By Colombo Telegraph -
“The different assessments offered by the Prime Minister and Dhanapala are colored by their different areas of expertise. Rajapakse generally has good insights into the domestic political front, while Dhanapala is better informed on the peace process. We are inclined to view Dhanapala’s gloomier assessment as, unfortunately, the more accurate.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
A Leaked ‘Confidential’ US diplomatic cable, dated September 15, 2004, updated the Secretary of State regarding and a meeting Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead had with Mahinda Rajapaksa and Peace Secretariat head Jayantha Dhanapala . The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is signed by the US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead.
The ambassador wrote; “The longer the hiatus between talks, the more time for sticking points to emerge, for the President’s maneuvering space to narrow, and for positions to harden. While the PM’s reasoning that the JVP will not quit the government may be on target, that doesn’t mean that the JVP will not continue militating against dialogue and undermining the atmosphere for compromise. The President is in a box, hemmed in by the Tigers on one side, chauvinist Sinhalese politics on the other, and the Norwegian facilitators–at least in Dhanapala’s view–watching unhelpfully from the sidelines. Without some kind of signal from the LTTE, it will be difficult for her to break the impasse alone. It seems doubtful, however, that the Norwegian visit will provide that impetus.”
“Dhanapala’s suggestion that the Tigers might be motivated through contact with the Tamil diaspora seems to us a good one. The Tigers are holding a major meeting in Switzerland at the end of the month which many Tamil expats will attend. Department may wish to contact Rudrakumaran and other Tamil contacts likely to attend to pass on a message. That message would be similar to our most recent public statements: the Tigers need to change their behavior. If they do, they can move along the path to legitimacy.” ambassador Lunstead further wrote.
Read cable below for further details;
Related posts to this cable;
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 001526 SIPDIS STATE FOR SA/INS E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/13/2014 TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL CE LTTE SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES PEACE PROCESS WITH PRIME MINISTER, PEACE SECRETARIAT REF: A. COLOMBO 1521 ¶B. COLOMBO 1510 ¶C. COLOMBO 1362 Classified By: AMB. JEFFREY J. LUNSTEAD. REASON: 1.4 (B,D). ------- SUMMARY -------- ¶1. (C) In separate meetings with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Peace Secretariat head Jayantha Dhanapala on September 15, the Ambassador discussed prospects for resumed negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While Rajapakse expressed guarded optimism, Dhanapala offered a bleaker assessment, noting that in the lack of movement tensions between the Tigers and GSL security forces have increased in Trincomalee and Nagarkovil, while the small but vocal "anti-peace" lobby in the South had become more strident. Dhanapala does not expect the visit of Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim to alleviate the situation, since he has returned to Sri Lanka with no new proposals from the LTTE. Dhanapala asked the Embassy to raise LTTE encroachments in Trincomalee with the ceasefire monitors. Both Rajapakse and Dhanapala agreed that the LTTE seems to have dropped the March defection of Eastern military commander Karuna as a pretext for refusing to negotiate. End summary. ------------------- PM POSITIVE; JVP CAN'T JUMP YET ------------------- ¶2. (C) In a September 15 meeting with the Ambassador, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse described President Chandrika Kumaratunga as "very confident" that she can soon restart talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He offered several reasons for this assessment. The LTTE seems to have stopped raising the March defection of Karuna, its Eastern military commander, as a purported obstacle to resumed negotiations, Rajapakse said. In addition, the GSL has formulated a proposal for a multipartisan Advisory Council on the peace process (Ref A). Finally, even the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), the left-wing nationalist coalition partner that has been most vocal in criticizing the LTTE's proposal for an interim admiinistration, has now said it is ready to discuss it, he noted. The PM thinks the JVP's apparent turnaround is the result of a pragmatic political calculus, rather than a fundamental change of heart. It is too early for the JVP to break ranks with the government, Rajapakse said; the party will remain a coalition partner at least until local council elections in April 2006, he predicted. Moreover, the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), with its 22 seats in Parliament, has pledged to support the government if talks resume, he added. ¶3. (C) For now, the President has shelved her proposal for a constituent assembly to abolish the executive presidency, Rajapakse indicated. Instead, the government is formulating a comprehensive package of proposed constitutional changes--including an interim arrangement for the north and east--instead of "doing it piece by piece," the PM said. If talks resume, the government and LTTE could reach a negotiated settlement within one year, he predicted confidently. ----------------------------------- PEACE SECRETARIAT MORE PESSIMISTIC ----------------------------------- ¶4. (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador the same day, Jayantha Dhanapala, the head of the Peace Secretariat, sounded a more pessimistic note. Dhanapala opened the meeting by thanking the USG for its August 19 statement condemning LTTE violence, as well as for the firm line communicated by Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Cofer Black in the media coverage of his recent visit (Ref B). The indignant reaction to Ambassador Black's comments by pro-LTTE TNA MPs and media show that "the penny has dropped" and his words hit home, Dhanapala said. The Ambassador and Dhanapala agreed that the tough messages from the EU and the Japanese have also been helpful (Ref C). Nonetheless, Dhanapala said, the basic situation remains "congealed in a stalemate." In the impasse, the anti-peace lobby, which Dhanapala believes remains a tiny minority of the general population, is becoming more vocal and strident, appearing to dominate the discourse on this important issue and to overwhelm supporters of the peace process. Although the President is personally committed to recommencing talks, she has not, despite his urging, launched a pro-peace public relations campaign to fill the vacuum and to refocus on the benefits of peace, he said. The Peace Secretariat cannot mobilize public support for the peace process on its own, he observed; that must be done at the political level. ¶5. (C) If the GSL succeeds in getting talks restarted, Dhanapala continued, that will dissipate some of the anti-peace lobby and "bring the JVP more earnestly on board" once they see that negotiations are "a going thing." The GSL has already spent a good deal of time preparing its negotiating position, he said. Thus, if talks did resume, he believes an agreement on an interim arrangement could be reached quickly and discussion of a final arrangement begun. The window of opportunity is closing quickly, however, he warned. If the LTTE decides not to resume talks until it "cleans up" the East, the JVP might take advantage of the lack of progress to engage with restive Muslim groups in the East, he suggested, and thereby increase pressure for a "de-merger" of the North and East. Tiger supremo Prabhakaran does not understand the domestic political constraints the President is facing, Dhanapala said; "he thinks we're as (politically) monolithic as he is." ¶6. (C) Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has not responded formally to the President's offer to join an Advisory Council (Ref A), Dhanapala said. He added that the Government had made clear to Wickremesinghe that the proposed Council would be "a sounding board" for parties, NGOs and other stakeholders to voice their views on the peace process, rather than an effort to achieve national consensus. The proposal is an attempt to address criticism that the previous (Wickremesinghe) government had not been sufficiently transparent and inclusive, he concluded. ------------------------- OSLO ENVOY "EMPTY-HANDED" ------------------------- ¶7. (C) Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim has returned to Sri Lanka "empty-handed," Dhanapala said, with no fresh initiative to offer from the Tigers. (Note: Solheim arrived in Sri Lanka September 14 and will depart o/a September 17. End note.) According to Dhanapala, Solheim has urged the GSL to take a "bold step"--which Dhanapala interpreted to mean accept the Tigers' controversial proposal for an interim administration as a basis for resumed negotiations--but could not offer the GSL any reciprocal assurance that such a "bold step," if offered, would be accepted by the LTTE. Without some kind of assurance of how the LTTE would react, the "bold step" urged by Solheim would be nothing but "a leap in the dark," Dhanapala said, adding that he was "puzzled" that the Norwegians seemed to expect the GSL to take that political risk. He expressed little confidence that Solheim would make an effort to impress upon his LTTE interlocutors the Government's political constraints. ¶8. (C) Because the GSL is the more rational party, the Ambassador said, it unfairly receives more pressure from other actors to be flexible and offer compromises. In addition, the aid given by other governments and mulitlateral organizations gives them the opportunity to apply pressure on the GSL, he noted. The LTTE, on the other hand, seems generally unresponsive to such pressure, readily subordinating incentives like socio-economic development for its purported constituents to political issues. How can donor governments help provide positive incentives for the LTTE to accept negotiations? the Ambassador asked. The GSL has already undertaken some confidence-building measures--for example, the President's announcement that she is willing to include the controversial "interim arrangement" on a possible agenda for negotiations--and could do more, like increase patrolling in the East to reduce factional violence, Dhanapala responded. The LTTE, however, might respond best to pressure from the expatriate Tamil community, which finances, either voluntarily or involuntarily, much of its operations, he asserted, adding that he believes pressure from the Tamil diaspora helped persuade the LTTE to accept a ceasefire. He urged the USG to expand contact with the Tamil diaspora in the U.S. to this end. --------------------------- TENSIONS IN NORTH AND EAST --------------------------- ¶9. (C) Dhanapala agreed that the split between Karuna, the Tigers' former Eastern military commander, and LTTE headquarters appears to have "faded as an issue." The Tigers remain concerned, however, about their grip on the East, he suggested. The situation in the northeastern district of Trincomalee is "very worrisome," Dhanapala reported, where extensive LTTE bunkers could put Tiger artillery within reach of ships approaching the harbor. The LTTE's "lock on security" in Trincomalee infringes on the GSL's responsibilities under the international law of the sea to safeguard shipping in those waters, he asserted. The Indian government has already raised these concerns to the Nordic-sponsored Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), he reported and suggested that the U.S. Embassy's Defense Attache might raise it as well. The LTTE's demand that the GSL swap LTTE detainees for two Sinhalese home guards the Tigers abducted in Trincomalee on August 18 has also increased tensions. Both the Government and SLMM have ruled out any such trade, he stated. In the north, the situation is Nagarkovil is "very, very tense." (Note: The GSL has accused the LTTE of expanding its forward defense line (FDL) in Nagarkovil, which is approximately 40 km north of Jaffna town. End note.) To make matters worse, the SLMM's proposal for addressing this situation is "not even-handed," he complained; it recommended that both parties move back even though the GSL has not expanded its FDL. -------- COMMENT -------- ¶10. (C) The different assessments offered by the Prime Minister and Dhanapala are colored by their different areas of expertise. Rajapakse generally has good insights into the domestic political front, while Dhanapala is better informed on the peace process. We are inclined to view Dhanapala's gloomier assessment as, unfortunately, the more accurate. The longer the hiatus between talks, the more time for sticking points to emerge, for the President's maneuvering space to narrow, and for positions to harden. While the PM's reasoning that the JVP will not quit the government may be on target, that doesn't mean that the JVP will not continue militating against dialogue and undermining the atmosphere for compromise. The President is in a box, hemmed in by the Tigers on one side, chauvinist Sinhalese politics on the other, and the Norwegian facilitators--at least in Dhanapala's view--watching unhelpfully from the sidelines. Without some kind of signal from the LTTE, it will be difficult for her to break the impasse alone. It seems doubtful, however, that the Norwegian visit will provide that impetus. ¶11. (C) Comment (continued): Dhanapala's suggestion that the Tigers might be motivated through contact with the Tamil diaspora seems to us a good one. The Tigers are holding a major meeting in Switzerland at the end of the month which many Tamil expats will attend. Department may wish to contact Rudrakumaran and other Tamil contacts likely to attend to pass on a message. That message would be similar to our most recent public statements: the Tigers need to change their behavior. If they do, they can move along the path to legitimacy. LUNSTEAD