“Possible foreign power interest in north? President raised with me the question of whether a major foreign power could be behind the Tamil extremists.” the US Ambassador Dr. William Howard Wriggins Colombo informed Washington.
“I said I did not know; the Libyans occasionally dabbled in such situation. He dismissed this with the observation, ‘I am not afraid of money or training from them.’ he thinks tamil extremists do find sanctuary in south india which is annoying but not really worrysome. He wonders whether Soviet Union does not have sufficient interest in gaining a strategic position in northern ceylon, including Trincomalee,to tempt them to fish in these troubled waters. I did not contradict this view although I said we had no evidence to confirm it. He acknowledged he had no evidence wither although ‘soviet personnel have been active with many visits to the North’ and are being watched.” the ambassador further wrote.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked US diplomatic cable from the WikiLeaks database dated May 16, 1978 . The cable is classified as “Secret” and written by then US Ambassador to Colombo Dr. William Howard Wriggins.
According to the cable, the Ambassador had requested an appointment with President JR Jayewardene. President responded with invitation to lunch. On may 15 in a two hour relaxed luncheon with the President and his wife Elina Jayewardene, Ambassador and his wife Sally Hovey Wriggins had an easy discussion on many subjects.
This cable summarizes discussion on Tamil-Sinhalese problems.
The ambassador wrote; “Over past several weeks, militant group of young Tamil separatists (liberation tigers) are alleged to have assassinated five police officers. President has ordered all-out effort by police and military to track them down. His most intense worry is his fear that should the Tamil Tigers kill only one Sinhalese, the country could eroup in a communal explosion, as angry Sinhalese would take revenge. That is why the army is on special alert (this will be covered in septel), why special effort is being applied to pursuing Tamil extremists, and why police are being given special authority to pick up suspects.”
“The communal situation is so incendiary that he is seeking special powers to ensure that the press does not publicize any incidents where a Sinhalese is killed, though he will avoid anything that smacks of ‘emergency powers.’
“Although Mrs. Bandaranaike believes the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the tamil tigers work closely together, president believes they are not connected. I speculated on the virtues and liabilities of a search-and-destroy policy that policy and military have been instructed to carry out, pointing out that it could backfire. He argued government had this well under control.
“He hopes that the establishment of district Ministers and the consequent decentrilization of Administration wit local mp’s having more responsibility for development will ease Tamil anxieties. For many years the tamil federal party agitated for regional autonomy and the district ministry reform will inconspicuously bring that about.”
Placing a comment Dr. Wriggins wrote; “while in our view this reform is likely to satisfy the bulk of the Tamil community, it will not be sufficient to pull the teeth of the Tamil Tigers.”