curfew and to be prevented by the military from earning a living by fishing. He pointed out that the brutality of the occupying army would provoke many Tamil youth to take action to defend family members and that this could lead to an increase in support for individual armed action. Ivan Lewis promised to look into all aspects of the situation and we await his report.