The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) has met strong resistance in its attempts to seize areas of the island country that are controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE are fighting for an independent state in the predominantly Tamil inhabited north and east of Sri Lanka.
The arrival in February of 85 refugees from Sri Lanka, most of them members of the island’s Tamil minority, in Australian waters near Christmas Island highlights the situation of war and racial oppression in Sri Lanka.
Intimidation of trade unionists escalated during February after union leaders protested the abduction early that month of three workers involved with railway workers union newspaper Akuna. One of the three was Sisira Priyankara, the papers editor, who had been involved in lodging complaints by unionists to the courts against salary hikes for senior government figures. Following the protests, the government announced that the three unionists were in custody and were being interrogated over suspicions of links with insurgents. Since then, posters targeting union leaders who protested the abductions have appeared in public places across the country, branding them terrorists and calling for their arrests. The International Trade Union Confederation is demanding an end to the harassment of and attacks on unionists. For more information visit <csi.org>.
Fifteen-thousand people fled from the town of Vaharai in eastern Sri Lanka following heavy shelling by the Sri Lankan army on January 18. According to the Tamilnet website, the shelling was intensified in the evening despite an urgent message sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross from Vaharai hospital authorities saying that the area around the hospital, where many displaced people had sought refuge, was under attack.