Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Mahinda Told Clinton That There Was ‘No’ Shelling In The Safe Zone, But Basil Told ‘Yes’

By Colombo Telegraph –

“Rajapaksa is the first Sri Lankan official who has been forthcoming when discussing Sri Lankan Army shelling of the safe zone. However, we were disappointed to hear him claim that medical supplies were reaching the wounded in the safe zone when it is clear from Embassy Colombo reporting that there have not been shipments since February 20. His comments on visas for ICRC staff were unhelpful, but unsurprising given the Sri Lankan government,s attitude towards international aid workers” US State Department wrote to US Embassy Colombo. 

Mahinda and Basil

A classified diplomatic cable which details a meeting the US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Boucher has had with Sri Lankan Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa on March 18, 2009. The Colombo Telegraph found the related US diplomatic cable from the Secretary of State section of the WikiLeaks database. The cable was classified as “Confidential” signed by Hillary Clinton on March 19, 2009.

Under the subheading “Sri Lankan Army Shelling” the US State Department wrote “Boucher inquired about Sri Lankan Army shelling into the safe zone. Rajapaksa admitted that there may be some shelling of the safe zone, but that top military leadership had instructed field commanders not to target the safe zone or respond to fire from the safe zone. He noted that the Sri Lankan Army has taken many casualties, including 200 injured and 70 killed on March 17. Boucher emphasized that the Sri Lankan President had told Secretary Clinton that there was no shelling in the safe zone and there should be no shelling. He requested that Rajapaksa ensure that the Army Commanders orders are respected by the field officers.”

“Turning to the ongoing civil war, Boucher thanked Rajapaksa for working closely with US Ambassador Blake in Colombo and asked Rajapaksa about the Sri Lankan government,s plans for the last days of the war, indicating that any kind of major military sweep through remaining Tamil Tiger territory would &be a major international problem.8 Rajapaksa indicated that the government is not planning for this kind of intervention, but has been working with Catholic bishops in the conflict area to find a land route by which civilians can leave.” the US State Department further wrote.

Boucher and Basil also discussed the issues re economy, medical shipments to safe zone GOSL refusal of visas for ICRC Staff, accepting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights request for a fact finding mission to Sri Lanka. Read the cable below for further details;

P 192145Z MAR 09
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 026714 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2019
TAGS: PHUM KDEM PREL CE
SUBJECT: ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER SPEAKS WITH  BASIL
RAJAPAKSA 

Classified By: Richard Boucher for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

1.  (C) Summary: On March 18, Assistant Secretary for
South and Central Asian Affairs Boucher met with Sri
Lankan Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa regarding
the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. He pressed
Rajapaksa to halt the continuing Sri Lankan Army
shelling of the safe zone and emphasized the need to
allow medical supplies to reach the wounded.  A/S
Boucher asked Rajapaksa to inquire into Sri Lankan
visas which have been denied to workers from the
International Committee for the Red Cross and urged him
to permit a UN High Commission for Human Rights fact-
finding mission to visit Sri Lanka.  Boucher emphasized
that the US government has continued to work quietly
with the Sri Lankan government, but our concerns are
rising and we may need to make them more public. End
Summary. 

Economy
--------
2. C) Boucher and Basil Rajapaksa began their meeting
by discussing the state of the Sri Lankan economy.
(Note: Rajapaksa has come to Washington for talks with
the International Monetary Fund.)  Rajapaksa noted that
part of Sri Lanka,s economic problems were caused by
global financial turmoil and the high price of oil
imports, and that the IMF program would would help
address Sri Lanka,s dwindling foreign exchange
reserves.  He indicated that there was a 12 percent
growth in agriculture and a 28 percent growth in
fisheries exports in the previous year.  Boucher
indicated that standard terms and conditions would
apply to any assistance. 

The End of the Conflict
-----------------------
3. (C) Turning to the ongoing civil war, Boucher
thanked Rajapaksa for working closely with US
Ambassador Blake in Colombo and asked Rajapaksa
about the Sri Lankan government,s plans for the last
days of the war, indicating that any kind of major military
sweep through remaining Tamil Tiger territory would &be
a major international problem.8  Rajapaksa indicated
that the government is not planning for this kind of
intervention, but has been working with Catholic
bishops in the conflict area to find a land route by
which civilians can leave.  He suggested that there
might be a possibility for civilians to leave to the
north of the safe zone from the Chalai side. 

4. (C) Rajapaksa indicated that the government was
doing its best to persuade the Tigers lay down arms and
that they have told the Tigers the government will give
them amnesty and allow them to surrender to the
International Committee of the Red Cross.  He said the
Sri Lankan government is open to other suggestions on
how to address the situation, and that the government
is talking with a Tamil National Alliance
parliamentarian from the Mullaitivu region to find ways
to persuade the Tigers.  Boucher noted that Tamil
political inclusion is important and will become more
important as the war finishes. 

Sri Lankan Army Shelling
------------------------
5. (C) Boucher inquired about Sri Lankan Army shelling
into the safe zone.  Rajapaksa admitted that there may
be some shelling of the safe zone, but that top
military leadership had instructed field commanders not
to target the safe zone or respond to fire from the
safe zone.  He noted that the Sri Lankan Army has taken
many casualties, including 200 injured and 70 killed on
March 17.  Boucher emphasized that the Sri Lankan
President had told Secretary Clinton that there was no
shelling in the safe zone and there should be no
shelling.  He requested that Rajapaksa ensure that the
Army Commanders orders are respected by the field
officers. 

Medical Shipments
-----------------
6. (C) Rajapaksa denied that medicine has not reached
the safe zone several weeks.  He told Boucher that the
required medicines (including anesthetics) were
reaching the conflict area regularly, but that the
government was only sending a few days worth at a time
so that the medicine did not go to waste or spoil.
Boucher noted that we have reports to the contrary and
requested that Rajapaksa check again on medical
shipments.  (Note: Embassy Colombo,s e-mail regarding
no medicine shipments on the March 18 ICRC ship was not
received until after the meeting with Rajapaksa.) 

Visas for ICRC Staff
--------------------
7. (C) Rajapaksa told Boucher that visas for Red Cross
staff had been refused because they were not justified.
He said that the burden is on the Red Cross to prove
the need for those visas and to prove that local staff
cannot be recruited for the same purposes.  He
indicated that their presence was no longer needed in
the Eastern Province, Jaffna, or Omanthai because there
are no longer any security checkpoints between
Government and Tamil Tiger-controlled areas.  When
Boucher pushed Rajapaksa, offering that some of the
staff were replacements for those in the conflict zone,
Rajapaksa replied that the decision rests with the line
ministry responsible for activities. 

UNHCHR Fact Finding Mission
---------------------------
8.  (C) Finally, Boucher requested that Rajapaksa
accept the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
request for a fact finding mission to Sri Lanka.  He
said that the Sri Lankan government should facilitate
the visit and that it would be an important signal to
the international community.   Boucher pointed out that
the Sri Lankan government was democratically elected
and will be measured by those standards.  He noted that
the US government first raises issues of concern with
the Sri Lankan government bilaterally, but that as
concerns rise and the American public (including the US
Congress) become more and more interested, it may be
difficult for us to remain publicly silent.  He
indicated that there would probably be another UN
Security Council discussion on the issue. 

Comment
-------
9. (C) Rajapaksa is the first Sri Lankan official who
has been forthcoming when discussing Sri Lankan Army
shelling of the safe zone.  However, we were
disappointed to hear him claim that medical supplies
were reaching the wounded in the safe zone when it is
clear from Embassy Colombo reporting that there have
not been shipments since February 20.  His comments on
visas for ICRC staff were unhelpful, but unsurprising
given the Sri Lankan government,s attitude towards
international aid workers.  End Comment. 

CLINTON

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