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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 May 2013

Sri Lanka: Isolate the murderous Rajapaksa regime

Manny Thain

Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to lead Britain's delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is a kick in the teeth to all Tamil-speaking people.

The meeting, to be held in November in Sri Lanka, gives a seal of approval to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's murderous regime that was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in the closing months of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Since the war ended in May 2009, Rajapaksa has tightened his grip on power. The 18th constitutional amendment (September 2010) placed key government institutions directly under his control, and the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act is used to clamp down on any dissent.

Trade union and left-wing activists, journalists and human rights campaigners are routinely targeted, ie arrested and detained, tortured and disappeared.

Tens of thousands of Tamils remain unaccounted for, many languishing in secret detention centres. The predominantly Tamil north and east of Sri Lanka has been turned into a militarised zone.

The regime is establishing permanent settlements of soldiers and their families in the area, and moving people from the majority Sinhala population to take over land seized from the Tamils.

Rajapaksa has embarked on a divisive, violent campaign, whipping up Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism to try to divide and rule.

Meanwhile, his regime pursues aggressive neoliberal economic policies, driving up prices of essential goods and cutting public services.

International big business is welcomed into free-trade zones based on the super-exploitation of labour.

This is devastating working class and poor people's living standards throughout the island, regardless of their ethnic/religious background.

The regime is courting investment from China, which is developing a huge deep-sea port in Rajapaksa's power base.

Strategically placed along one of the world's busiest sea lanes, Sri Lanka is also considered to be of vital importance to other regional and global powers, such as India, the US and Britain.

So it is of no surprise that the hypocritical British government - which has continually granted arms licences and other services to the Sri Lankan army - is keen to wheel and deal with Rajapaksa and his cronies.

The Tamil Solidarity campaign is stepping up its activities to stop this meeting going ahead. On Saturday 8 June we are co-hosting with the British Tamils Forum an event bringing together Tamil community activists with trade unionists and others to launch this initiative.

We have fought long and hard for a truly independent investigation into all allegations of war crimes - from both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE.

Alongside other campaigning groups and agencies which have also highlighted the situation, Tamil Solidarity is helping to link the fight of Tamil-speaking people with the might of the trade union and workers' movement, the natural ally of workers and oppressed internationally.

Solidarity Day: Saturday 8 June, 4pm to 8pm.

School of Oriental and African Studies, Vernon Square Campus, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, London, WC1X 9EW

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