Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Dhanapala’s Gloomier Assessment Is More Accurate Than Rajapaksa’s – US

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.

Jayantha Dhanapala

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;

WikiLeaks: ‘Prabhakaran Thinks We’re As Monolithic As He Is’ – Dhanapala To US

WikiLeaks: Prime Minister Mahinda Described President Chandrika As “Very Confident”

WikiLeaks: Solheim Returned To Sri Lanka ‘Empty-Handed’ And Urged GSL To Take A ‘Bold Step’

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

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