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Sri Lankan Socialists' Elections Boost
ON SATURDAY 10 July, the Provincial Council elections saw a much lower turn-out than usual. All the major parties lost votes.
Clare Doyle spoke to Siritunga Jayasuriya, USP General Secretary
The ruling New Freedom Alliance lost more than 600,000 votes compared with what they received in the general election of March 2004.
However, the United Socialist Party (USP - CWI Sri Lankan section), was not only the only party to increase its vote; it nearly doubled it in the less than four months since the general election.
The USP contested 14 provinces - all those where elections were being held, except, by agreement with other so-called left forces, the capital, Colombo. In those 14 areas, despite a lack of resources and media coverage, 21,300 people voted for the clear socialist alternative of the USP. In the March general election the figure was 12,210.
In Colombo, on the other hand, a serving provincial councillor, Vickremabahu Karunaratne had five cars and 50 people working for him as the top New Left Front candidate and yet he failed to hold his seat. He was not putting a clear socialist alternative to the two major capitalist camps and got a much reduced total of 3,024 votes or 0.46% of the voting electorate.
By contrast, in Nuraya Eliya the USP got a marvellous 3,896 votes (1.43%). This was an increase over March of 2,470 votes and meant coming just 160 short of getting an elected representative. In Galle the USP vote went up dramatically by 1,822 from March to July to 2,278.
THE SUICIDE bombing attempt in Colombo last week on an MP from the North - a Tamil who stood for the pro-New Freedom Alliance, EPDP - has led to army check-points reappearing on the streets of the capital and widespread harassment of Tamil people.
The Sinhala chauvinist JVP (People's Liberation Front) - a partner in the government of Chandrika Kumaratunga - has started an all-island poster campaign against any interim deal with the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Elam (LTTE).
At the same time, Chandrika herself is professing her commitment to the 'peace process' aimed at ending the 20-year war in the North and East of the island. After two years of a cease-fire and no progress, LTTE leaders are openly expressing their impatience and making thinly veiled threats of resuming the armed struggle.
Tension is mounting. After the provincial council elections, members of the JVP attacked the house of one of the USP candidates in Nuraya Eliya. It is a predominantly Tamil-speaking tea plantation area, but the USP candidate was a Sinhala plantation worker. His door was broken down and his wife and children screamed and shouted at.
Being part of the ruling alliance, the JVP trebled its representation on provincial councils, getting a total of 72 councillors. It will undoubtedly use its apparent success to step up threats against its political rivals and the Tamil minority population in the South.
The USP will be vigilant but will also continue building a party that counters the JVP with a clear programme of working class policies.
It will continue to defend all the rights of the Tamil-speaking people including their right to self-determination in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
In The Socialist 17 July 2004:
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