By Siritunga Jayasuriya –
The Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Colombo from 10 to 17 November will in no way benefit the working people in Sri Lanka or workers and poor in the other 53 member countries, the majority of whom remain poor. In fact the opposite is true. CHOGM is, in reality, a ‘business club’ led by the British government largely to safeguard British big business’s interests in the former colonies.
This year the Commonwealth established a formal Charter setting out its core values: they include democracy; human rights; peace and security; tolerance; freedom of expression; and many other commendable aims.
If, however, the Commonwealth was sincere in standing by these declared core values, the majority of member states would be excluded from membership. Chief among the candidates for expulsion would be this year’s host Sri Lanka, which stands accused of war crimes.
Disgracefully following this pageant the ‘increasingly dictatorial’ Sri Lankan regime will be crowned head the Commonwealth for the next two years. This event is effectively a ‘carnival’ to gather support for the Sri Lankan government and to promote neoliberal attacks such as privatization of education, etc. In addition working people in Sri Lanka are asked to pay for this massive show and put up with the inconvenience that it is causing.
Canada’s boycott of CHOGM 2013 has helped to raise the issues of human rights and the need to hold the Rajapaksa regime to account. But this job has largely fallen to workers and young people in the Diaspora, trade unions and human rights groups. The hesitancy of the Indian Congress leadership to participate does reflect its fear of losing Tamil Nadu votes in the forthcoming elections. Finely premier Manmohan Sing was forced to taka a decision not to attend to CHOGM in Colombo by the Sothern. States of India and pressure from congress it self. But his writing of a letter expressing his regret to Mahinda Rajapaksa about his inability to attend the Colombo summit shows his double standard on this issue. to The rhetoric of British Prime Minister David Cameron reflects his inability to convince the British working class that his participation is appropriate.
These leaders’ hypocrisy is further exposed by the latest Channel 4 No Fire Zone documentary which graphically and heartbreakingly illustrates the gross human rights violations and suffering that took place in 2009. However none of the governments’ statements, boycotts or ‘delicate’ reservations about this Rajapaksa regime provide answers for the oppressed masses in Sri Lanka.
The Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim masses, along with all working and poor in other Commonwealth member countries have no reason to accept this CHOGM as their nation’s pride – or have no reason to believe that anything good will come out of it. We reject this carnival designed for the enjoyment and enrichment of the 1%.
We call, therefore, upon all working class and oppressed people to have no faith in these meetings of government heads to bring about any solution to their problems and issues. We call upon all sections of the working class, the trade unions and other democratic organizations and groups to reject CHOGM and continue mobilizing against the Sri Lankan regime and its allies. We also call upon the 99% to come together against the planned privatization of education and health services in Sri Lanka and all countries. Where we are united we have strength to resist all the varied attacks of the 1% on our living standards.
Unfolding economic crisis in Sri Lanka will aggravate after CHOGM due to enormous unmessasorg and wasteful spending. At the same time Rajapaksa regime is hustle attitude towards media has been shown by the action taken by the government to deport 2 Journalists from international federation of journalists and the deportation on two MPs from Australia and New Zealand shows that there is no real freedom of expression in this country. We would like to question whether the CHOGM is prepared to take even this issue.
Let’s unite to fight for all democratic rights including the national rights of Tamil-speaking people. Let us also reject the capitalist system, based as it is on exploitation and inequality in the interests of the capitalist 1%. It will always harbour divisions and promote discrimination. Instead we propose the building of mass working class struggle, linked with the struggles of all oppressed masses, and including building powerful independent organizations of the working class.
Together we can fight for a new future of society that will put the interests of the workers before the profit of the super-rich exploiters. We believe that struggle must be for a socialist alternative.
*Siritunga Jayasuriya – General Secretary United Socialist Party