People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 29 , 2008


Cuban Solidarity Conference Held In Sri Lanka

P R Krishnan

SRI LANKA in South East Asia was the host country this time to have organised a two-day conference of solidarity with Cuba. The conference held in Colombo on June 14-15, 2008 was titled 'The IV Asia -Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba.' The venue was Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. The conference was jointly organised by Sri Lankan National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). Following the 109 nations solidarity conference held at Cuban capital Havana in 1994, there have been three international conferences earlier to pledge support to the people of the Socialist Republic of Cuba. The first one in that series was at Calcutta in September 1995, the second conference was at Hanoi in Vietnam in January 1997 and third one was at Chennai in January 2006. It was in the Chennai session that the decision for the fourth conference to be hosted in Sri Lanka was taken.

400 delegates including those from Sri Lanka participated in the conference. 83 of them were foreign delegates. They came from 18 nations of Asia-Pacific Region. Besides Cuba, China, Vietnam, India, Laos, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Myammar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Phillipines, New Zealand etc. With 40 delegates, India was the largest contingent of foreign delegates. They represented different sections of people. Amongst them were students leaders, women leaders, youth, teachers, writers, authors, social scientists, MLAs, MPs, trade unionists, Kisan Sabha leaders and political leaders from CPI(M), CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc and SUCI. The CPI(M) Central Secretariat member and convener of National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba, A Vijaya Raghavan, MP, was the leader of the Indian contingent.

The inaugural session of Sri Lankan Foundation Institute and the Public meeting at John Da Silve Memorial Hall were chaired by heads of foreign delegations which included A Vijaya Raghavan. Notable amongst the dignitaries was Dr Ismael Clark, president of Academy of Science of Cuba and head of the Cuban delegation. The chief guest for the opening session was Maithroopala Sirioona, general secretary of Sri Lankan Freedom Party and minister of Agriculture. Dinesh Gunawarden, leader of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and Sri Lankan minister for Urban Development was the chairman of the reception committee. He delivered the welcome speech. Vijaya Raghavan greeted the conference on behalf of the Indian delegation.

An important and noteworthy feature of the conference throughout was the presence of an active participation by large number of leaders and functionaries of Sri Lankan political parties and organisations. Some of them were ministers of the Sri Lankan coalition cabinet and members of parliament. An appreciable number of them were from the Sri Lankan Communist Party. They took active part in the inaugural session, in the plenary sessions, in the commission discussions and in the public meeting. Their role indeed was commendable. There were also Buddhist monks amongst the Sri Lankan participants. The reception committee had made elaborate arrangements for the success of the conference.

After the opening session at the Sri Lankan Foundation Institute on 14th June, the conference agenda was reorganised to include two commissions. The first commission was on '50 years of Cuban Revolution - Challenges and victories' and the second on the important role played by communication in the demonstration of solidarity to the Cuban revolution.  Representatives from all participating countries took active part in the deliberations in these forums. Concluding the plenary sessions, the conference adopted a declaration.

The declaration amongst other things demanded immediate release of the five Cuban revolutionaries imprisoned by the United States of America. These five heroes still held in the US prisons are Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hermandez and Ramon Labanino. The declaration in unequivocal terms expressed solidarity with Cuba and stated that the efforts of the government and people of Cuba to develop its society and economy according to their own wishes without hindrance by any foreign forces need to be recognised. It said, the 400 delegates assembled in Sri Lanka from 18 countries extend their full support for future development of Cuba in the interest of its people. The conference called for immediate cessation and lifting of the economic and trade blockade by the United States of America.

The speech delivered by Dr Ismael Clark, the Cuban leader, revealed that, as of now, there are over two thousand and thirty groups and associations of solidarity with Cuba in 245 countries of the world which has condemned the American blockade and extended solidarity with and support to the people of Cuba. He said that at the time of Chennai conference in 2006, there were in Asia and the Pacific region, 191 associations and groups of Friendship with Cuba as well as nine committees for the liberation of the five Cuban heroes imprisoned in US jail. Clark pointed out that as we meet in Sri Lanka now, this number has increased to 206 friendship groups and associations in 21 countries and 22 committees for the liberation of the five imprisoned heroes.

Continuing, Clark pointed out that the United States of America has 'recently intensified their diabolic plans to try and destroy the Cuban revolution. A new link exists among terrorists of Cuban origin in Miami with United States and mercenary groups of the United States in Cuba. He said that this new axis is practicing money laundering, conspiring against justice and working actively towards subversion in Cuba. But in spite of such heinous crimes, Cuba is marching ahead and making rapid progress in all spheres and fronts. He further said that during half a century of the continuous struggle of the people of Cuba, there have been ten US administrations. Every one of them was trying to finish the Cuban Revolution. After the disappearance of the socialist block and the Soviet Union, USA has intensified their plans to unseat us. But our people have been able to overcome all such imperialist conspiracies and obstacles under the guidance of Fidel, and now of Raul Castro. He expressed gratitude for the increasing solidarity and support which the Cuban people have received during this difficult period from world over.

The successful conclusion of this conference is an important event in the ongoing anti-imperialist struggles, particularly against American hegemony.