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Sri Lanka: Back from the brink of war?
JUST A week or so ago, the four-year long ceasefire in Sri Lanka's civil war was on the verge of collapse.
Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)
In seven weeks more than 100 people had been killed, most of them members of Sri Lanka's armed forces. But on 23 January, two key figures involved in efforts to renew peace talks arrived in the capital, Colombo.
A resumption of the war has been inherent in the situation. Tensions and hostilities have escalated since the election as president, last November, of Mahinda Rajapakse. He was backed by Sinhala chauvinist forces - the JVP (People's Liberation Front) and the JHU (Buddhist Monks' organisation). They do not want any talks to take place with the separatist Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), especially if there is any hint of granting some kind of autonomy to the North and East of the island, let alone self-determination.
The JVP and JHU totally opposed the LTTE's request for talks to take place in Europe and also opposed the involvement of Norway's development minister, Erik Solheim, as an intermediary to get the talks re-started. But last week both Solheim and the veteran LTTE leader, Anton Balasingham, who lives in London, visited Sri Lanka to hold talks with both the Tigers' leaders and the government. Big pressure has been put on Rajapakse by US imperialism and other capitalist governments to negotiate. These parties want peace in order to continue their trade and business at the expense of the workers and poor of Sri Lanka.
Now the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have agreed to in Geneva, Switzerland, in mid February. This brings the country back from the brink of war. Local elections are going ahead in March and the labour movement can renew its struggle against privatisation and cut-backs.
The new president, Rajapakse, promised to stop privatisation but he will come under huge pressure to continue the programme he was implementing as prime minister of the People's Alliance government. The only alternative is a socialist struggle.
Siritunga Jayasuriya, (the United Socialist Party - CWI, Sri Lanka - candidate, who came third in the 2005 presidential election), warned on live television, immediately after the new president's acceptance speech, that a movement would be organised in the streets when workers and poor people saw he had broken his promises. The communalist forces Rajapakse had unleashed would threaten the fragile peace and in particular the lives and security of the island's Tamil-speaking people.
Since the election, Tamil-speaking people in Colombo and elsewhere have been subjected to daily police round-ups and detentions. Thousands have been fleeing their homes for areas beyond the control of the Sri Lankan state. Thousands have joined a new exodus to India for safety, knowing that a renewal of the fighting will lead to very heavy loss of life and destruction in the LTTE-held areas of the North and East.
Lately in the East, around Batticaloa, there have been so many kidnappings, allegedly by state forces, that the LTTE leaders have threatened to pull out of the Geneva talks.
The USP has been supporting all demonstrations of Tamil-speaking people against harassment and have got wide publicity for their stand. A broad movement against the resumption of the war is developing and the USP is fully involved. They are calling for the trade unions and all left forces to come together to create one single voice of protest. Now the USP is preparing to put forward candidates on a fighting socialist programme in the provincial elections of 29 March.
In The Socialist 9 February 2006: