Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: “Fonseka could be assassinated” Basil said matter-of-factly

By Colombo Telegraph –

“Sampanthan also recounted a disturbing conversation he recently had with the president’s brother Basil Rajapaksa, who said matter- of-factly ‘ Fonseka could be assassinated.’” the US embassy wrote to Washington.

A leaked US diplomatic cable says “ Sampanthan said this remark, coupled with the recent decree by nationalist Buddhist monks against Fonseka running in the election and the fact that a Rajapaksa/Fonseka contest would ‘split the army,’ were ‘dangerous trends’ and indicated that the election campaign would get ‘hot.’”

Sampanthan met Rajapaksa privately

A leaked US diplomatic cable recount details of a meeting the embassy had had with Tamil National Alliance Chairman R. Sampanthan on November 10, 2009. The Colombo Telegraph found the cable from WikiLeaks database. The cable written on November 13, 2009, classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” by the Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler.

The US ambassador Patricia A. Butenis wrote “ Sampanthan said President Rajapaksa recently expressed a desire to meet and they did so privately.” “ Sampanthan said the president wanted elections as soon as possible before the ‘war crimes’ issue got any heated, GSP-Plus concessions expired, or the economy got any worse” she further wrote.

“Sampanthan noted the president’s willingness to meet with Sampanthan and other Tamils, but overall he was not sanguine about the Rajapaksas’ commitment to reconciliation. They had stalled implementation of the 13th amendment and the election season would likely further reduce chances for putting the amendment into effect. Asked what other steps short of the 13th amendment would be important for reconciliation, Sampanthan noted the de-militarization of society and elimination – or at least reduction – of checkpoints, which particularly impacted young Tamil men. Sampanthan also urged the elimination of the Emergency Regulations. With the end of the war and complete defeat of the LTTE, Sampanthan thought there was no longer any justification for extraordinary measures.” the US ambassador wrote.

The ambassador Butenis wrote “Sampanthan said he wanted to meet with the US diaspora to stress with them the need to be pragmatic and not extreme in finding a political solution to the plight of Tamils, and to encourage them to become more involved in reconstruction and economic development.” “We encouraged him both in making the trip and in pursuing these goals” Butenis further wrote.

Read the full cable for further details and the ambassador’s comments;

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001031

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: TAMIL LEADER SAMPANTHAN FORESEES "HOT" ELECTION
CAMPAIGN

COLOMBO 00001031  001.2 OF 002

Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION VALERIE FOWLER.  REASONS: 1.4 (B
, D)

 1. (C) SUMMARY:  In a November 10 meeting with PolChief,
Tamil National Alliance Chairman Rajavarothiyam Sampanthan
said President Rajapaksa told him there would be early
presidential elections.  He affirmed General Fonseka's
intention to run but noted that a Rajapaksa/Fonseka contest
would "split the army" and indicated that the election
campaign would get "hot."  Key steps on national
reconciliation for the Tamil community included
de-militarization of society, elimination of check points,
and ending the Emergency Regulations.  Sampanthan wanted to
meet with the U.S. diaspora to stress with them the need to
be pragmatic and not extreme in finding a political solution
to the plight of Tamils and to encourage them to become more
involved in reconstruction and economic development.  END
SUMMARY.

ELECTIONS: COULD GET "HOT"
--------------------------

2. (C) Sampanthan said President Rajapaksa recently expressed
a desire to meet and they did so privately.  When Sampanthan
asked the president's intentions whether he would call an
early presidential election, Rajapaksa said he decided to
"leave the decision to the people" and recounted how he had
asked crowds at events whether they wanted elections.
Everyone supposedly put their hands up.  Sampanthan said the
president wanted elections as soon as possible before the
"war crimes" issue got any more heated, GSP-Plus concessions
expired, or the economy got any worse.

3. (C) On Fonseka, Sampanthan said the general would run and
noted that the president would have to accept his resignation
or be seen as "dishonorable."  (NOTE: On November 12, Fonseka
resigned his commission effective December 1, and the
president immediately accepted the resignation.  Serving
military officers are barred from participating in politics.
END NOTE.)  Sampanthan also recounted a disturbing
conversation he recently had with the president's brother
Basil Rajapaksa, who said matter-of-factly "Fonseka could be
assassinated."  Sampanthan said this remark, coupled with the
recent decree by nationalist Buddhist monks against Fonseka
running in the election and the fact that a Rajapaksa/Fonseka
contest would "split the army," were "dangerous trends" and
indicated that the election campaign would get "hot."

RECONCILIATION
--------------

4. (C) Sampanthan noted the president's willingness to meet
with Sampanthan and other Tamils, but overall he was not
sanguine about the Rajapaksas' commitment to reconciliation.
They had stalled implementation of the 13th amendment and the
election season would likely further reduce chances for
putting the amendment into effect.  Asked what other steps
short of the 13th amendment would be important for
reconciliation, Sampanthan noted the de-militarization of
society and the elimination -- or at least reduction -- of
checkpoints, which particularly impacted young Tamil men.
Sampanthan also urged the elimination of the Emergency
Regulations.  With the end of the war and the complete defeat
of the LTTE, Sampanthan thought there was no longer any
justification for extraordinary measures.

DIASPORA CONFERENCE
-------------------

5. (C) Sampanthan was nonchalant about a Tamil diaspora

COLOMBO 00001031  002.2 OF 002

conference reported to be taking place soon, noting that it
had already switched from London on November 12 to Zurich
perhaps on November 19.  Nevertheless, he said he often spoke
to diaspora leaders, and recounted a conversation he had had
that morning with unidentified Tamil leaders in California
who were interested in getting involved in economic
development and reconstruction of the war-ravaged Sri Lankan
north and east.  These leaders encouraged him to plan a trip
to the U.S., which he was eager to do soon.

6. (C) Sampanthan said he wanted to meet with the U.S.
diaspora to stress with them the need to be pragmatic and not
extreme in finding a political solution to the plight of
Tamils, and to encourage them to become more involved in
reconstruction and economic development.  We encouraged him
both in making the trip and in pursuing these goals.

COMMENT
-------

7. (C) The Sri Lankan Tamil community, of which Sampanthan is
now probably the most prominent member, could play an
important role in any upcoming election, whether presidential
or parliamentary.  If Fonseka runs against Rajapaksa in a
presidential contest, the Sinhala vote could be evenly split,
making every vote count -- including those of the Tamil
community.  Although Tamils initially were dead-set against
Fonseka, given his past statements defending Sinhala-Buddhist
nationalism, we have begun to hear some express willingness
to support the general against what many regard as the very
corrupt Rajapaksas.  Fonseka himself appears aware of the
potential of this constituency and added the Rajapaksas poor
treatment of IDPs and failure to move ahead on national
reconciliation to his list of complaints in his resignation
letter.
BUTENIS

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