National Sections of the L5I:

Sri Lanka: Release student leaders!

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Two student leaders, Sanjeewa Bandara, Convenor of the Inter University Student Federation, IUSF, and Kimbullawe Chandrananda, Convenor of the Inter University Bhikku Federation, IUBF, have been detained by police in the capital, Colombo.

Both were arrested on grounds of breaching bail conditions set after they were charged with various minor offences related to student demonstrations against government policy for the education sector last autumn.

Such bail conditions are seen as part of a crude policy of intimidating opponents of Mahinda Rajapakse's increasingly authoritarian regime. The clear intention, where there are no grounds for securing a conviction of significant criminal activity, is to frighten activists into submission by the constant threat of further police action.

The IUSF was originally the student organisation of the JVP but sided with the opposition in that party when it split and subsequently formed the Frontline Socialist Party. The IUBF is an organisation of Buddhist monk students which is affiliated to the IUSF. Both organisations are opposed to the policy of privatisation of education being implemented by Rajapakse. Members of both organisations have mounted protest demonstrations outside Kelaniya University.

All around the world, student protests have, time and again, proved to be early signals of developing discontent and deep-seated social conflicts. There is every reason to believe this will be the case in Sri Lanka. These arrests come against a background of mounting opposition to the effects of government policy which are forcing up the prices of essential goods such as flour and fuel. In the last week, there have been strikes by railway workers and bus workers.

The way forward for all working class communities in Sri Lanka lies in linking up workers' struggles over immediate issues and demands with the more general opposition to Rajakapse's whole strategic policy of spending cuts and privatisation to suit the needs of his own backers and the IMF that have been highlighted by the student movement. For that to happen, however, will need the building of a new working class party with the politics to mount a revolutionary challenge not just to Rajapakse but the capitalist system he represents.

Freedom for Sanjeewa and Kimbullawe!
No to Privatisation of Education!