National Sections of the L5I:

Protests against Buddhist attacks on Muslim communities

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Colombo, June 18.

More than 2,000 people demonstrated in Colombo today in protest at continued attacks on Muslim communities by Sinhalese chauvinist mobs organised by the clerical-fascist Bodo Bala Sena, BBS.

Colombo, June 18 Protest against attacks on Muslim communitiesColombo, June 18 Protest against attacks on Muslim communities

The latest of these, on Sunday June 15 at Alutgama, some 40 miles south of Colombo, left two dead and at least 80, including children, seriously injured and 10 properties burnt out as a mob of 1,000, led by the monks of BBS, rampaged through the district. Later other gangs spread the attacks to nearby Muslim communities in Berewala, Welipenna and Dhargatown.

The leading role played by the BBS monks underlines the point that any religion can serve as the basis for mobilising fascist street gangs whose real purpose is to divide all potential opponents of the ruling elite. In recent months, there have been several successful mobilisations by students, fisherfolk, farmers and public sector workers all protesting at the austerity measures imposed by the government of Mahinda Rajapakse.

There is, therefore, every reason to believe reports that, when local police tried to prevent Sunday's BBS rally, they were over-ruled by the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by Gotabaya Rajapakse, the president's brother. In the aftermath of the pogrom, a curfew was imposed, allowing specialist Army and Police units to clampdown on the whole area, whilst no action was taken against BBS.

In the face of such government-backed fascist mobilisations, the Left in Sri Lanka needs to give a lead in the formation of local, democratically-controlled defence groups to protect not only communities but also the unions and political organisations that are essential to a successful counter-offensive against Rajapakse.

Today's demonstration, called by the Frontline Socialist Party and supported not only by Muslim organisations but also by many of the Left groups, makes clear that the forces that could give that lead can collaborate, at least on practical tasks. What is needed now is a United Front against the fascists, based on those organisations but drawing in the rank and file of the unions, youth and women's organisations and all those whose livelihoods are threatened by government policies.