290 people killed in Sri Lanka bloodbath

This 22 April 2019 AFP news agency video says about itself:

St Sebastian’s church: A day after Sri Lanka explosions

Authorities comb through St Sebastian’s church in Sri Lanka’s Negombo as the death toll from Sunday’s bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in the country rose dramatically Monday to 290.

By K. Ratnayake in Sri Lanka:

At least 290 killed in terrorist bomb attacks in Sri Lanka

22 April 2019

At least 290 people have been killed and around 500 injured in a series of powerful bomb blasts yesterday in Sri Lanka. In a co-ordinated attack between 8.45 a.m. and 9 a.m., unidentified terrorists struck three Christian churches and three luxury hotels frequented by tourists. Among the dead are some 35 foreigners, including from the US, European countries, China and Japan.

The three churches—St. Anthony in Colombo, St. Sebastian in Negombo to the north of the capital and the Zeon Church in Batticalao on the east coast of the island—were packed for Easter Sunday services. The blasts ripped off the roofs and left body parts strewn among the rubble. The hospitals, particularly in Negombo where the death toll was the highest, were overwhelmed by the large number of injured, many of whom are in a serious condition.

People recovering dead bodies in Katuwapitiya Church

The three luxury hotels—the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury—are all in Colombo. Two further blasts in the capital several hours later claimed more lives—one in the suburb of Dehiwela killed two people and the second in Dematagoda killed seven, including three police officers.

The Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka) unequivocally condemns this barbaric murder of innocent people, including children and women. Whoever is responsible for this heinous crime and whatever their motives, it will be exploited by the political establishment to strengthen the state apparatus and further attack basic democratic rights.

The government immediately imposed a nationwide block on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Viber, claiming that they had been used to circulate “false news reports.” While saying the shutdown would be temporary, it is part and parcel of moves by governments internationally to censor the internet so that only government-approved news is readily available.

Dutch NOS TV reports today (translated):

Internet organization NetBlocks regrets the move, because legitimate news sources now also cannot be disseminated and rumours will circulate faster.

The K. Ratnayake article continues:

No organisation or individual has so far claimed the responsibility for the terrorist attacks. State minister for defence affairs and media, Ruwan Wijewardena, said the government knew the “identity of the culprits” but would not elaborate. The police have arrested 13 people but have not revealed their identity. Even the nature of the bombings is not clear, but there is some evidence that suicide bombers were involved.

Agence France Presse has reported that the Sri Lankan government and police had received a warning 10 days before that suicide bombers planned to attack prominent churches. The intelligence alert to top police officers declared: “A foreign intelligence agency has informed that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jamma’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.”

Neither the police nor the government took any action to warn the public of an impending attack. Nor there is any evidence that the police took any measures to prevent the bombings. Yet the alert was quite specific and Easter is an obvious time when churches would be full.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday acknowledged that there had been a warning from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency. He claimed, however, that he and his ministers did not know about the alert. He indicated that there would be an inquiry as “there had not been adequate attention [paid] to the information.”

National Thowheeth Jamma’ath is an Islamist organisation based in Sri Lanka that is suspected of having links to Islamic extremists internationally. At this stage, however, one cannot rule out other possibilities.

The Colombo political establishment, which waged a brutal three-decade long war to defeat the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has close connections to Sinhala Buddhist supremacist groups, which have a history of attacks on Christians and Christian churches, as well as the island’s Tamil and Muslim minorities. In many cases, the police have simply turned a blind eye to such attacks.

The government is desperate to deflect rising anger over the bombings. In his comments, Wickremesinghe hinted that President Maithripala Sirisena was responsible for not taking action to prevent the attack. Sirisena took over the law and order ministry, which includes the police, last December as part of the bitter rivalry between himself and the prime minister. The president, as defence minister, already has control of the country’s three armed forces.

The opposition, led by former President Mahinda Rajapakse, yesterday condemned the attack but sheeted home the blame to the government. The Rajapakse government was responsible for the brutal end to the war against the LTTE which involved the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in the final military operations, as well as hundreds of “disappearances” by military-connected death squads.

Rajapakse has defended the “war heroes” against any charges of war crimes and is looking for the military’s support in his bid to return to power. Yesterday, he declared that the attack was a “dire consequence that innocent people have to face because the government has paralysed the intelligence officers and officers of the three-armed forces.”

Both the governing and opposition parties, however, were responsible for prosecuting the communal war against the island’s Tamil minority and for vastly expanding the military and state apparatus as well as its police state powers. The government will undoubtedly exploit yesterday’s bombings to ram through its Counter Terrorism (CT) Bill, which replaces the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act and retains the bulk of its sweeping, anti-democratic powers.

In separate statements, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe urged people to be “calm” as the security measures were put into force—after the bombings. As well as the block on social media, police special task force officers were deployed to guard Colombo railway station, Katunayake International Airport and other places. Several hundred soldiers have been deployed onto the streets of Colombo and a curfew has been imposed.

World leaders yesterday rushed to denounce the terrorist attack. US President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible terrorist attacks,” offered “heartfelt condolences” and declared that the US stood “ready to help.” British Prime Minister Theresa May also decried the attacks saying the “violence was truly appalling.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that “there is no place for such barbarism in our region.”

Hypocrisy knows no bounds! The US and its allies are responsible for criminal wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa that fueled Islamic extremists, if they were indeed responsible for yesterday’s bombings. Washington backed successive Colombo governments that waged the island’s brutal war that created communal tensions and hatreds that Sri Lankan elites continue to stir up and manipulate.

Amid a rising tide of working-class struggles, the ruling classes internationally are whipping up anti-immigrant xenophobia and deliberately nurturing fascist parties and organisations. Last month, the Australian fascist Brenton Tarrant shot dead 50 people, including women and children, in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Despite Tarrant’s connections in far-right circles internationally, the police and intelligence services claim that they had no forewarning. The response of the government in Wellington has been to blame the internet and censor websites.

The government in Sri Lanka will use yesterday’s bombings for the same purpose. Over the past year, there has been a wave of strikes by workers and protests by students, farmers and the poor against the government’s austerity measures. The police-state measures put in place on the pretext of fighting terrorism will inevitably be used against the working class.

Anti-Christian terrorism in Sri Lanka at Easter

This 21 April 2019 video is called At least 280 injured in multiple blasts at churches & hotels in Sri Lanka.

From the Economic Times in India:

Sri Lanka Blasts Live Updates: 129 dead, over 400 injured in six explosions on Easter

Serial blasts occurred at around 8.45 am as the Easter Sunday masses were in progress in churches

Updated: Apr 21, 2019, 12.26 PM IST

Other sources claim at least 160 dead.

With all of my heart, I wish strength and recovery to the survivors of these terrible crimes.

At least 129 people were killed and more than 400 other injured after six near simultaneous blasts hit three Sri Lankan churches and three five-star hotels on Easter Sunday. These are the first major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago. According to local reports, the blasts in hotels and churches in different parts of the country occurred at around 8.45 am (local time) as the Easter Sunday masses were in progress in churches.

* In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed.

* Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

* At least nine foreigners dead in the blasts

* Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks yet in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

So we don’t know yet which apparently terrorist group committed these crimes.

Tamils? Improbable, as this mostly Hindu minority group suffer from extremist Buddhist violence and would not probably attack other minorities.

Sri Lanka Muslims? Also improbable, as this minority group also suffers from extremist Buddhist violence and would not probably attack other minorities.

If this would have happened in Iraq, then I would guess that the perpetrators were most probably violent extreme Muslims, unleashed by George W Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

However, Sri Lanka is not Iraq; and the situation of all religious groups is not the same all over the world. A creed which is a state religion in country A may be a persecuted minority in country B.

There are violent fringes in probably all religions, whose violence is rejected by non-violent co-religionists.

In, eg, the USA, New Zealand and Europe, there are violent self-styled Christians attacking Jews and Muslims; and sometimes Sikhs and Hindus.

In India, violent self-styled Hindus attack Muslims, Christians, atheists and Buddhists.

Though most Buddhists are peace-loving people, there is an extremist fringe among them as well. In Myanmar, a monk calls himself ‘the Buddhist Bin Laden’ and instigates violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

So, we don´t know yet who today’s perpetrators are. As religious violence is most often by violent fringe people of majority religions in their countries, this might be extremist Buddhist violence. Like there has been earlier in Sri Lanka against Hindus and against Muslims.

One should hope that the Sri Lankan government will not abuse this terrible bloodbath as a pretext for attacking civil liberties, like other governments did after criminal acts.

However, it seems like the Sri Lankan government has announced a curfew and blocked social media. It does not seem to work yet.

Free Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Sri Lankans say

Sri Lankans demonstrate for freeing war crimes whistleblowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning

From the World Socialist Web Site in Sri Lanka:

SEP and IYSSE in Sri Lanka rally to defend Assange and Manning

By our reporters

17 April 2019

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) held a powerful demonstration and rally in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, yesterday to demand the release of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Around 100 people, including workers, youth and housewives, attended the picket which was held outside the Colombo Fort Railway Station. A group of SEP members travelled 400 kilometres from war-ravaged northern Jaffna to participate and several estate workers came from the central hills plantation district.

It was one of several demonstrations called by Socialist Equality Parties around the world and the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) following Assange’s arrest by British police last Thursday. The WikiLeaks publisher faces extradition to the US on bogus charges.

Demonstrators enthusiastically chanted slogans in Sinhala and Tamil, including “Free Julian Assange, Free Chelsea Manning”, “Defend the right for free speech, Defend democratic rights”, and “Stop internet censorship, No to world war, fight for international socialism.” Hundreds of copies of the WSWS April 12 Perspective, “Free Julian Assange” were distributed to those watching the event or passing through the station.

Sri Lankan media outlets, including Veerakesari, Sri Lanka’s main Tamil-language daily newspaper, IBC radio, Dan tv, Capital fm and madhyavadiya.lk, covered the event.

K. Ratnayake

K. Ratnayake, Sri Lanka’s WSWS national editor, addressed a 45-minute rally following the demonstration. He explained the circumstances surrounding Assange’s arrest by British police and his illegal removal from the Ecuadorian embassy, and the moves to extradite him to the US where he could face espionage and violation of national security charges.

“What is the crime Assange is being hounded for by Washington and Britain, with the connivance of pro-imperialist Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno?

“His so-called crime was to publish leaks by former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, exposing the enormous war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The exposure of US imperialist crimes committed in its predatory neo-colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a great service to the international working class.

“In preparation for new hegemonic wars, the Trump administration wants to cover up Washington’s previous criminal acts, attack freedom of speech and expression, and suppress democratic rights.”

SEP political committee member M. Thevarajah speaking to the media

Ratnayake denounced the total silence of Sri Lanka’s mainstream media about Assange’s arrest and the attacks on freedom of the press. He pointed out that the brief reports by some Sri Lanka media were hostile to Assange and Manning.

“Equally, Sri Lankan pseudo-left groups, such as the Frontline Socialist Party, United Socialist Party and Nava Sama Samaja Party, have nothing to say about this dangerous attack on democratic rights. There is not a word in their press over the jailing of Assange or Manning,” Ratnayake said.

“Like the ruling class in other semi-colonial countries every faction of the Sri Lankan ruling class—from President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to opposition leader Mahinda Rajapakse—will use this attack of their imperialist masters as a licence to intensify their assault on the democratic rights of the Sri Lankan working class.”

Kapila Fernando

YSSE Convenor Kapila Fernando told the rally that the exposure of imperialist crimes by Assange and Manning had won them enormous respect from workers, young people and others who value democratic rights.

Assange had been imprisoned in the London’s Ecuadorian embassy for the past seven years. Vast changes have occurred during this period. In every country, the working class has come forward to defend their rights against rising social inequality and austerity measures,” Fernando said.

“This is the context in which Assange has been arrested. His jailing is an attack against the working class as a whole and bound up with the drive of American imperialism toward a world war,” he said.

SEP members and supporters from the country's north and from tea plantations

The struggle to free Assange and Manning, he added, has to be carried forward through the fight for the independent mobilisation of the working class and on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.

After the rally, freelance photographer Sunil Harischandra told the WSWS that he fully supported the fight to free Assange and Manning.

Sunil Harischandra

“World imperialism is trying to make an example out of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and are putting their lives in great danger because they have exposed war crimes.

“They are victims of class war and we cannot let the US and other imperialists determine this,” he added. “Their fate is decisive for the world proletariat and we have to demand their freedom.”

Lohan Gunaweera, an artist, said: “The imperialist countries are preparing massively for war. This is shown by Assange being taken into custody and the jailing of Manning. The World Socialist Web Site has taken the lead in the fight against the imperialist preparations for war and in opposing the jailing of Assange and Manning.

“If the frame-ups of Assange and Manning go ahead then all journalists, artists and others who oppose imperialism will become victims. These attacks must be defeated”, he said.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) in Sri Lanka held a successful rally and public meeting in defence of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning at Hatton on August 11. The central province working-class city is surrounded by major tea plantations. The rally, which involved plantation workers, SEP members and supporters, was held in the morning outside Hatton’s main bus terminal. Participants held banners and placards and chanted slogans in Sinhala and Tamil demanding freedom for Assange and Manning. Despite heavy rain, the hour-long demonstration gathered the support of many workers who had come to Hatton for their weekly shopping and other needs: here.

Unsealed affidavit demonstrates US seeking to prosecute Assange for his journalism: here.

Last week’s arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been met with universal approval from the US print and broadcast media. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, the three major US newspapers, have all enthusiastically endorsed Assange’s arrest and extradition to the United States, for charges related to his publication of documents implicating the US government in war crimes and the mass murder of innocent people: here.

Thousands of Ecuadorian workers and youth marched through Quito’s historic colonial center Wednesday demanding the downfall of the country’s President Lenin Moreno and freedom for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The demonstration, one of the largest since Moreno took office in 2017, was met with brutal repression. The security forces unleashed mounted police, attack dogs and tear gas against the marchers as they came within two blocks of the Plaza de la Independencia, the site of the Carondelet presidential palace, which was ringed by a heavy cordon of police and armed troops: here.

Sri Lankan Trump-Duterte-Saudi-like lethal ‘war on drugs’

This video is about the horrible beheading of Ms Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, proclaiming her innocence, in Saudi Arabia. Not fit to watch for children and sensitive people.

In 2013, the Saudi regime had a Sri Lankan domestic worker beheaded. In 2015, this blog mentioned that a Sri Lankan housemaid in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to death by stoning, based on a false accusation of ‘adultery’. The Sri Lankan government then pressured the Saudi regime; which resulted in change of the penalty from being killed by stoning to three years in prison.

Now in Sri Lanka though …

By Vijith Samarasinghe in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan president denounces opponents of the death penalty

15 February 2019

Addressing parliament on February 6, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated his commitment to ending the country’s 43-year moratorium on the death penalty. He warned the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and other human rights groups not to hinder his efforts.

Sirisena told parliament that although death row prisoners had filed appeals against their convictions since he began calling for the reinstatement of executions, “we would be able to implement the death penalty in one to two months. Whatever opposition would be raised against it, I have taken a firm decision to implement it.”

Citing the death penalty in India, the US and Singapore, he cynically declared: “We need stringent laws to make a law-abiding and spiritual society.”

During his visit last month to the Philippines, Sirisena hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”—the extrajudicial killing of thousands of alleged drug dealers—as an “example to the whole world” and vowed to reinstitute the death penalty in Sri Lanka.

Sirisena’s campaign for executions and his praise of Duterte drew immediate criticism from human rights groups in Sri Lanka and internationally.

Sirisena responded by telling parliament that any invocation of human rights in relationship to the drug trafficking underworld was “wrong” and demanded human rights organisations “not object” to his death penalty campaign.

Sirisena singled out the toothless, government-appointed HRCSL for attack and referred to the brutal beating of prisoners in Angunakolapelessa jail last November by Special Task Force (STF) officers and prison staff. A secretly recorded video of the incident drew wide criticism of the government.

This 16 January 2019 video from Sri Lanka is called Prisoners assaulted in Angunakolapelessa prison.

Sirisena criticised the HRCSL chief for daring to ask the STF commandant who had given the order to send in the STF.

“The human rights commission, which was appointed by us, should have defended us,” the president told parliament. “Instead, it is questioning the STF chief.” He also condemned the HRCSL for vetting Sri Lankan military officers for human rights violations before they were sent abroad on so-called UN peace keeping assignments.

HRCSL chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama responded in writing to Sirisena’s allegations, saying these actions were “in accordance with human rights law” and not “an attempt by the Commission to protect criminals.”

Sirisena’s broadside in parliament has only one meaning. He will not tolerate any opposition to the reinstitution of the death penalty or any government violation of basic democratic rights. Sirisena is sending a clear message to the police, and its notorious STF, and the military, that he will back them in all circumstances.

Sirisena’s defence of the military is indicative. Between 1983 and 2009, it conducted a vicious communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The bloody conflict was a culmination of the communalist policies pursued by the ruling elite since 1948 to suppress and divide the working class along ethnic and religious lines.

Sirisena, like his predecessors, is committed to shielding the political leaders of successive governments and the military hierarchy responsible for all the war crimes committed since 1983.

While officially there have been no official executions since 1976, the Sri Lankan state has a horrifying record of eliminating its political opponents, workers and young people through extra-judicial killings.

Military and associated paramilitary death squads abducted and executed, without trial, tens of thousands of people during the war against the LTTE and in crushing the youth insurgencies of 1987–89 in Sri Lanka’s south.

The Constitutional Council (CC) was another target of Sirisena’s speech to parliament.

Established by the 19th amendment to the constitution in 2015 under the Sirisena presidency, the CC is supposed to ensure the “independence” of the judiciary and the government service. Consisting of representatives of the president and the parliamentary parties, and headed by the parliamentary speaker, it is not independent in any sense.

Sirisena complained that the CC had not approved his nominees for judges and the chief justice. “They are yet to inform me the reasons for turning down those names,” he declared.

The president is not alone in his provocative and authoritarian outbursts. His views are endorsed by the entire political establishment, including Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s ruling United National Party (UNP), which is working hand in glove to tighten up the instruments of state repression. Last week, Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala announced that the “administrative procedures for the execution of five drug convicts had been completed.”

Every faction of the ruling elite is turning toward police-state forms of rule. For about two months last year, these factions were engaged in open political warfare. Sirisena unconstitutionally sacked Wickremesinghe, replacing him with his arch-rival, former President Mahinda Rajapakse, and then dissolved the parliament after Rajapakse was unable to gain a parliamentary majority.

The plot failed because the US was hostile to Rajapakse, whom Washington considers sympathetic to Beijing, and the Supreme Court overruled Sirisena, compelling him to reinstate Wickremesinghe.

Behind the ongoing infighting within the political elite is the eruption of plantation and other workers’ struggles as part of an international working-class upsurge.

Two days before Sirisena’s death penalty address to parliament, he made an unprecedented Independence Day speech in which he hailed the military and declared that governments had failed to resolve the country’s democratic and social questions.

The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, with most of its victims around world coming from the most oppressed layers of society. Sirisena’s call for the speedy restoration of this barbaric practice, endorsed by all the major parliamentary parties, is a clear indication that the capitalist class is lurching toward dictatorial forms of rule.

In a signal that the Sirisena government is pushing ahead with its reactionary agenda, the government-owned Daily News newspaper ran a grotesque advertisement on February 11 for people to apply to become the official hangmen. The two people who will be employed to carry out state killings must be males aged between 18 and 45 and possess “mental strength.” They will reportedly be paid 36,410 rupees, or $203, a month to hang other human beings.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 14 February 2019:

Sri Lanka is looking for two new executioners with a newspaper advertisement. The country wants to reintroduce the death penalty after years, but is still looking for personnel.

The requirements are limited: applicants must be citizens between the ages of 18 and 45, have a high school diploma and be male; women are supposedly too emotional for the job. …

The job has a monthly salary of 140 euros, which is above average for Sri Lankan public employees.

Zero tolerance policy

Sri Lanka has had a moratorium on executions since 1977. The death penalty is still imposed, but automatically converted to life imprisonment.

Inspired by the zero tolerance policy of his Filipino counterpart Duterte, President Sirisena wants to carry out the death penalty again. Drug criminals deserve the noose, according to him.

The previous executioner left in 2014 with a promotion, allegedly relieved that he had never executed anyone. Finding a successor was difficult: two candidates were fired because they were absent unauthorizedly, a third one resigned when he first saw the gallows.

Candidates now have two weeks to report. The first job interviews should take place next month.

PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT’S ‘CURE’ CLAIM Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte accused a rival politician of being homosexual, and then claimed he used to be gay until he “cured” himself. Duterte’s public positions on homosexuality have been inconsistent, to say the least. [HuffPost]

Sri Lankan tea plantation workers speak on bad conditions

Line rooms at the Abbotsleigh tea estate in Sri Lanka

From the World Socialist Web Site in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka: Abbotsleigh tea plantation workers speak out against harsh living and working conditions

By our reporters

21 December 2018

Last week, a group of workers from the Abbotsleigh tea estate, with the assistance of the Socialist Equality Party, resolved to establish an action committee to advance their fight for higher wages and improved conditions. The estate is located about five kilometres from Hatton in Sri Lanka’s Nuwara-Eliya district.

The decision to form the committee, which operates independently of the plantation trade unions, was a result of their own bitter experiences with the unions that have defended estate companies’ profits for decades.

On December 12, the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the main plantation union, suddenly ended indefinite strike action, involving over 100,000 plantation workers demanding the doubling of their wages. The union’s decision to stab their members in the back, on the ninth day of the stoppage, followed a worthless promise from President Maithripala Sirisena that he would “solve the issue” in discussions with the unions and employers on December 18.

No details have been provided about the scheduled meeting or whether it was even held. Meanwhile, the plantation companies continue to reject workers’ legitimate calls for better wages, fraudulently claiming that their employees receive improved “social benefits.”

Sri Lankan plantation workers, like their international counterparts, are being ruthlessly exploited by the giant corporations that control the industry. As a recent study published by the University of Sheffield pointed out, “Exploitation, including forced labor, is endemic at the base of the global tea and cocoa supply chains.” The study explained how employers extract massive profits by “under-paying wages” and “under-providing legally-mandated essential services such as drinking water and toilets.”

Abbotsleigh estate workers spoke with the WSWS this week about the desperate circumstances they confront. Working and living conditions at the estate, which employs about 600 workers, are typical of those facing plantation workers across Sri Lanka.

Abbotsleigh workers have to use private buses to travel to Hatton, the nearest town, but the fare is 80 rupees each way or nearly one sixth of their current 500-rupee ($US2.80) daily basic wage. The buses only run once an hour along narrow, dangerous and poorly maintained roads. Workers and students who want to reach Hatton early in the morning, before the bus service begins, have to walk.

The road towards Abbotsleigh estate

Many families living on the estate have no sanitary facilities. Workers explained that they have to pay an average 100 rupees per month for water they get from a public tap. About 45 families on the estate have no home and are forced to live with their relatives. High unemployment in the area means that thousands of estate youths have migrated to Colombo and other major towns.

The usual breakfast and lunch for estate workers is rotti (home-made bread) with coconut sambol. Rice and curry is eaten at dinner with fish or meat only eaten on pay day.

K. Yogaranjani, 36, leads the CWC’s Abbotsleigh branch and has been working at the estate since she was 11. Explaining the harsh working conditions facing estate workers, she said: “We face danger from snakes, wasps and even leopards, and blood-sucking leeches are everywhere, but management does not even provide any compensation if workers are killed by snakes. On top of all this, we have to pluck 17 kilograms of tea leaves just to receive a meagre daily wage of 500 rupees and just 25 rupees for every kilo over that target.”

She works at night in the estate’s tea factory and in the fields during the day to try and boost her income. There are no especial allowances for night work, however. She explained that the cost of educating her three children was a huge burden.

“I have to pay 1,500 rupee tuition fees for each subject and 400 rupees for a taxi to get them to class on time. So we cannot afford to send them to private classes for many subjects, and for new admissions the schools demand a 6,000-rupee donation. We spend at least 15,000 rupees per month on food,” she said. Her family was also paying 10,000 rupees per month for loans and debts to local shops.

Yogaranjani (right)

Yogaranjani had to end her studies and begin working in the estate to support her three sisters after her father died. “My mother used to skip meals because of poverty but this problem among estate workers still prevails today. We want this situation to end,” she said.

“I lived in a relative’s home with my baby for three years, after I was married. During the rainy season I experienced massive difficulties because water would run through the room, so I bought a line room for 100,000 rupees which increased our economic burden.”

Like many other workers, Yogaranjani’s husband sought employment in Colombo because he could not get enough work on the estate. When he returned after three months, estate management dismissed him and then reemployed him as a casual worker. Plantation companies regularly do this in order to stop paying workers monthly allowances and retirement benefits.

R. Pusparany and her sons inside their home

R. Pusparany and her family live in a small temporary mudbrick shed. They have only one bed with a small section of the room used for cooking. She said that the unions always promise to provide houses whenever there is an election but that these pledges are never fulfilled.

“How can we build a house when our salaries are not even enough for meals? We need 1,200 rupees each day for food but last month, I only received 3,900 rupees after deductions. My husband’s monthly wage was 4,140 rupees. Sometimes we manage to get by using lettuces grown in the fields instead of vegetables,” she said.

Sivapakyam said the estate’s revenue share system was a fraud. “In November 2017, management gave us 250 tea bushes under its revenue share system. They promised to give seventy percent of the income if a kilo of tea leaves sold for 100 rupees. The price was 89 rupees for just one month and then the company reduced it to 30 rupees after deductions for pesticide and fertiliser. If they clean or prune the tea field, we have to pay the labour costs. After one year of this we handed the land back to the company,” she said.

P. Sundaralingam, who leads the Abbotsleigh estate action committee, told WSWS reporters that the unions divide the workers. “They take 150 rupees per month as subscriptions but the union leaders do not come here to help with any difficulties we face,” he said. The Abottsleigh action committee, he added, would bring workers together and create the conditions for a united struggle to win an adequate wage increase and improve workers’ rights.

Facebook censors Sri Lankan left

This 13 September 2018 video from the USA is called Facebook Is Now Censoring Progressives, It’s Official.

By Andre Damon:

Washington’s censorship regime goes global

Facebook deletes WSWS post on Sri Lanka

14 November 2018

On Monday, Facebook removed a post on Sri Lanka by the World Socialist Web Site’s official Tamil-language Facebook page. The alleged reason was violation of unspecified restrictions in Facebook’s “community standards,” which is no explanation at all.

The Tamil language, spoken by 74 million people, is the language of the ethnic Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and South India, as well as a large global diaspora.

The move is the latest in the crackdown on left-wing, anti-war and socialist organizations by US-based technology monopolies including Google, Facebook and Twitter. As these companies integrate themselves ever more closely into the American state apparatus, they are increasingly weaponized to promote US imperialist aims all over the world. At the center of this drive is the suppression of socialist political viewpoints.

This is not the first time that the World Socialist Web Site’s Tamil-language Facebook page has been targeted by Facebook. On two separate occasions, Facebook removed the “share” option from public meetings promoted by the page.

The World Socialist Web Site has been a central target of internet censorship more broadly, with its search traffic falling by more than 75 percent after Google announced a change to its search algorithm aimed at limiting “alternative viewpoints”.

Amid a deepening political crisis in Sri Lanka, the United States is seeking to exclude Chinese influence in the island country, located off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. The country of 21 million sits astride the world’s most heavily trafficked west-bound trade route and boasts a busier port than any in the United States.

On October 26, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena removed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapakse. Washington has made clear that the appointment of Rajapakse is unacceptable, due to his “excessively close ties to China”, as the New York Times put it.

The modern history of Sri Lanka has been dominated by the use of communal politics by all factions of the ruling class to stoke divisions between the country’s Sinhalese majority and its Tamil minority. Anti-Tamil discrimination by successive Colombo governments fueled tensions that broke out in a bloody civil war that raged between 1983 and 2009, costing more than 100,000 lives.

While every capitalist political party in Sri Lanka has sought to base itself on one or another ethnic faction, the Sri Lankan Trotskyist movement has carried out a decades-long political fight to unite Sinhalese and Tamil workers on the basis of a common socialist program.

This struggle has won the Socialist Equality Party of Sri Lanka widespread support, and the World Socialist Web Site has a higher per-capita readership in Sri Lanka than anywhere else in the world.

The WSWS has warned that since the brutal suppression of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, the Tamil nationalist parties have lined up ever more directly with the interests of US imperialism in the country. The article censored by Facebook explains that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has opposed the appointment of Rajapakse to curry favor with its American allies. It states:

“The TNA’s decision to support Wickremesinghe has nothing to do with defending democracy. Rather, the organisation is pursuing the same pro-imperialist course that saw it support the US-sponsored regime-change operation that brought Sirisena and Wickremesinghe to power in 2015. That operation was aimed at installing a pro-US government in Colombo in line with Washington’s war preparations against China.”

The article pointed to the growing strike movement “among workers of all ethnicities in Sri Lanka”, including protests by thousands of Tamil-speaking plantation workers in the days preceding the sacking of Wickremesinghe. It argued that “the only way forward is on the basis of the struggle being waged by the [Socialist Equality Party] to unify the working class of all nationalities on a socialist and revolutionary perspective.”

While Facebook has given no explanation for the removal of the article, its motivations are self-evident. The company is not only increasingly integrated into, but more and more staffed by, current and former officials of the US intelligence agencies. These state agencies see the growing audience for international socialism as an obstacle to their efforts to exploit ethnic divisions in developing countries to further the geopolitical aims of US imperialism.

There can be no doubt that last month’s speaking tour in Sri Lanka by WSWS Editorial Board Chairman David North, which was given prime time coverage by leading media outlets in the country and was closely followed by workers, has provoked consternation in Washington.

Facebook’s action comes amid a growing demand in the Western press that the social media giant step up political censorship in developing countries, with Sri Lanka singled out in particular.

A leading role in this campaign has been played by the New York Times, which has published a series of articles claiming, absurdly, that freedom of expression on the internet is responsible for communal violence in developing countries, including Sri Lanka.

The Times complained in an April 21 front-page article that amid “Facebook’s rapid expansion in the developing world,” the company “pushes whatever content keeps users on the site longest—a potentially damaging practice in countries with weak institutions.”

In an article focused almost exclusively on Sri Lanka, the reference to “countries with weak institutions” is a euphemism for former colonies. The Times is implying that unless Facebook censors speech in such countries, their populations, apparently unable to control themselves, will massacre each other out of communal hatred.

The Times, speaking for the “Quiet Americans” of the US intelligence agencies, claims that the people of developing countries must be gagged and told what to think by American corporations to keep them from committing criminal acts. Such arguments border on open racism: a 21st century invocation of the “white man’s burden.” The only justifiable response to this neo-colonialist garbage is contempt for the hacks who churn it out.

When Sri Lanka’s Sirisena government last March temporarily shut down Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, the Times lauded the move as necessary to “stem mob violence directed at its Muslim minority.” This is yet another lie, echoing the Sri Lankan government’s self-serving justifications for censorship.

The aim of Sirisena’s shutdown of Facebook was not to prevent ethnic violence, but to cover it up. The Sri Lankan regime wanted to shut down social media in areas affected by violence largely to hush up reports of complicity in the incidents by the police and armed forces of the US-backed regime.

The well-known collusion of the army and police with fascistic rioters was a central point made in the Socialist Equality Party’s March 10 statement, “Oppose Sinhala racist violence against Muslim community in Sri Lanka.” That statement observed:

“Senior government minister Sarath Amunugama was forced to admit on Wednesday that mobs were transported from other areas and that there was evidence of the involvement of retired and active security personnel. Social media posts showed videos and photos of police special task force (STF) officers watching mobs carrying out attacks on shops and houses.”

The only perspective capable of opposing communalism and uniting workers of every nationality is that of socialist internationalism. But this is precisely the perspective that Facebook, Google and the other technology giants are intent on suppressing, because it cuts across the efforts of US imperialism to exploit communal divisions to further entrench Washington’s global dominance.

These efforts at state censorship must be opposed! The World Socialist Web Site calls on its readers to take up the struggle against internet censorship in the United States, in Sri Lanka and all over the world!

Irish homophobic politician Paisley’s Sri Lanka massacre scandal

This 18 July 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

DUP‘s Ian Paisley Jr suspended from parliament for 30 days

Ian Paisley junior will be suspended from parliament for thirty days, effective in September, following an investigation into his lobbying for Sri Lanka after receiving all expenses paid holidays there back in 2013. This will cut the government’s working majority by one – and THEORETICALLY allowing a by-election to occur if a petition of his constituents reaches over 10% of residents.

Ian Paisley junior is a prominent politician in the sectarian homophobic Northern Irish DUP party, with links to terrorism; and on which Conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May depends for the survival of her minority government. Ian Paisley junior’s father, the ‘reverend’ Ian Paisley senior, founded the DUP.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ian Paisley has been caught bang to rights

IAN PAISLEY’S suspension from Democratic Unionist Party membership after the House of Commons decision to exclude him for 30 sitting days from September 4 displays a belated recognition by the DUP leadership of the seriousness of the charges he faced.

He might well have imagined he could brazen out his wrongdoing as DUP leader Arlene Foster did over the hundreds of millions of pounds lost on her watch through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, but there is no comparison between the two scandals.

Paisley put on a bravura performance in the House of Commons last week, complete with Tony Blair-style catching of breath to indicate he was close to tears.

He apologised for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lanka government, following which he lobbied the British government to undermine a UN investigation of mass state-sponsored slaughter at the end of the Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The North Antrim MP expressed regret, acknowledged embarrassment and apologised to Foster, but he has stuck obstinately to his yarn that he had made a “genuine mistake”.

When? Accepting the first family jolly worth up to £50,000? Or the second valued at an equal sum? Or failing to declare either of them to the Commons? Or doing the Colombo government’s dirty work by trying to devalue the UN probe?

The major question Paisley has refused to answer is why he acted — or failed to act — as he did.

His priority appears to have been to defend his right to continue in office as North Antrim MP, displaying truculence by smearing those calling for a by-election as “opportunists” and insisting that he will fight in any such by-election, “as I have never run away from an election in my life.”

He was backed by East Antrim DUP colleague Sammy Wilson, who said Paisley “has admitted that he did wrong and he has apologised to the party, to Parliament and to his constituents for that”, after which there should be no additional sanction imposed.

Fortunately, the rest of the House thought otherwise.

In the wake of successive expenses scandals and ministerial misdeeds, for Paisley to have been given a rap on the knuckles would have signalled that MPs continue to see themselves as members of an exclusive club to whom normal rules don’t apply.

Compare the indulgence Wilson extends to Paisley with the brutal consequences for benefit claimants who make real mistakes brought on by the stress and hardship in which they survive.

Paisley has been caught bang to rights. He should step down without the need for 10 per cent of his constituents to sign a petition. His time is up. He should go now.

UK: Ian Paisley suspension exposes efforts to assist cover-up of Sri Lankan bloodbath: here.

New Sri Lankan spiders get Enid Blyton names

This video says about itself:

Science Bulletins: Seeking Spiders—Biodiversity on a Different Scale

4 October 2012

Recognizing the tiny species of any ecosystem is hugely important for defining its overall diversity. But miniscule forms of life are often invisible to conservation efforts because they have yet to be described in detail. Dr. Norman Platnick of the American Museum of Natural History is leading an important initiative to discover biodiversity on a smaller scale. Having devoted decades to the study of spiders, Dr. Platnick now leads a team of 45 investigators from 10 countries in the largest-ever research project on spiders, identifying members of the goblin spider family. This group of spiders is widely distributed but largely unknown, primarily due to their small size—at 1.2-3mm, they measure one-half to one-third the length of the average spider. This video follows Dr. Platnick’s team into the Ecuadorian jungle as they collect and identify scores of unrecognized goblin spiders, showing how little we know about the full breadth of global biodiversity.

From ScienceDaily:

Six new species of goblin spiders named after famous goblins and brownies

June 21, 2018

Summary: A remarkably high diversity of goblin spiders is reported from the Sri Lankan forests. Nine new species are described in a recent paper, where six are named after goblins and brownies from Enid Blyton‘s children’s books. There are now 45 goblin spider species belonging to 13 genera known to inhabit the island country.

Fictional characters originally ‘described’ by famous English children’s writer Enid Blyton have given their names to six new species of minute goblin spiders discovered in the diminishing forests of Sri Lanka.

The goblins Bom, Snooky and Tumpy and the brownies Chippy, Snippy and Tiggy made their way from the pages of: “The Goblins Looking-Glass” (1947), “Billy’s Little Boats” (1971) and “The Firework Goblins” (1971) to the scientific literature in a quest to shed light on the remarkable biodiversity of the island country of Sri Lanka, Indian Ocean.

As a result of their own adventure, which included sifting through the leaf litter of the local forests, scientists Prof. Suresh P. Benjamin and Ms. Sasanka Ranasinghe of the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka, described a total of nine goblin spider species in six genera as new to science. Two of these genera are reported for the very first time from outside Australia.

Their paper is published in the open access journal Evolutionary Systematics.

With a total of 45 species in 13 genera, the goblin spider fauna in Sri Lanka — a country taking up merely 65,610 km2 — is already remarkably abundant. Moreover, apart from their diversity, these spiders amaze with their extreme endemism. While some of the six-eyed goblins can only be found at a few sites, other species can be seen nowhere outside a single forest patch.

“Being short-range endemics with very restricted distributions, these species may prove to be very important when it comes to monitoring the effects of climate change and other threats for the forest habitats in Sri Lanka”, explain the researchers.

In European folklore, goblins and brownies are known as closely related small and often mischievous fairy-like creatures, which live in human homes and even do chores while the family is asleep, since they avoid being seen. In exchange, they expect from their ‘hosts’ to leave food for them.

Similarly, at size of a few millimetres, goblin spiders are extremely tough to notice on the forest floors they call home. Further, taking into consideration the anthropogenic factors affecting their habitat, the arachnids also turn out to be heavily dependent on humans.

International Workers Day banned in Sri Lanka

This 2015 Al Jazeera video says about itself:

Workers Of The World Unite And Fight – May Day Explained

What is May Day? Workers around the world have, for over a century, fought to ensure the bare minimum of labor rights. And May Day is just one day that commemorates their efforts. But what’s the story behind the day in the United States?

Al Jazeera is from Qatar. One should hope that May Day 2018 and other days of fighting for workers’ rights will also bring improvement for the exploited workers in Qatar.

By the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka):

Oppose the Sri Lankan government’s ban on May Day celebrations

25 April 2018

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) strongly condemns the Sri Lankan government’s cancellation of May Day meetings and rallies scheduled for May 1, which amounts to an effective ban on marking the international workers’ day.

The SEP vehemently opposes the government’s decision to prevent it, as well as several trade unions and other organisations, from holding May Day events. This is a frontal attack on the democratic rights of the working class.

We call on all workers, oppressed people, youth, students and intellectuals to join the SEP in protesting against this blatant attack on a constitutional right enjoyed by the working people of Sri Lanka for more than three quarters of a century.

The SEP made the necessary payment to the Colombo Municipal Council to reserve the New Town Hall for its May 1 public meeting. The party also obtained police permission for the meeting, as required by the law. On Monday, however, the SEP received an undated letter from Acting Municipal Commissioner, Engineer L. R. L. Wickremaratne, cancelling the allocation of the Town Hall for our meeting.

Wickremaratne noted in his letter that as “the government decided to cancel May Day meetings on May 1, heeding a request by Chief Buddhist sangha (clergy),” the municipal council also decided not to allow meetings at its premises.

Other organisations that have planned May Day events on May 1 have come under similar attack. They are an alliance of 14 trade unions, including the Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Ceylon Mercantile Industrial & General Workers Union, Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union, Ceylon Estate Staff Union, Ceylon Teachers Union and Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, as well as the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), United Socialist Party (USP) and Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP).

The government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe early this month cancelled the May Day public holiday, heeding a “request” by Buddhist chiefs not to permit working-class activities on that day because it falls on “Wesak Week”, a traditional Buddhist holy festival. Accordingly, the government arbitrarily shifted the May Day holiday to May 7.

* The SEP and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) demand that the government and other authorities rescind this effective ban on May Day, imposed by cancelling facilities for meetings and rallies on May 1.

* We warn the working class that the government’s decision to sabotage May Day is an indication of the wholesale attack being prepared by the government to tear up the democratic and social rights of the working people and youth.

The ban is an extension of the anti-democratic offensive already waged by this capitalist government through attacks on peaceful demonstrations and legitimate protest actions by students, unemployed youth and rural poor. The government also has shown its viciousness against workers’ struggles by using the military as scabs to break strikes.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is determined to use the full force of the bourgeois state to crush the hard-won democratic rights of the working people, in order to implement the socially counter-revolutionary measures demanded by imperialist finance capital.

The government’s imposition of the Buddhist hierarchy’s so-called request to block workers’ rights to hold May Day celebrations is completely illegal and unconstitutional. The constitution says, at least in name, that all citizens and their organisations are equal before the law, while guaranteeing them freedom of expression and assembly. The government’s actions clearly discriminate against all non-Buddhists and atheists, and violate their fundamental rights.

The government’s move to bar any mobilisation of the working class and the oppressed stems from the fear that it would deepen the already festering political crisis of capitalist rule. The ruling coalition headed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe is in tatters.

The growing opposition of the masses to the government was sharply expressed in the local council elections, held in February, where the United National Party (UNP) of Wickremesinghe and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of Sirisena, both lost their vote base. The gains were made by the rival Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), led by former President Mahinda Rajapakse. This was not because of any popular approval of Rajapakse, who was defeated three years ago, but because of the widespread hostility toward the present administration.

On a daily basis, protest actions of different sections of workers, students, farmers and professionals, and oppressed Tamils in the north, continue to erupt, objectively challenging the whole political establishment. Most significantly, these struggles across the island coincide with an international offensive of the working class, propelled by the systemic crisis of world capitalism, affecting class relations and political stability in every country.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is preparing to impose further ruthless attacks, dictated by the International Monetary Fund, on the social conditions of the working people. It is pushing for immediate price increases on fuel and electricity that will have a chain effect on the cost of all essentials. The government must pay foreign debts totalling $US2.9 billion this year and $4.9 billion next year, and the price will be extracted from workers and the poor.

The government is aware that these attacks will trigger waves of struggles that cannot be curbed without unleashing the full force of the military that was used in the civil war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. From this flows the government’s decisions to do away with all the basic democratic rights of the working people. As part of moves toward the establishment of a military police-state, the government is engaged in discussions with Facebook to establish an office in Colombo to curb social media.

Successive governments since formal independence in 1948 have resorted to anti-Tamil discrimination to divide workers along ethnic lines when the ruling class faced political crises. Such actions included abolishing plantation workers’ citizenship rights in 1948 and making Sinhala the only official language in 1956. In 1972, a coalition government led by the bourgeois SLFP, joined by the former Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Stalinist Communist Party, gave the foremost place in the constitution to the Buddhist religion.

Since then systematic provocations have taken place, triggering the anti-Tamil war in 1983 that continued for nearly 30 years. Although Rajapakse militarily won the war in May 2009, communal provocations did not stop. Instead, extremist Buddhist groups, such as Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balakaya and Mahasohon Balakaya, have been nurtured, unleashing terror against Muslims as well as Tamils.

The UNP, SLFP and Rajapakse-led SLPP are competing with each other to win the favour of the Buddhist hierarchy, giving it substantial bribes to obtain its blessings and to receive its “advice” on how to use a religious cover for the anti-democratic and anti-social acts of the ruling capitalist class.

The May Day celebration, established by the Socialist International in 1889, is a fundamental democratic right of the international working class. The Sri Lankan working class has observed this day as a right for decades. The government’s attack has far-reaching reactionary consequences and must be defeated with all the political strength of the working people and youth.

The SEP, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, and the IYSSE call for the strongest mobilisation of workers, poor, youth, students and members of the intelligentsia and professionals to join a public picket in front of the Colombo Fort Railway Station at 4 p.m. on Friday April 27.

The SEP insists that the government’s attack on May Day has demonstrated, once again, the unavoidable necessity for the working class to break from every faction of the capitalist class, and lead the oppressed, on the basis of an international socialist program, for the establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government. This is the only way to defend the democratic and social rights of the working people and prevent capitalist dictatorship and the threat of a Third World War being prepared by the imperialist powers.

Workers and youth denounce Sri Lankan May Day ban: here.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) picketed the Colombo Fort railway station last Friday afternoon against the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s May Day ban: here.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) in Sri Lanka held a powerful May Day public meeting in Colombo on May 1. The event was held outside the New Town Hall and in defiance of a Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government ban on all May Day meetings and demonstrations: here.

International Monetary Fund demands Sri Lankan government cut fuel subsidies: here.

Ex-Sri Lankan defence secretary calls for brutal big business regime: here.

Sri Lankan Muslims about sectarian violence

Armed forces in Digana, Sri Lanka

By Rohantha De Silva and K. Gamini in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka: Muslims explain how the organised violence occurred

13 March 2018

Anti-Muslim violence initiated by extremist Sinhala-Buddhist groups in the Teldeniya-Digana area of Kandy began on the evening of March 4 and continued for about four days. The death of a Sinhalese lorry driver, following an assault by four Muslims men, was seized on by right-wing Sinhala-Buddhist formations to unleash their attacks.

Police lifted a curfew on Sunday but social tensions in the Kandy area remain. Police and military personnel are conducting intermittent patrols of Kandy town and the affected area with soldiers stationed at some locations.

According to the police, almost 7,000 security officers, including 3,250 from the army and air force, have been deployed. Over 220 people have been arrested—161 from the Kandy area and 69 from outside the district.

When World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) reporters visited Teldeniya-Digana a few days ago, the damage done by the violence was clearly visible. Houses and shops had been attacked and burnt down, and residents expressed fear, despair and outrage over the vicious destruction suddenly unleashed against them.

According to those interviewed by the WSWS, the violent rampage was initiated by the fascistic Mahasohon Balakaya (MB—Greatest Demon) and Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) formations. Mahasohon Balakaya, which was established a few years ago, has a public office in Digana. Both organisations, which claim to be “protecting” the Sinhala race and Buddhism, are infamous for targeted attacks on Muslims. Sri Lankan police have arrested MB leader Amith Weerasinghe and several other associates on suspicion of directing the violent rampage.

One resident explained to the WSWS: “Mahasohon Balakaya is mainly responsible for the incident. It made a video three years ago in which one of its leaders, Amith Weerasinghe, claimed there was not a single Sinhala shop in Digana. He declared that Digana had become a ‘Muslim country.’”

A mosque that was damaged by attackers

One youth told WSWS reporters: “It is not the Sinhala-Buddhist civilians in the area that attacked us. The arson and destruction was carried out by extremist groups. In Kengalla [an affected village] alone, around 25 shops and 50 houses were destroyed. Even the mosque was damaged. There was fire everywhere and the area was filled with black smoke.”

“Our Sinhala neighbours helped us like brothers”, he continued. “It is they who protected us. They were very sad for what happened… During Vesak [the main Buddhist festival] we also participate organising Dansal [alms giving]. We don’t condone those four who killed the driver but why are we, the innocent attacked?”

Another resident explained that the extremist thugs, mainly young boys and girls, came into the area on motor cycles and that a lorry was also used for transport. Petrol bombs, metal and wooden bars and stones were used in the attack. While much of the destruction was recorded on CCTV, most of the thugs masked their faces with cloth and the police allowed the violence to occur.

Inside a house that was attacked

The resident also demanded to know what the ruling United National Party (UNP)-Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) government was doing and referred to the government’s deployment of police against university students protesting the privatisation of education.

“They can block kilometres-long protest marches using barricades and teargas, but don’t do anything against several hundred thugs. The thugs can come and attack and then just go away… The politicians in Kandy were sleeping. They did not do anything.”

The resident expressed sadness over the death of the lorry driver. “He was a very good person and very friendly towards Muslim people.”

M Saheed

M. Saheed said, “The attackers wanted us to be provoked and to retaliate so that they can say we are ISIS. But we are peace-loving people and the majority of Sinhala people are with us. They are helping us, providing food and rooms for shelter and temporary accommodation.”

Rizvi, who works in Kuwait, was anxious about the safety of his family and returned to Sri Lanka last week.

“Every day I speak to my family and I contacted them in the morning, at around 10.30, one day after the attacks began. My wife said that there is no problem but then I learnt that there had been trouble in the area two hours later.” Rizvi called again but no one answered and he began crying in the shop where he was working in Kuwait.

“I eventually found out that my wife and two children, together with her sister-in-law and her two daughters, aged 8 and 2, were hiding in the bushes. They hid there for around three hours and were very scared”, he said.

“A Sinhala woman saw them and took them to her house even though her husband and daughter had gone to work. She was alone but courageously took them inside, gave them tea and food, closed all the doors and protected them.”

The terrifying situation facing Rizvi’s wife and children was typical of what happened to many Muslim people in the area.

A student looking at her burnt books

WSWS reporters also spoke with Muslim residents in Digana. According to residents, the thugs brought an empty coffin and initiated their attack from a section of Digana known as New Town. A Buddhist monk was among the 500 perpetrators. One group drove to Kengalla and another attacked Muslim businesses and houses in the Digana area. Residents have accused police commandos of supporting the thugs.

Mohamed said, “This is a side road from Digana and we didn’t think they would come here so we didn’t even have time to hide. There were thousands of rupees worth of cigarettes and telephone re-charge cards, among other items, destroyed. The fridge and the TV were also damaged.”

Numbers of Digana residents have left their homes and temporarily moved to other locations. Fatima Bibi said: “We were living in peace with Sinhala civilians and they were very friendly with us. We don’t care what happened to the four [who attacked the Sinhala driver] but why were we attacked? Our son just started a small business and his office was attacked. The front door was broken.

“My daughter and her baby were at home at that time but they then hid in a safer place. Scared that their small daughter would cry, they closed her mouth with a piece of cloth.”

These communalist attacks are not aberrations but follow a definite pattern. Fascistic organisations like Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya and Mahasohon Balakaya were promoted by President Mahinda Rajapakse when in power and have been appeased and nurtured by the current government.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, along with his Sinhala and Muslim cabinet ministers, visited the destroyed and vandalised areas. He promised compensation for those affected and then presided over a meeting of ministers and various government bureaucrats. The meeting was told that 465 houses, shops and vehicles had been damaged—86 fully destroyed, 196 partially and 182 minimal—in the anti-Muslim pogrom.

A house completely destroyed during the rampage

Wickremesinghe feigned concern, declared that the violence was a “challenge” to tourism, an indication of where his real interests lie, and urged the Buddhist hierarchy to “educate the people about unity and co-existence.”

Wickremesinghe’s comments are dripping with cynicism and hypocrisy. No amount of commissions or political appeals will eliminate the root cause of the ongoing extremist violence.

The Buddhist hierarchy and successive governments have promoted anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim chauvinism in order to divide and derail the working class and defend the power and privileges of the Sri Lankan ruling elite. The encouragement of these reactionary forces by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government and the Rajapakse-led opposition is in direct response to the deepening economic and political crisis of Sri Lankan capitalism.

Sri Lanka continues to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to torture detainees and extract confessions under President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration, according to Locked Up Without Evidence, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW): here.