After the increasing economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka, the people took to the streets and overthrew two prime ministers and a president in four months. We asked Bimal Rathnayake of Sri Lanka People’s Liberation Front about the actions in Sri Lanka and what is expected in the coming days.
Thanks for your letter. We are happy to answer your questions. We have won a step in the struggle in a very democratic manner without shedding much blood and there are many more struggles to be won.
Here are the answers to your questions:
1) Could you briefly explain the latest news from the rebellion?
The protestors have occupied the Presidential Palace, Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees (official residence of the Prime Minister). The President has fled and the PM tries various gimmicks to be in power. The Speaker of the Parliament held a party leaders’ meeting and it has been decided to ask the President and the PM to resign. The Parliament is to be convened during this week and an interim government is to be appointed and a general election held. We demanding to fulfill the people’s aspirations that there should be a new parliament which promises to achieve the demands set by the people. And we will continue the struggle within and outside the parliament to achieve these objectives.
2) How did so many people gather and come together? Could you describe the progress in the process?
The Capitalist parties have been ruling the country alternatively for nearly 75 years and the capitalist economic policies they followed devastated the country and the country was trapped in a debt trap. Recently, people suffered due to shortage of fuel, gas, medicines, exorbitant prices of essential goods, loss of employment and no schooling for children.
Our party is built with the interests of the proletarians and the downtrodden as its main theme and campaigned throughout the country against the vicious acts of the capitalist governments.
For your better understanding, there are 3 main forces in the protests for the last many months.
At the political party level and national level we, our party, organize many and lead it all over the country.
Second, trade union centre TUCC, which is a collective of 2000 TUs, we are leading it and working closely connected with the left movement
3rd front ,Galle Face protests, our youth and students and artists are an influential part of the leadership, but they are a composition of many political, Social factors and individuals.
So these are the 3 fronts of the protests.
Due to the common nature and the radicalness, Galle Face protest group has become the attraction of the youth and the general public.
We held protests campaigns throughout the island and people were prepared to protest and fight against the government. People who were fed up with the atrocities and hardships due to lack of essentials such as diesel, petrol, gas, medicine of the government had no other alternative other than fighting against the government and chasing it away to elect a government of their own. This made thousands and thousands of people gather in Colombo to chase away the President and the government.
3) How did the police forces / law enforcement act against people?
The government tried various ways to discourage people from thronging to the capital. They used a daemonizing campaign against our party heavily. They published videos of making of petrol bombs and charged that we are doing this. Even the police IGP and the defense secretary published letters saying that there will be bomb attacks by foreign secret services and our party has planned to attack their politicians. And their leaders were saying young protesters are drug addicts etc etc..
Then they imposed a curfew on 8th of July which they had to withdraw on the 9th morning when our party leaders and lawyers and many other groups including the Sri Lanka BAR association, professional body of the lawyers pointed out that it was illegal.
We encourage people to not to follow the illegal instructions of the police and appeal to them to participate in the protest.
Then they stopped public transportation. But people came using various means.Then they used water cannons, tear gas and intimidation to thwart the protesting masses. About 50 persons -two critically- injured due to attacks from the police and other forces.
They shot live bullets at the protesters injuring 8 comrades.
Social media and some anti-government media also helped to rally the masses.
4) What do women, students-young people want, how do they take part in protests/rebellion?
There were all kinds of people that took part in the protest movement. The students from universities played an important role in the campaign and people from various organizations such as trade unions, civil organizations were in the forefront. The youths created a new trend in the protest campaigns when they occupied an area opposite the Presidential Secretariat for three months,keeping alive the protest campaign and letting protestors from all over the island make their protests known to the world.
Especially women participation and their militancy and leadership should be recognized as one of the major pillars of the struggle. It’s an unprecedented women emancipation in Sri Lankan history. Girls, worker women, mothers, grandmothers, they played a huge role in the struggle.
5) What are the basic demands of the people?
The people want a country where everyone could live contented lives.
— President and PM should resign
— Deliver the main essential goods without problem
— Change the neoliberal economic policies
— Change the corrupt political culture
— Make national unity and stop racism and discrimination
— Abolish executive presidential system
— Recover all stolen public assets and punish the culprits.
— Stop alienating public assets
6) What are your predictions, as the JVP, from these actions? What will happen? And what are you aiming for?
Our demand is to get an early election so that people can elect their government. However, the Parliament will meet and decide. Many would want to have an interim government formed with those in Parliament. We would favor an early election because this parliament does not reflect the new people’s desires.
But on the other hand due to the level of class consciousness of the people, due to the other other objective and subjective conditions, assessing the role of international local capitalist relations, another objective condition which matters now is small number of MP we have (only 3),we don’t see this mass uprising can be deepen right now to a level seieze state power.
So we think we must use this opportunity to expand and consolidate the working masses’ power inside the parliament and outside also. So that we won’t participate in any capitalist coalitions and manage the crises for them.
We are determined to continue the struggle in every possible way and means before the elections and after. We will deepen the class struggle using our consolidated base, until we reach victory.