[lg policy] Sri Lanka: SEP takes its presidential election campaign to Matara

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 21 15:14:06 UTC 2010

SEP takes its presidential election campaign to Matara

By our correspondent
20 January 2010

As part of the Socialist Equality Party’s campaign for Wije Dias, its
candidate for the January 26 presidential election, SEP members
visited the southern coastal town of Matara and its suburbs, 160 km
from Colombo. SEP campaigners distributed thousands of copies of the
party’s election manifesto and held discussions with hundreds of
people, including workers, youths, housewives, farmers and students.
Matara was once known as a left-wing stronghold. The sole remaining
Stalinist Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CP) elected member of
parliament, Chandrasiri Gajadheera, is from this area. He is a deputy
minister of President Rajapakse’s ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(SLFP)-led coalition.

SEP campaign in MataraThe Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which
betrayed the principles of Trotskyism when it joined an SLFP-led
government in 1964, had several strong branches in the area. Its
previous fight for socialism and internationalism against imperialism
and Stalinism is still remembered by the older generation.
Divakara, 70, from Welegoda, a Matara suburb, said his father was a
dedicated “Samasamajist” (LSSP member). “I recall how he and his
colleagues argued with CP members against the stand taken by the CP in
the parliamentary election of 1956.” In that election, the CP
supported the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and
Philip Gunawardena, which was based on Sinhala communalism. “My father
used to say that this betrayal directly helped the imposition of the
Sinhala-only language policy.”

Divakara’s father was highly disappointed by the path taken by LSSP
from the late 1950s. He was disgusted when the SLFP coalition
government, which had been joined by both the CP and LSSP, introduced
the 1972 constitution that established Buddhism as the state religion.
Colvin R. de Silva, a LSSP leader, drafted the constitution. “My
father said that Colvin R. de Silva had taught them that religion must
be separated from the state as a democratic principle.” Divakara added
that in his childhood he was also inspired by the LSSP’s politics but
had gradually distanced himself from socialism. “However, it is glad
to hear that your candidate Wije Dias is fighting for the great
principles for which my father and their generation fought,” he said.

In the Nupewela tsunami housing scheme, SEP campaigners met Ramya, a
housewife, whose family was one of tens of thousands whose lives were
devastated by the December 2004 Asian tsunami.

Ramya said both major candidates—Rajapakse and the opposition’s
General Sarath Fonseka—were fighting to take the credit for the war
victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“We thought that we could have a better life after the war ended.
Months have passed but the situation is worsening. We don’t believe
any party. They all come to us with false promises.”

Ramya (left) discusses election manifesto with SEP member in
MataraRamya’s family lost everything, including their home, in the
tsunami. Her husband, a fisherman, lost one of his legs. He now works
as a fish stall helper for 300 rupees (less than $US3) a day. The
family lives in a government-supplied house.

“This house is not enough for us,” Ramya said. “And we don’t own the
house, so we face many problems, particularly over the school
admissions of our children.” Residents of the housing scheme had gone
to meet minister Gajadheera several times but he had never shown up.
“Now he asks for our votes for his boss Rajapakse. Why should we? They
gave us only misery,” she said.

“We don’t vote for anyone. No one talks about us. The Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP—a Sinhala chauvinist party) boasts about our problems
but every time they join one of the main parties, forgetting our

Ramya said some residents had decided to vote for Fonseka to express
their anger. “At the same time, they don’t believe Fonseka’s false
promises either.”

With the prices of essential commodities skyrocketting, Ramya said
many could not bear the situation. Some people did not eat three meals
a day. “We spend 10,000–12,000 rupees for our meals in one month. We
cannot save even a little money for medicine. We can’t rely on public
health service because there are no medicines in the hospitals.”

Another housewife commented: “Most of our husbands are fishermen. They
cannot fish during five to six off-season months. We have to pay many
bills—50 rupees for the water motor, 12 rupees for common tube lights,
more than 500 rupees for home electricity. Our water bill is about 250
rupees. In the fishing season we can somehow manage, but in the
off-season we mortgage our jewellery in order to live.”

Another Nupewela resident, Oshani, 24, described the manoeuvres of
minister Gajadheera. Her husband, who has advanced level education
qualifications, worked for Gajadheera in the last election, expecting
help to find a job. “But Gajadheera gave my husband only four false
interviews. Later he went abroad for a job.”

Asked about the election, Oshani said: “The president called an early
election because people were losing faith day by day. Sarath Fonseka
and Mahinda Rajapakse waged the war but others died. The families of
the soldiers who died and who lost their limbs are still suffering.”

Oshani noted that the media and the government had hidden the death
toll and immense sufferings of the Tamil masses. “As you said, the
unity among Sinhala and Tamil people was massively harmed by the war,”
she concluded.

Another tsunami victim, the wife of a railway worker, complained about
a recent major cut to her husband’s pay. “Since November, the
allowance given to railway security workers was cut by the government
by 7,000 rupees per month. My husband only drew 30,000 rupees,
including that allowance. We have fallen from the pan into the fire
since the war.”

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list