“The Ambassador said that he wanted to be sure the PM realized two things before going into a discussion of the current issue. First was that we believed that what he and his government had done in the past two years on peace and on bringing Sri Lanka into the modern economic world were unprecedented. Second, that we were clear that it was the President who had precipitated the current crisis. That being said, both the peace process and economic reform were at risk, and the challenge now was to find a way forward.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The classified diplomatic cable details a meeting the US ambassador had with then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The “Confidential” is cable signed by the US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead on January 12, 2004.
The US Embassy wrote; “The Ambassador then described his December 26 meeting with the President when he had handed over the letter from Secretary Powell. The Ambassador told the PM that he had pressed the President hard to come up with a bold political approach to resolve the crisis, and that she had resisted initially but finally conceded she might have some new ideas. What was the PM’s thinking now on Defense? Was the Indian idea of constituting separate theater commands still in play?
“The PM said that he had made a proposal on how to handle Defense issues, which the President had rejected. Elaborating, the PM said that under his plan the President could remain as Secretary of Defense, he would be Minister of National Security and (former Defense Minister) Tilak Marapana would be named Minister Assisting Defense. The entire Defense establishment (Army, Navy, Air Force) would be put under the PM’s control (‘gazetted’ to him). All operational matters would fall under Marapana. The President would chair the National Security Council. This would be similar to the French system, he said, where there is a ‘Minister of Armies.’ He did not think the Indian proposal for separate theater commands, which would be gazetted to him, would work. Nor could he accept her proposal to gazette to him specific Defense functions relating to the peace process. He had made his offer, it was now up to her to come up with something new. Since he could not administer the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) without full defense powers, he had asked her to sit down with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), amend the CFA, and take it over.
“The Ambassador repeated that he had urged the President to look at the matter as a political, not a legal issue, and that he had also urged her to think of a way to bridge the gap. The two sides had actually made some progress, he said, and now seemed stuck on what would be gazetted to the PM. The PM wanted the Armed Services in toto under his control; she wanted to gazette certain Armed Services functions. Perhaps there was an answer in there.”
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