Sri Lanka independent day – nothing to celebrate

 Speach deleverd at a meeting of Australian Tamil Congress by Siritunga Jayasuriya.

Comrades, Friends and All -interested in Justice And Equality, Warm Greetings to All of You!!

It’s a coincidence that we have this meeting on 4 February – Sri Lankan so-called Independence Day.

As socialists we have nothing to celebrate as it only marks the exchange of control between those who suppress the working people in Sri Lanka. This Day signifies- the loss of Freedom &Independence for the Tamils. 64 years of Independence was 64 years of deprivation of all freedom and rights resulting in being subservient ‘subjects’, not free citizens with equal rights.

Sixty fours years of continous deprivations- first, the deprivation of the Citizenship and Voting rights of Tamil plantation workers, then,–the deprivation of the Language rights of the Tamils, & the imposition of Sinhala on the Tamils.

The deprivation of the lands in the north and the east and the colonization policy of the government, The deprivation of Tamil from the Armed services and the transformation into a Sinhala Army, It is also worth noting here that the Tamil-speaking people in general faced numerous attacks since this so-called independence.

There is are big questions in front of all of us today: How are we going to achieve the national rights of Tamil-speaking people? How are we going to fight to create the conditions for Tamil-speaking people to live with dignity? I would like to point out to this forum that, these questions are not the matter for the Tamil-speaking people alone. It is also in the interest of the Sinhala masses, who also suffer the consequences of the attack on Tamil-speaking people’s national and democratic rights, as it is extended to them too.

There is also another question – how are we going to get rid of the Rajapaksa regime? Those who supported Rajapaksa to enable him to come to power also want to get rid of him now. Those like the old left JVP, Vasudeva and the general Sarath Fonseka, all want to see the back of the Rajapaksa regime.

We know that all these forces have supported Sinhala chauvinist propaganda before the war – unlike us in the United Socialist Party – who warned against the rise of communalism if Rajapaksa is elected. It was very clear to all of us then what was taking place. After the presidential election in 2005 I spoke just after Rajapaksa – during the election results announcements – and gave a decisive warning not to unleash the horror of communalism – I sad it will only create a bloodbath.

Those very forces who now realise the horror of the current regime were not able to foresee it. Of course the main worry among the Tamil-speaking people is their national rights – and the change of government has little meaning to them. The Tamil National question will remain unsolved.

While we focus on how can we bring down the current ragepakse regime, we must also work out how are we going to fight for the right to self-determination of the Tamil-speaking people. It is very clear that even the people in the south will not get any concessions from this government – be it freedom of press, trade union rights – or any other democratic rights.

Unless we get together to fight back, the current regime will continue by getting the support of some section – on the basis of division. Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim workers, peasants, and poor people should join this fight back. Like I said earlier the Tamil national question will not be solved by changing the one capitalist government to another. We need to have a strategy. First of all we have a duty to appeal to the politically advanced section of the Sinhala masses to get their support.

Those like me and others in the United Socialist Party, don’t call us as Sinhala. We are socialist and stood for the right to self-determination of the Tamil-speaking people for all of our political lives – through us more layers of Sinhala youth and workers can be won to supporting the fight against oppression of Tamil-speaking people.

Looking for help from capitalist governments, such as that of India or Norway has proven to be a failed tactics. They said many times in the past that they support the rights of the Tamil-speaking people, only to betray them when they needed the support most. Look at the role that India plays in regards to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

They supported the Rajapaksa regime during the war. Now they play a supportive role for the regime. Look at what LM Krishna, India’s foreign minister, said in his recent visit to Sri Lanka. Shamefully Nobel Laureate Abdul Kalam, has also been sent to Sri Lanka to improve the relationship with the regime.

What the press is reporting is that they are hard on Rajapaksa and at the same time hard on TNA. What does this mean?

In reality they don’t want to come out with any solution for the Tamils. Leave aside the significant pressure they can exert on current government. Why can’t they at least ask the government to implement the 13th amendment? The 13th Amendment is an Indian baby. They should look after their baby. Even though as a socialist I do not belve that 13th amendment solve the national question.

They don’t even want to have a discussion on implementing that. Even if they make that minimum effort we could say, the Indian government is playing some sort of role. But as we know this is not the case.

The real worry for them is the protection of their business/ economic interests. Similarly China, Pakistan and other western countries are all after their own interests.

That’s why we – as socialists – appeal to the masses. Not only the Sri Lankan masses but also the Indian masses and other oppressed people. They are our natural allies. They don’t have business interest. They can relate their struggle to the struggle of the oppressed Tamil masses and support their brothers and sisters. When we say appeal to the Indian masses – we mean the struggling masses – not Tamil Nadu politicians.

I have to give clear warning here against expecting any support from the Tamil Nadu political elite. They talk the talk – but they will not act in the direction of the emancipation of the Tamil-speaking people, or even Tamil Nadu Tamils.

As we know a massacre took place while these leaders watched in silence – and worse, were busy swindling the resources of the Tamil Nadu masses – later revealed as one of the worst corruption scandals in India.

Don’t trust them – they will never defend us. But we need to build the solidarity with the Tamil Nadu masses.

This should be the key direction that we should take.

In the last 30 years we have made immense sacrifice of lives and resources. We should take lessons from this struggle. The 30 years of ethnic conflict and military oppression with the ultimate war, reducing the Tamils into subordinate subjects, by a war of destruction, devastation and annihilation of Vanni. It was 64 years of deprivation and marginalization from central political power and denial of any role for the Tamils.

It was 64 years of failed and flawed Tamil politics, of Failed Tamil political leadership. It is time for Tamils to question and inquire-What went wrong?? Time for a new and innovative thinking, approach and tactics. The need of the hour is for a new enlightened leadership, the old methods and style is obsolete and inadequate, it cannot deliver a solution to the Tamil problems. Tamil politics had been flawed, in being sectarian ,narrow, without any contact or approach to the left forces working class progressives of the south, discounting the south, and instead depending on foreign powers.

There is no way out, the future looks gloomy with no prospects, emotions and sentiments cannot substitute or replace politics, ultimately, the politics of the people matters, and Tamil leadership is continuing to ignore the mass movement of the people, keeping them away, and substituting backdoor politics and diplomacy as the only way. Tamil politics is intrinsically flawed and inadequate. This is unfortunate,

We must not repeat the mistakes and carefully work out where we want to go: what strategy we should adopt; who are our natural allies and; how can we build a strong united campaign that can lead us to win – not only the national rights of the Tamil-speaking people – but also a real democracy – and others’ right to have decent life.

 

To do this we must build solidarity among those fighting back. I’m also an honorary president of the Tamil Solidarity campaign. The United Socialist Party will continue to work in solidarity with the Tamil-speaking masses in Sri Lanka and around the world. Our comrades have sacrificed life in the process of defending the rights of Tamils.

The Committee for Workers’ International, the world socialist organization to which the USP is affiliated, organizes work among the struggling people in a number of countries on all continents. We must work together to strengthen our fight back in each country where we live – also participating in the struggles that are taking place in those countries. The new political trends in Sri Lanka are worth noting and watching.

Mahinda’s days are running out. He has insurmountable problems facing him, the youths are becoming more impatient as their future is bleak. Youth resentment is surfacing, it is gathering momentum of its own inherent logic and dynamics ,with no alternate leadership available. This trend is clear. The youths have no future prospects. Everything looks gloomy. The people are becoming dissatisfied and are loosing trust in Mahinda. He is no more the ‘Hero’ he was admired. He cannot go on, on the glory of war victory, for long. Its all a matter of time. Peoples uprising is not far of. The Youths are asserting themselves. This is just the beginning. A native revolution is in the making.

The government is equally preparing for the repression. The confrontation is not far of. The possibilities are immense. The pertinent question is–what is the role and future Tamil politics,

especially in the context- of the new developments and trends in south. Tamil politics must get involved and not to stay aloof. When and how is another matter. The Solution to the Tamil problems lie in the progressive youth movement in the south, and on how the Tamils can be a part of it. Tamils cannot afford to miss this opportunity. They must constructively contribute to this movement to dethrone this racist regime,. This racist regime will never resolve the ethnic problem but on the contrary-deprive more and more Tamil rights and interests. Finally, I want to ask you another important question. Is there a capitalist solution to the national question? In the last 60 years we have been through all the capitalist parties in Sri Lanka. We know what the UNP, the SLFP continued to do. Will they solve the problem? The LSSP also betrayed the Tamil-speaking people, along with the working masses as a whole, when they joined the capitalist government.

We must break with creating any illusions in these capitalist parties. You may want to use them at times for your tactical reasons – but don’t create any illusions in them among the masses. We need a left alternative. Left working class power – the one which fully endorses the right to self-determination of the Tamil-speaking people – should come to power. Till then we will be stuck in the blind ally of false promises and life long discussions. But there are no short cuts in the fight for a genuine left alternative – a socialist transformation of society. But this is the fight that can give us result – the one we should take up.

 

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