National Sections of the L5I:

Sri Lanka: Pogrom cover up

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On September 13, an angry mob attacked the workers' settlement in a rubber plantation in Kukuleganga in the Ratnapura district of Sri Lanka. By the time they had moved on, almost the entire village had been reduced to ruins, leaving 180 men, women and children homeless.

Not content with this destruction, the attackers also drove off all the domestic animals and stole the workers' household goods and the tools of their trade. Over a month later, not a word of this outrage has appeared in the press. There have been no questions in Parliament, there has been no ministerial statement, there has been no police investigation. The reason for this public silence is as simple as it is outrageous; the attackers were Sinhalese, the victims, Tamils. Although the villagers appealed to the main plantation workers' union, the Ceylon Workers' Congress, no action was taken.



A Tamil boy in the ruins of his home

And why not? Because the CWC has long-standing links to Mahinda Rajapakse's government. Whether or not there was an official news blackout on the episode remains unknown. In Sri Lanka, where independent journalists who criticised Rajapakse's war against the Tamils "disappeared" or were interned or driven into exile, the media has adopted a policy of self-censorship which is at least as effective as any government order. Since the attack, the villagers have received no official aid and have had to shelter under temporary plastic sheeting and tarpaulins from the plantation.



The one “long house” that remains shows the poverty in which plantation workers live

Now, after a visit on October 14, by Mahinda Devege of the Socialist Plantation Workers' Union and the former MP MK Sivajilingham, who broke from the Tamil National Alliance over its refusal to condemn Rajapakse's war, the villagers' plight is at last being taken up. The union is demanding a government inquiry into the pogrom as well as public funds to rebuild the settlement. What this tragic episode underlines (and how many others have there been?) is the stark reality and the scale of discrimination against the Tamil population of Sri Lanka.



Plantation workers describe the attack to MK Sivajlingham

Despite Rajapakse's promise of a "peace dividend" once the civil war was over, nothing has changed. The simple fact that a rampaging mob could strip a village of all its property in a matter of minutes says everything about the poverty of the plantation workers. In Sri Lanka, the struggle against working-class poverty, in all communities, cannot be separated from the struggle against the national oppression of the Tamils. That is why the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka, the national section of the League for the Fifth International, is committed to the building of a new, mass-based workers' party committed to a programme of permanent revolution that will resolve both the democratic and economic questions through the overthrow of the entire capitalist system and its replacement by a workers' republic of workers' councils.