After decades of deepening turmoil – uprisings, general strikes, insurrections, communal riots, pogroms, ethnic bloodbaths, massacres, coups and a civil war lasting almost three decades – civilised life in Sri Lanka today stands at a knife-edge. Faced with daily power cuts lasting up to twelve hours, people are forced to stand in eight-hour queues for supplies of kerosene; hospitals are shutting down and patients dying for want of medication; newspapers cease publication and students are unable to sit examinations for lack of paper.A static protest dominated by youth continues to besiege the president’s palace. Peaceful protests are growing in number and have been joined by many social groups including youth, students, artistes, sports personalities, trade unionists, lawyers, clergy, medics and many others. Tragically a protest in Rambukkana concerning fuel deliveries to a filling station, which resulted in the shooting of live rounds by police at protestors, causing 2 deaths and multiple injuries. Yet President Rajapaksa continues to cling onto power by any means. Nepotism and runaway corruption have paralysed a government in which the president, prime minister plus nine more ministers are members of a single pampered family. MPs are defecting en masse, and the government is disintegrating, with the latest finance minister having resigned after a single day in office.
Yet this is a country in which the labour movement had proud socialist traditions, and which in the early years of independence achieved record rates of literacy, social welfare and health care, with universal free education up to university level – the outcome of militant campaigning by a mass socialist party with a strong Marxist tradition. Today that tradition has dwindled to a faint memory, but its heirs are fighting courageously to rebuild it.
The Labour Left Alliance extends solidarity to the insurgent people of Sri Lanka. In the course of this confrontation it is the mission of the trade unions to come to the head of the mass movement, calling not merely for the dismissal of the current prime minister but for the overthrow of the entire parasitic corrupt ruling class that has brought society to this impasse; not for “power to the people” but for power to the workers who produce the wealth. We must go beyond the demand for “Gota to go!”; all 225 MPs must go, as they are as rotten as each other.
Rather than demanding “power to the people”, a formula which could just replace the current regime with another anti-worker parliamentary clique, we must fight for power to the workers who produce the wealth, in alliance with the students and the youth, the peasants, the super-exploited tea plantation workers, the Tamil minority crushed under the military jackboot and the other oppressed minorities; for a democratic socialist Sri Lanka, linking hands with the struggles of workers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the entire sub-continent for a socialist federation.