Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Govt. Promise Of Devolution Of Power To The Eastern Province Under The 13A Has Been Broken – US

“Local leaders stated that many Tamils want a change and were frustrated with a string of broken promises. According to the Catholic Bishop in Batticaloa (protect), the TMVP disarmed with the hope that its members would get jobs, but this has not happened. Provincial Council promises of development and employment have fallen short. The central government promise of devolution of power to the Eastern Province under the 13th Amendment has been broken. On the other hand, multiple interlocutors referred to General Fonseka,s war-time statement that the land belonged to the Sinhalese, and minorities should be satisfied with food and housing, as clear evidence that he would not support Tamil interests.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The ‘Secret’ cable discusses the situation the Eastern Province before the . The cable was written on December 22, 2009  by the US Ambassador to Colombo, Patricia A. Butenis.

Pillayan - would be difficult to wash his hands

Embassy officers visited Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts in the Eastern Province from December 13-16, 2009. In Batticaloa, officers met with Government Agent S. Arumainayagam, Mayor Sivageetha Prabhakaran, United National Party (UNP) Provincial Council member T.A. Masilamani, UN officials, a Catholic Bishop, the President of the local NGO Consortium and people who had returned from displacement. In Trincomalee, officers met with Governor of the Eastern Province, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema; Government Agent and District Secretary, Major General T.R.R. de Silva; Chief Minister Sivanesethurai Chandrakanthan (a.k.a. Pillayan); UNHCR, local human rights groups and returned IDPs.

The ambassador wrote; “Pillayan judged that returnees in Batticaloa would follow the TMVP,s lead and support the President, but that Trincomalee returnees were undecided. He expected that returnees would vote for those who assisted them or might spoil their vote. Asked directly whether the GSL’s sudden interest in IDPs would continue after elections, Pillayan’s colleagues acknowledged the concern with general nodding and nervous laughter. Pillayan answered that the President had made commitments to both the population and Ministers and ‘it would be difficult to wash his hands’ of them.”

“The UNP Council member had begun canvassing for Fonseka votes but noted that intimidation and lack of funds restricted the UNP’s campaigns in the East. One interlocutor pointed to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the one hope for Tamils because he had “proven himself once before” by signing the 2002 ceasefire as Prime Minister. None of the interlocutors had anything positive to say about General Fonseka himself, but focused on the need for change, the desire to break up Rajapaksa power, and Fonseka,s endorsement by the UNP.” Butenis further wrote.

Placing a comment Butenis wrote; “While commentators have eagerly speculated on the Tamil swing vote, many Tamil returnees in the East do not believe they have a true voice in Sri Lankan politics or governance. Any meaningful GSL move toward reconciliation in the East was conspicuously absent. The Eastern Province,s coastal areas and fertile land offer significant potential for development, but, if left unaddressed, Tamil disaffection could undermine progress.”

Read the cable below for further details;

VZCZCXRO2710
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHLM #1166/01 3561113
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 221113Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1031
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2212
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9235
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7485
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5334
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3639
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5259
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0120
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0794
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4381
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9795
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7086
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0115
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3951
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001166 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/08/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: ELECTIONS IN THE EAST: TAMILS UNCONVINCED 

REF: A. COL 1061
     ¶B. COL 1139 

COLOMBO 00001166  001.2 OF 002 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D) 

¶1. (S) SUMMARY: A visit to the Eastern Province by Embassy
officers found that Tamils in the East do not strongly
support either President Rajapaksa or General Fonseka in the
upcoming election and that many would spoil their votes.
Only Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) authorities expressed
strong confidence in their candidate, incumbent President
Rajapaksa, including  Chief Minister Pillayan.  Interlocutors
do not expect major "problems" during the elections, but
neither do they expect elections to be fully free and fair.
END SUMMARY. 

A TRIP EAST
----------- 

¶2. (C) Embassy officers visited Batticaloa and Trincomalee
districts in the Eastern Province from December 13-16, 2009.
In Batticaloa, officers met with Government Agent S.
Arumainayagam, Mayor Sivageetha Prabhakaran, United National
Party (UNP) Provincial Council member T.A. Masilamani, UN
officials, a Catholic Bishop, the President of the local NGO
Consortium and people who had returned from displacement.  In
Trincomalee, officers met with Governor of the Eastern
Province, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema; Government Agent
and District Secretary, Major General T.R.R. de Silva; Chief
Minister Sivanesethurai Chandrakanthan (a.k.a. Pillayan);
UNHCR, local human rights groups and returned IDPs.  Findings
on IDPs and human rights issues are reported septel. 

TAMILS DISINTERESTED
-------------------- 

¶3. (SBU) While much attention has focused on Tamils as swing
voters (ref A), Tamil returnees expressed little interest in
the election, stating that neither candidate would protect
their interests.  Returnees do not trust the government or
military, particularly after groups of Vanni IDPs were told
they could return home and then were held in closed transit
camps for a month.  While campaign signs for President
Rajapaksa were visible in town centers and along some major
roads, rural areas were not postered.  Fonseka posters were
seen only in Trincomalee, and in small numbers.  Only one of
three groups of rural returnees had received any campaign
materials consisting of some leaflets for the president. 

¶4. (C) Local leaders stated that many Tamils want a change
and were frustrated with a string of broken promises.
According to the Catholic Bishop in Batticaloa (protect), the
TMVP disarmed with the hope that its members would get jobs,
but this has not happened.  Provincial Council promises of
development and employment have fallen short.  The central
government promise of devolution of power to the Eastern
Province under the 13th Amendment has been broken.  On the
other hand, multiple interlocutors referred to General
Fonseka,s war-time statement that the land belonged to the
Sinhalese, and minorities should be satisfied with food and
housing, as clear evidence that he would not support Tamil
interests. 

PEACEFUL BUT UNFAIR ELECTIONS PREDICTED
--------------------------------------- 

¶5. (C) Interlocutors predict neither "problems" nor fully
free and fair elections.  GSL Rajapaksa supporters expressed
confidence that the president would win the election and that
the East would not see any major election-time difficulties.
The Trincomalee GA predicted smooth elections thanks to his 

COLOMBO 00001166  002.2 OF 002 

own tight control of the area ("if someone has not done what
they are supposed to do, I call them and they come... like
God.")  Interlocutors across the political spectrum, however,
predicted that Tamils would be pressured into voting through
alcohol or intimidation and that many would simply spoil
their votes.  Some expected coercion to be particularly acute
in the Karuna-controlled Kalmunai division of Batticaloa.
Additionally, several Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members
of Parliament reportedly have directed Tamils to abstain or
spoil their votes. 

CONTINUED BUT UNENTHUSIASTIC TMVP SUPPORT FOR RAJAPAKSA
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 

¶6. (S) Chief Minister (and head of the Tamil Makkai
Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) party) Pillayan affirmed his
(lukewarm) support for the President stating, "we have
supported him for a long time; it would be difficult to
change." (NOTE: The TMVP, currently part of the UPFA
government, announced that it would not campaign for the
President on November 28, stating that Pillayan had been
prevented from bringing development and jobs to the Eastern
Province in his capacity as Chief Minister. The following
day, papers reported that Pillayan had denied the previous
announcement, and pledged the TMVP,s fullest support to the
President. Rumors indicated that the about face came after
Pillayan was summoned to the President and threatened with
his life. A TMVP statement released shortly before the
meeting with Emboffs appeared to retreat from its support of
the President (ref B).  END NOTE.) 

¶7. (S) Pillayan judged that returnees in Batticaloa would
follow the TMVP,s lead and support the President, but that
Trincomalee returnees were undecided. He expected that
returnees would vote for those who assisted them or might
spoil their vote.  Asked directly whether the GSL's sudden
interest in IDPs would continue after elections, Pillayan's
colleagues acknowledged the concern with general nodding and
nervous laughter.  Pillayan answered that the President had
made commitments to both the population and Ministers and "it
would be difficult to wash his hands" of them. 

UNP CAMPAIGNS WARILY
-------------------- 

¶8. (S) The UNP Council member had begun canvassing for
Fonseka votes but noted that intimidation and lack of funds
restricted the UNP's campaigns in the East.  One interlocutor
pointed to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the one hope
for Tamils because he had "proven himself once before" by
signing the 2002 ceasefire as Prime Minister.  None of the
interlocutors had anything positive to say about General
Fonseka himself, but focused on the need for change, the
desire to break up Rajapaksa power, and Fonseka,s
endorsement by the UNP. 

COMMENT
------- 

¶9. (C) While commentators have eagerly speculated on the
Tamil swing vote, many Tamil returnees in the East do not
believe they have a true voice in Sri Lankan politics or
governance.  Any meaningful GSL move toward reconciliation in
the East was conspicuously absent.  The Eastern Province,s
coastal areas and fertile land offer significant potential
for development, but, if left unaddressed, Tamil disaffection
could undermine progress.
BUTENIS

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