“The Ambassador met Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, younger brother to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on October 4. After the Ambassador reviewed US priorities and initiatives in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa spoke frankly about human rights issues, requesting that the United States and Co-chairs help the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) improve its human rights capability. Rajapaksa spoke of the GSL’s humanitarian efforts in Jaffna ‘to win hearts and minds’ while defending the country against terrorism, citing the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) desire to purchase US Bushmaster cannons for the Navy. The President’s Advisor also noted that the GSL has expressed interest in returning to peace talks ‘sooner than later,’ on October 14.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and recounts details of a meeting US Ambassador to Colombo has had with President’s advisor and his brother Basil Rajapaksa on October 04, 2006. The cable was written by the US Ambassador to Colombo, Robert O. Blake.
Placing a comment Blake wrote; “The Ambassador’s first meeting with Basil Rajapaksa sparked a candid response from the Presidential Advisor and laid the foundation for a pragmatic relationship with the embassy. Rajapaksa’s frank discussion of the GSL’s human rights struggles with its security forces and request for international assistance in human rights capacity building is welcome.”
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Read the cable below for further information;
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001622 SIPDIS SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/04/2016 TAGS: PREL PTER PHUM PREF MOPS CE SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR BASIL RAJAPAKSA SPEAKS FRANKLY ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS AND KARUNA FACTION REF: A. COLOMBO 1617 AND PREVIOUS ¶B. COLOMBO 1604 AND PREVIOUS Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake for reasons 1.4(b,d). ¶1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador met Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, younger brother to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on October 4. After the Ambassador reviewed US priorities and initiatives in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa spoke frankly about human rights issues, requesting that the United States and Co-chairs help the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) improve its human rights capability. Rajapaksa spoke of the GSL's humanitarian efforts in Jaffna "to win hearts and minds" while defending the country against terrorism, citing the Ministry of Defense's (MoD) desire to purchase US Bushmaster cannons for the Navy. The President's Advisor also noted that the GSL has expressed interest in returning to peace talks "sooner than later," on October 14. End Summary. Peace Talks for the Country, Air Raids to "Keep the South Happy" ----------------------------------- ¶2. (C) During an October 4 courtesy call, Ambassador Blake reviewed to Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa (brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa,) US priorities and initiatives in Sri Lanka. The Ambassador expressed the USG's strong hope that the GSL and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would participate in peace talks in October or early November and emphasized our wish to help the GSL strengthen its human rights record. ¶3. (C) Rajapaksa told us that the President had decided as of this morning to return to talks as early as October 14 or after October 27 (note: they will be busy in the interim with Parliamentary consideration of the budget). He said: "If we delay, something can happen. The LTTE's communication network is down, for instance. Someone might inadvertently plant a bomb." In fact, he said, a bomb squad had defused a claymore bomb found in a dumpster in a predominantly Tamil neighborhood in Colombo that morning. ¶4. (C) The Ambassador reiterated what he told Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on October 3, that it is SIPDIS important that the military exercise restraint and not engage in offensive action. Basil conceded that: "The Air Force (SLAF) has bombed several LTTE targets since the (September 12) Co-chairs' statement, but we didn't move forward an inch (at the forward defense line (FDL)). While we keep the talking going, we must also keep the South (Sinhalese constituents) happy. If we're not making gains against the terrorists, the people won't support us." He added that the Ministry of Defense hopes to purchase Bushmaster cannons from the United States to overcome the Sea Tiger's equal artillery strength. "President is Keen on Human Rights" ----------------------------------- ¶5. (C) Basil told the Ambassador that the President genuinely seeks the help of the Co-chairs, and the US in particular, to improve Sri Lanka's human rights capability by lending experts, assisting with inquiries, and building up the indigenous Human Rights Commission (HRC). The Ambassador agreed that President Rajapaksa and Development and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe have strong reputations as human rights advocates, but noted the UNHCR lacked credibility. ¶6. (C) Speaking with surprising candor, Rajapaksa explained the GSL's efforts to prove that members of the Security Task Force (STF) murdered five students in Trincomalee in January: "We know the STF did it, but the bullet and gun evidence shows that they did not. They must have separate guns when they want to kill some one. We need forensic experts. We COLOMBO 00001622 002 OF 002 know who did it, but we can't proceed in prosecuting them." ¶7. (C) He said that the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has been sufficiently trained in human rights, but that the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) has been credibly implicated in harassment and human rights violations. "We have few complaints in areas of SLA presence, but we have a problem with the SLN," Rajapaksa explained. "We didn't expect them to work with civilians and they weren't trained." He said the President has prioritized human rights training for the Navy. Rajapaksa added that with a new law requiring that police notify the magistrate before they can detain a suspect for longer than 24 hours, "We have minimized harassment by the police." "Douglas and Karuna, control your cadres." ----------------------------------------- ¶8. (C) Basil addressed the September 29 arrest of a Karuna cadre for the kidnapping-for-ransom of a Colombo businessman. He said that arrest had led to the arrest of 13 other Karuna cadres with the help of a newly appointed 100-officer police division to investigate abductions. He speculated that the LTTE has long run an extortion ring targeting Tamil businessmen, but that now Karuna and local criminal gangs had taken over the business. ¶9. (C) "We have had trouble with other Tamil groups," Rajapaksa explained, naming Douglas Devananda's Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) and the Karuna Faction who "might have weapons." Rajapaksa said that the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) has requested Devananda and the Tamil Mukkal Vidutalai Pulikal (TMVP - Tamil People's Liberation Tigers, a.k.a. the Karuna faction) to control their members and in the case of the TMVP to "go back to Batticaloa." "We have clearly instructed Douglas and Karuna that they are personally responsible for the actions of their members." He added that it "looked like" EPDP cadres, along with the SLN, had perpetrated the mid-August burning of the pro-LTTE Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna. "Winning Hearts and Minds in Jaffna" ------------------------------------ ¶10. (C) Rajapaksa spoke proudly of the GSL's efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Jaffna, where fighting since August 11 has cut off the supply line by land. He said that in Jaffna "the Tamils feel we are trying to look after them by sending supplies. They know that the LTTE refused to allow the ICRC supply chain but that we have never stopped supplying food despite the cost." Comment ------- ¶11. (C) The Ambassador's first meeting with Basil Rajapaksa sparked a candid response from the Presidential Advisor and laid the foundation for a pragmatic relationship with the embassy. Rajapaksa's frank discussion of the GSL's human rights struggles with its security forces and request for international assistance in human rights capacity building is welcome. BLAKE