Facebook censors advertisement on war crimes whistleblowers


This 11 August 2010 video from British daily The Guardian says about itself:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – ‘There appears to be evidence of war crimes

Iraq war: 10 years on

Thousands of leaked US military papers from Afghanistan contain evidence of possible war crimes that must be urgently investigated, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says at press conference in London.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Facebook blocks ad for PES meeting in Paris to defend Assange

22 June 2019

On Thursday morning, members of the Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) received an email from Facebook, stating that it was suspending a paid advertisement for the June 23 PES meeting in Paris calling for freedom for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

PES members campaigning for the meeting have met a warm response among workers, youth and “yellow vest” protesters in Paris. By Thursday, over 700 people had clicked “interested” on the meeting event page, a common form of expressing political solidarity with or support for an event. This points to the broad popular support in France for the courageous journalist and principled whistleblower, who have played central roles in exposing imperialist war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, amid growing working class opposition to President Emmanuel Macron.

Last week, Facebook had approved the purchase by PES members of advertising for the meeting’s Facebook page, which made the meeting’s page appear on the Facebook feeds of users who have expressed relevant interests. Yesterday, Facebook reversed course, blocking further purchases of ads for the meeting.

The notice from Facebook stated: “We have reviewed your ad more closely and have determined it doesn’t comply with our Advertising Policies. This ad will not be active any longer until you edit it to comply with policy.” This would require creating an authorized account, a process that can take 48 hours, during which time the advertising has been cancelled.

Under Facebook’s Advertising Policies, adopted after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential elections, anyone posting a political ad is required to undergo an onerous authorization process. This includes submitting images of a state-issued ID, verifying their address and providing further personal information.

These events underscore that the fight to free Assange and Manning and prevent Assange’s extradition to the United States, where he faces 175 years in prison and threats of further charges carrying the death sentence, is the focal point of a campaign to defend the democratic rights of working people internationally against the growing danger of capitalist police-state rule.

Facebook now censors and manipulates posts of its billions of users around the world. Under orders from Zuckerberg to Facebook to push its users to have “personal moments” not political discussion, including by demoting “viral videos” because they are not “good for people’s well-being and for society”, a vast censorship campaign is underway. Facebook Artificial Intelligence algorithms and its army of thousands of “content reviewers” now scour social media for content to remove and report to police and intelligence agencies.

Apart from the US government itself, the French government is among the most closely tied to Facebook censorship. Last November, as “yellow vest” protests against social inequality began in France, Macron hailed France’s World War II-era fascist dictator Philippe Pétain as a great soldier and launched an unprecedented collaboration on social media censorship with Facebook. Countless “yellow vest” social media posts have been deleted since, as police detained over 7,000 protesters in the largest wave of mass arrests in metropolitan France since the Nazi Occupation.

On May 10, Zuckerberg personally met with Macron to review six months of this collaboration, in which French officials are invited directly into Facebook “content moderation” offices to monitor and examine posts culled from Facebook users’ feeds. The French state also issued a social media report co-written by Google France executive Benoît Loutrel, denouncing “unacceptable content” and “individuals pursuing political or financial objectives”, and calling for “struggle against content that is damaging for users and for social cohesion.”

Shortly after Zuckerberg’s visit to France, the 350,000-member France en colère (Angry France) “yellow vest” Facebook page was frozen for a day, during the European elections.

The decisions leading Facebook to reverse its approval of the PES meeting ad are shrouded behind a veil of corporate secrecy. But what is clear is that the company works intimately with the intelligence agencies of the US government who are seeking to destroy Assange and Manning. As for the French regime, it is so terrified of the workers that it sees all criticism of the despised “president of the rich”, including of its own acquiescence to US persecution of Assange and Manning, as a mortal threat to “social cohesion”—that is, to its enforcement of the banks’ austerity diktat.

The meeting organized by the PES is part of a worldwide campaign to free Assange and Manning and mobilize the vast social opposition in the working class against austerity and the growing threat of authoritarian danger and war. The PES appeals to its supporters to share the announcement of its meeting and its material in defense of Julian Assange and Manning, as well as the “yellow vests,” to discuss these issues broadly in workplaces and schools, and to attend its meeting in Paris:

Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m.

AGÉCA

177 rue de Charonne, 75011, Paris

Métro: Charonne, Alexandre Dumas.

The author also recommends:

For a worldwide campaign to prevent Julian Assange’s rendition to the US!

[20 June 2019]

Last Thursday, lawyers for the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning issued a legal challenge to punitive fines that were imposed upon her by a federal district court judge last month. Her legal team has warned that the unprecedented financial penalties threaten her with imminent bankruptcy: here.

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Internet censorship in Sri Lanka


This 25 April 2019 video says about itself:

Sri Lanka‘s government is maintaining a ban on most social media. It says it is necessary to stop the spread of misinformation and the incitement of violence in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings.

The ban raises questions as to whether it is censorship or a government fulfilling its duty of care to its citizens.

Al Jazeera’s Mereana Hond reports.

By Naveen Dewage in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan government moves to criminalise “fake news

19 June 2019

The Sri Lankan cabinet recently approved two proposals to amend the country’s Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in order to criminalise “false news” and
hatred statements”.

Tabled by the acting Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Ranjith Maddumabandara, one of the proposals calls for fines of up to 1 million rupees ($US5,715) or a five-year prison sentence, or both, for anyone found guilty of “false news distribution.” The other change would impose as yet unspecified fines or imprisonment for “hatred statements”.

Maddumabandara presented the planned measures following requests from parliament’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, which includes MPs from all political parties in the ruling coalition and the official opposition.

The request underscores the unanimity and determination of all factions of Sri Lanka’s political establishment to censor the internet and social media as well as print and broadcasting outlets.

The terms “false news” and “hatred statements”, which are not defined in the proposed measures, will be used to persecute all perceived political opponents, including, in particular, socialists, workers and youth challenging the government and the state apparatus.

Attempting to justify the laws, the government information department declared: “Law and order authorities as well as civil society leaders have been increasingly concerned about the rising social tensions and worsening ‘hate speech’ messaging both on the internet as well as in public statements by various groups in recent weeks following the shock suicide bombing attacks on Easter Sunday, April 21st.”

The so-called civil leaders and law-and-order authorities raising these concerns are none other than President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, parliamentary opposition leaders and the military and police top brass.

Sirisena responded to last April’s Easter Sunday terrorist attacks by reactivating the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which grants wide-ranging powers to the police and the military, and by extending the draconian measures for a second month.

A total ban on social media was lifted only after users were warned “to act in a responsible manner.” Two weeks after the terror attacks the ban was re-imposed for two days when government and opposition-instigated racist thugs went on a rampage against Muslims. One person was killed, many others were injured, and widespread destruction of property took place. Police and security forces turned a blind eye to the attacks.

A year ago, in March 2018, Sirisena totally banned social media for about two weeks when Sinhala-Buddhist racist groups launched violent anti-Muslim attacks at Digana in the central hills district.

The “concerns” of Sirisena, Wickremesinghe and the parliamentary opposition about “false news” and “hatred statements” are as fraudulent as their claims that emergency laws and mass deployment of the military are needed to stop terrorist attacks. Key government and opposition leaders as well as the defence hierarchy were warned in advance of the Easter Sunday bombing attacks and have exploited the tragic death of hundreds of innocent people to introduce police-state measures.

Sri Lanka’s criminalisation of so-called false news and hate speech is a direct attack on freedom of expression and part of a broad-ranging international assault on the internet, social media and investigative journalism.

In the US, the Trump administration is collaborating with the giant Google and Facebook corporations to censor socialist and anti-war content on the internet. Similar restrictions are in place in the UK, Germany, France, India and other countries.

The escalating attacks on investigative journalism and freedom of the press are highlighted by the arrest and jailing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Britain and the Trump administration’s attempt to extradite him to the US on espionage charges.

Early this month Australian Federal Police launched unprecedented raids on the Sydney office of the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a national network, and the home of a senior journalist for News Corp. The police seized hundreds of digital files in the raids, claiming the journalists had published secret government documents.

Underlying the determination of the ruling classes to censor and control the internet is their fear of the resurgence of working-class struggles internationally and growing interest in socialism. Internet and social media platforms are being widely used by workers and youth to organise their struggles and fight for their social and democratic rights.

Social media usage is widespread in Sri Lanka. According to recent reports, Sri Lanka, which has a population of just 21 million, has active social media usage by 6 million people, or almost a third of the country’s citizens.

As Colombo moves to criminalise “false news”, it is also seeking new methods to intensify its control of the internet.

The Sri Lankan president’s media division has reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping told Sirisena during his recent visit to Beijing that he would send technical experts and equipment to Sri Lanka to help “trace individuals who propagate false information through social media.” Xi’s offer was in response to requests from Sirisena.

China uses high-powered Internet surveillance techniques to clamp down on the growing opposition of workers, students and intelligentsia to the repressive bureaucratic regime.

Colombo systematically blocked websites during its 26-year communal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The war ended in 2009 but the blockades continued. Like its predecessor, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has targetted social media and websites, and maintains its special Internet military intelligence unit established during the war.

Last November, the Telecom Regulatory Commission, which is under the control of President Sirisena, blocked lankaenews.com, and demanded the extradition of its editor-in-chief from the UK, after the publication began criticising him.

Shakthika Sathkumara, a writer, has been held in remand since April after being falsely accused of spreading hatred and disrupting communal harmony after he posted a short story in his Facebook account. He has been repeatedly remanded in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Sathkumara was taken into custody following a complaint by extreme-right Buddhist monks who are in the forefront of whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment.

Colombo’s planned new measures to censor and control the Internet and social media are clear moves towards the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule. Workers and youth must vehemently oppose this crackdown.

The author also recommends:

Sri Lankan prime minister threatens increased internet and social media censorship
[10 September 2018]

Facebook deletes WSWS post on Sri Lanka
[14 November 2018]

YouTube restores censored historical videos after protests


This video is about the liberation of Alkmaar city in the Netherlands by the Canadian army from the German nazi occupiers in May 1945.

Yesterday, YouTube censored it, along with the whole YouTube channel of the Alkmaar regional archive, supposedly for ‘hatemongering’.

This YouTube censorship caused lots of protests; according to the archive, many of the protests came from the USA.

Today, Dutch NOS TV reports (translated):

The YouTube channel of the Alkmaar Regional Archive is back online, including images from the Second World War. The video platform had previously taken the channel offline due to alleged hate speech.

Marc Alphenaar of the archive discovered this morning that the channel was available again. “I didn’t get a message from YouTube about it, but I had messages on my phone from people who saw that it was there again. This is a nice way to wake up”, he said to regional broadcasters NH Nieuws.

It would have been strange if the ‘hatemongers’ of this historical archive would have been banned permanently, while the real hatemongers of the YouTube channel of the Dutch neonazi party Nederlandse Volks-Unie are still on the Internet. YouTube is an affiliate of Google corporation.

British teachers trying to educate about fascism hit by [Youtube] service’s new policy on hate speech: here.

YouTube censors Dutch history


Canadian soldiers welcomed in Alkmaar city in the Netherlands in May 1945, regional archive Alkmaar photo

This photo shows Canadian soldiers welcomed in Alkmaar city in the Netherlands in May 1945, liberation from the German nazi occupation.

The photo used to be on YouTube. Before YouTube censored it.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

YouTube has removed the YouTube video channel of the Alkmaar Regional Archive because images from the Second World War are said to be ‘hateful’. Not only the film images from the war have been removed, other historical images from Alkmaar and the surrounding area are also offline.

“This is censorship of official material”, says employee Mark Alphenaar to NH Nieuws regional broadcasters. “They punish us as hatemongers, while we are an official institution.”

Archive staff members have tried to persuade YouTube to restore the deleted channel, but so far without result.

The archive indicates that ten years have been spent collecting “often unique” images of the war and the liberation. …

The images are distributed via their own YouTube channel. Schools use the material for educational purposes. They now see the message: “This account has been terminated due to repeated or serious violations of the YouTube policy that prohibits incitement to hatred.” …

The archive says about an earlier case of YouTube censorship:

“You can defend yourself once with a notice of objection of a thousand words. We have never received an answer to that.”

Meanwhile, the YouTube channel of the Dutch neonazi party Nederlandse Volks-Unie is still working. YouTube is an affiliate of Google.

Australian journalism on war crimes, spying: criminal?


This 4 June 2019 video says about itself:

ABC’s Sydney headquarters raided by Australian federal police

AFP officers have raided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo headquarters over reporting from 2017 looking into the clandestine operations of Australian special forces in Afghanistan. ABC news presenter Joe O’Brien was live on air as the AFP entered the building.

‘There’s a raid happening right here at the ABC … just 100 metres or so that way’, he said to camera while pointing over his shoulder. The ABC warrant names the broadcaster’s national reporting team reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, as well as ABC news boss Gaven Morris.

The raid on the national broadcaster comes less than 24 hours after the AFP served News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst a warrant to search her Canberra home, phone and computer, 14 months after she published a story over a top-secret proposal to expand the nation’s domestic surveillance agency’s capabilities.

After the Trump administration in the USA attacked press freedom which had uncovered war crimes in the USA, and the Macron administration in France attacked press freedom in order to cover up French governmental complicity in Saudi war crimes in Yemen

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian Federal Police raid journalists over exposures of government spying, war crimes

5 June 2019

Over the past 24 hours, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has carried out two raids targeting separate media organisations, for their publication of articles exposing government spying plans and war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, AFP officers raided the home of Sunday Telegraph political editor Annika Smethurst in the Australian Capital Territory over an article she wrote in April 2018, revealing a secret government proposal to enable the Australian Signals Directorate to conduct domestic spying operations.

After 11 a.m. today, AFP officers entered the Sydney building of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) with a search warrant, referencing 2017 reports detailing the involvement of Australian troops in extrajudicial killings and other violations of international law in Afghanistan.

The raids are a major assault on freedom of the press. They are a dramatic escalation of a protracted campaign by the Liberal-National Coalition, the Labor Party opposition, and the entire political establishment, to criminalise the exposure of government crimes on the pretext of protecting “national security.”

The police warrant for the search of Smethurst’s house allowed them to examine her computers and mobile phones. An AFP statement said that the raid was part of “an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information” and “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret.”

The investigation is reportedly over an April 2018 article by Smethurst, revealing that the Coalition government was moving to enable the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the country’s main electronic eavesdropping agency, to carry out domestic spying operations, including against Australian citizens.

The ASD is legally barred from spying on Australian targets. Under existing legislation, it can only provide “technical advice” to the AFP and the domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Already, in 2013, however, US government documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the ASD collaborated with the US National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance operations, likely including against Australian citizens.

The government’s proposed changes in 2018 would have formalised these spying operations, giving the ASD the power to access bank accounts, text messages, emails and other electronic communications. Smethurst’s report indicated that it was seeking to expand warrantless surveillance, allowing ASD snooping with ministerial permission rather than a court order.

The proposal came just months after the Coalition government, with the support of the Labor opposition, established a new Home Affairs Ministry overseeing the operations of ASIO, the AFP and the Australian Border Force. This was aimed at creating a body, modelled on the US Department of Homeland Affairs, to integrate the operations of the security agencies to enable further attacks on democratic rights.

When the 2018 revelations were made public they were dismissed by Coalition Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as “nonsense”. Smethurst’s story, however, was immediately referred to the AFP for investigation.

News Corp Australia, the Murdoch-owned company which publishes the Sunday Telegraph responded to the raid yesterday by branding it “outrageous and heavy-handed”.

Defenders of civil liberties warned of the far-reaching implications of the raid.

Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, stated: “Scrutiny of government agencies by the media is critical to a democracy, and it is very concerning that these security agencies seem to want to avoid any examination.”

Digital Rights Watch described the raids as a “gross abuse of national security powers”.

The government has doubled-down. Asked if he was concerned about journalist’s homes being raided, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared: “It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

Morrison’s comments came amid indications that the raid on Smethurst is part of a broader crackdown on the press after the government was reinstalled in a federal election last month.

2GB presenter and Sky News commentator Ben Fordham yesterday revealed that after he aired a story about up to six refugee boats having recently travelled towards Australia, he was contacted by senior officials from the Home Affairs department.

They stated that they would be “investigating” the disclosure and asked Fordham to give up his source. Under Australia’s draconian border protection regime, refugee boat arrivals are subject to national security secrecy laws, even if those on board perish, or if they are intercepted by Australian Border Force or naval officers.

The approach to Fordham, who said yesterday he was concerned he could also be targeted with a raid, was followed by this morning’s attempt to search the ABC building.

While reports are scanty, the warrant reportedly names ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with director of news, Gaven Morris. AFP officers are seeking to obtain thousands of emails, files, passwords and written documents from April 2016 and July 2017. They are reportedly investigating the 2017 publication of “The Afghan Files”, which exposed the killing of unarmed civilians by Australian troops, the desecration of corpses and other war crimes covered up by military command.

The two raids are part of a broader campaign against government whistleblowers. The government, with the support of Labor, is prosecuting a former intelligence officer, dubbed Witness K, and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, for exposing an Australian espionage operation against the tiny state of East Timor.

David McBride, a former Australian military lawyer, also faces the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence if he is convicted over the alleged leak of documents to journalists containing evidence of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australia’s Special Forces.

Successive Labor and Coalition governments have expanded laws which abolish any whistleblower protections, even if leaks expose illegal actions.

The raid against Smethurst, however, raises the prospect of prosecutions of journalists and media organisations for publishing leaked material, in a direct attack on freedom of the press.

This was signalled by the phrasing of the warrant, which reportedly stated that the raid was partly in relation to the “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

The phrasing corresponds to Espionage and Foreign Interference legislation passed last year by the Coalition, with the full support of Labor. The new laws make it a criminal offense to “deal with” information that “harms” “national security”. “Deal with” is defined to cover a long list of activities: “collect”, “possess”, “make a record of”, “copy”, “alter”, “conceal”, “communicate”, “publish” and “make available”.

Journalists have a limited defence, if they “reasonably believe” the information they published was in the public interest. However, this proviso is entirely undefined and subject to interpretation, meaning that journalists and media organisations could still face prosecution.

The AFP raids are part of a deepening assault on the democratic rights of the population, which is aimed at suppressing growing opposition to militarism, war, social inequality and the escalating expansion of police powers. In both cases, journalists who have revealed evidence of crimes by the government and military are raided and implicitly threatened with criminal prosecution.

This is part of a broader drive by governments around the world to abolish freedom of the press and other fundamental civil liberties. The sharpest expression is the attempt by the US administration of President Donald Trump to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues.

The author also recommends:

Australia’s new secrecy laws block exposure of government crimes [14 July 2018]

Australia’s foreign interference laws threaten whistleblowers and media freedom [9 July 2019]

Australian police chief links media raids to US-led “Five Eyes” spy network: here.

“Is there going to be a future for journalism?” Australian media workers denounce police raids: here.

Two prominent criminal trials of whistleblowers, whose leaks exposed war crimes and illegal operations by the country’s US-linked military and intelligence services, are likely to be largely conducted behind closed doors after the Australian government issued “national security information” certificates: here.

The global war on journalism: here.

Sri Lanka government abuses terrorism for autocracy


This 18 December 2013 video says about itself:

Full Video: Live censorship on Sri Lankan state TV station amid criticism of new broadcasting law

Reporters Without Borders condemns the government pressure that led to the debate programme “Ira Anduru Pata” being cut short as it was being broadcast live on the evening of 4 November on state TV station Rupavahini. It ended a discussion of a new broadcasting law by three guests, including Free Media Movement convener Uvindu Kurukulasuriya.

The presenter announced a break for advertisements after 45 minutes, but the rest of the programme, which normally lasts two hours, was suppressed. Kurukulasuriya had been criticising the government’s media policies before he was censored. It was the first time in nine years that this press freedom activist was invited to speak on Rupavahini.

This censorship came as widespread criticism forced the government to retreat on its newly-introduced Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations. After receiving representatives of journalists’ organisations and media owners, media and information minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa announced that implementation of the new regulations would be suspended for a month, and he gave the media two weeks to submit their proposals for amendments.

Four people, including Kurukulasuriya as FMM representative, filed a petition before the supreme court challenging the regulations, which were published in the official gazette on 10 October without any form of prior consultation. The new rules would restrict development of privately-owned TV by increasing the government’s control over the issuing and withdrawal of broadcasting licences, which would have to be renewed annually. Noting the government’s decision to suspend the regulations, Reporters Without Borders said: “This law is extremely dangerous for media freedom. Delaying its implementation is not enough. Its content needs to be changed radically.

By K. Ratnayake and Peter Symonds:

After terrorist bombings, Sri Lankan government imposes draconian national emergency

23 April 2019

The Sri Lankan government has exploited Sunday’s terrorist bombings, which claimed at least 290 lives, to impose a national state of emergency that gives the police and military draconian powers of arrest and detention.

While many details have not been released, Sunday’s attacks involved coordinated bombings, within minutes of each other, of three Christian churches, packed for Easter Sunday services, and three luxury hotels. The death toll is likely to rise, as many of the more than 500 injured are in critical condition.

The World Socialist Web Site condemns the horrendous bombings, which indiscriminately killed innocent men, women and children, and have already provided the pretext for sweeping anti-democratic measures.

Even before the state of emergency was announced, the government imposed an unprecedented nationwide block on social media, including Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp, supposedly to prevent the circulation of “false news”. A curfew is already in force.

The state of emergency will activate key sections of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that allows the military, as well as the police, to make arbitrary arrests on suspicion of terrorism, and to detain suspects for lengthy periods without charge.

The PTA, which also allows for confessions extracted by torture to be used in court, was widely used during the brutal three-decade communal war by successive Colombo governments against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The emergency powers also allow for the forcible suppression of “mutiny, riot or civil commotion” and the maintenance of essential services—a measure that has, in the past, been used to suppress strikes. The police and military will also have powers to enter and search, to seize property and to compulsorily acquire property other than land.

The WSWS warns that these profoundly anti-democratic measures are, above all, directed against the working class, amid a resurgence of strikes and protests against the government’s harsh austerity measures. Hundreds of thousands of plantation workers took strike action last December to demand a doubling of their poverty-level wages …

One of the government’s first actions under the state of emergency has been to ban all May Day rallies and meetings—a clear sign that the real target of the crackdown is the working class. May 1 has traditionally been widely observed by the Sri Lankan working class as the day of international workers’ solidarity.

The bombings have taken place amid an acute political crisis in Colombo’s ruling circles, fueled both by the rising class struggle and intense geo-political rivalries between the United States and China.

The current Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, came to power in the 2015 election, ousting Mahinda Rajapakse in what was a regime-change operation orchestrated by Washington, with the assistance of Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was installed as prime minister. The US was hostile to Rajapakse’s close ties to China.

Three years later, however, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe fell out, as the government’s popularity sharply fell as a result of its sweeping attacks on the living conditions of working people. Last October, Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe, installed Rajapakse as prime minister, then dissolved parliament. Under pressure from Washington, he was compelled to make an about-face and reinstall Wickremesinghe after the Supreme Court ruled his actions unconstitutional.

The Sunday bombings took place in the context of these bitter rivalries, intrigues and plotting. The most extraordinary revelation, to date, is that 10 days before the bombings, the Sri Lankan police received a foreign intelligence alert specifically warning of plans “to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches” by the Islamist group National Thowheeth Jamma’ath (NTJ).

Desperate to deflect public anger over the failure of the police to take action, the rival factions led by Wickremesinghe, Sirisena and Rajapakse are all pointing the finger at each other. However, none of the obvious questions has been answered: how did a small, little-known Islamist group, previously known only for defacing Buddhist statues, obtain the resources and skills needed to mount a sophisticated, coordinated attack involving suicide bombers that would have required months of preparation?

If the NTJ wanted to escalate their actions, then one would expect logically that they would plan bloodbaths in Buddhist temples, not in Christian churches.

Moreover, how was it that the police, military and intelligence services, built up over decades of civil war, took no action, even after an intelligence alert named the likely perpetrators? The Colombo political establishment and security apparatus is deeply mired in Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and has strong links to Buddhist extremist groups that have attacked Christians and Muslims and their places of worship in the past.

While government ministers have pointed to a sinister “international network,” it cannot be ruled out that the culprits are closer to home. Could a faction of the military-police-apparatus have turned a blind eye to the impending attack, or even manipulated the bombers to advance its political aims? This is certainly possible, given the long history of dirty tricks and crimes carried out by the security forces during the island’s protracted civil war.

In a particularly revealing comment to the BBC, telecommunications minister Harin Fernando declared: “There are so many ways we could look at this, but right now our biggest priority would be to find what really led these eight or 10 or 12 men to carry out this attack. But we are not ruling out a coup as well. [emphasis added]”

Decades ago, I spoke to a scientist who had done research in a Sri Lankan village. One day, someone stole something from her. She went to the local police station. It turned out that the police then beat up and tortured some local boys. They always used these probably innocent local boys as scapegoats, when they did not know who had committed a crime. The stolen item was not recovered.

Things similar to what happened on that village scale may well happen now in Sri Lanka on a national level. And may well happen in many other countries.

Whatever skullduggery may or may not lie behind the bombings, all factions of the ruling class, despite their bitter rivalry, are completely united on one fundamental issue: intense fear of, and hostility to, the emerging struggles of the [working] class.

The imposition of police-state measures in Sri Lanka, including, for the first time, a ban on social media, is part and parcel of the anti-democratic agenda being imposed around the world. Last month, in the wake of the fascist attack on mosques in New Zealand, the government censored the Internet and is expanding the repressive apparatus of the state. Now the bombings in Sri Lanka are being exploited to set new precedents, which will also be implemented elsewhere in Asia and internationally.