Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: President Rajapaksa is courting the UNP – Karu to US

Karu Jayasuriya assessed that Rajapaksa is trying to garner majority support in parliament, which means courting the UNP, the second largest political party.

By Colombo Telegraph-

“In a discussion with pol FSN, senior UNP official Karu Jayasuriya assessed that Rajapaksa is trying to garner majority support in parliament, which means courting the UNP, the second largest political party.” the US Ambassador Robert O. Blake informed Washington, ten days before Karu Jayasuriya  joined Mahinda Rajapaksa government with a group of UNP parliamentarians.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeak database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and written on January 10, 2007 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert O. Blake.

The Ambassador wrote “Rajapaksa’s willingness to discuss his plans with Wickremesinghe is a positive sign cooperation between the two major parties might continue. However, to date, the MoU has yielded no solid results, other than UNP parliamentary support for the president’s budget. When Wickremesinghe signed an MoU with the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), many analysts believed he did so in large part to stop UNP members jumping ship to join the government.”

“On January 9, in regular monthly meeting with news media, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced an imminent cabinet reshuffle. A number of opposition United National Party (UNP) members have been angling for some time for ministerial posts. It appears likely Rajapaksa will accommodate UNP constitutional scholar G.L. Peiris and party heavyweight Milinda Moragoda, both of whom would be willing to switch party allegiances, UNP contacts told us. UNP members also speculated that parliamentarians Navin Dissanayake, Gamini Lokuge, Mano Wijeratne, and Hemakumara Nannayakara would accept ministerial posts, though they would be unlikely to change parties. A source in the president’s secretariat told pol FSN that Rajapaksa is considering offering UNP members cabinet posts while permitting them to retain their current party affiliation.” Ambassador Blake further wrote.

Read the cable below for further details;

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000046

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/10/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PTER CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: CABINET RESHUFFLE IMMINENT; PRESIDENT
MAY APPOINT OPPOSITION MEMBERS

Classified By: AMBASSADOR ROBERT O. BLAKE, JR. FOR REASONS 1.4(b) and (
d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: President Rajapaksa told media
representatives on January 9 that he will reshuffle his
cabinet.  A source in the presidential secretariat told pol
FSN Rajapaksa may offer ministerial posts to opposition
United National Party (UNP) members while allowing them to
retain their present party affiliation.  Our contact said UNP
stalwart Milinda Moragoda may gain the post of Foreign
Minister, leaving current Minister Samaraweera with only the
ports and civil aviation portfolio.  UNP leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe reportedly signed the MoU with the governing
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) largely in order to prevent
party "cross-overs," but it seems Rajapaksa plans to co-opt
UNP members, regardless of whether they formally switch
parties.  UNP sources reported Rajapaksa is due to meet with
Wickremesinghe January 11, so it appears the president has
waited to discuss the make-up of his new cabinet with the
opposition leader before announcing his final decision.  The
Ambassador will see Wickremesinghe as well on January 11 to
get his report.  End summary.

2. (C) On January 9, in regular monthly meeting with news
media, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced an imminent
cabinet reshuffle.  A number of opposition United National
Party (UNP) members have been angling for some time for
ministerial posts.  It appears likely Rajapaksa will
accommodate UNP constitutional scholar G.L. Peiris and party
heavyweight Milinda Moragoda, both of whom would be willing
to switch party allegiances, UNP contacts told us.  UNP
members also speculated that parliamentarians Navin
Dissanayake, Gamini Lokuge, Mano Wijeratne, and Hemakumara
Nannayakara would accept ministerial posts, though they would
be unlikely to change parties.  A source in the president's
secretariat told pol FSN that Rajapaksa is considering

SIPDIS
offering UNP members cabinet posts while permitting them to
retain their current party affiliation.

3. (C) Our contact in the president's office also said
Rajapaksa may appoint Moragoda to replace current Foreign
Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who would then retain only the
ministry for ports and civil aviation.  The president is also
considering Rohitha Bogollagama, currently the Industries
Minister, for the Foreign Minister post.  The MFA may be
renamed the Ministry of External Affairs, the source said.
He added that current Peace Secretariat head Palitha Kohona
will likely be named Foreign Secretary with the backing of
most ministers, Samaraweera's objections notwithstanding.

4. (C) UNP contacts reported that the president plans to meet
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe January 11 and will likely
discuss the make-up of his new cabinet.  In a discussion with
pol FSN, senior UNP official Karu Jayasuriya assessed that
Rajapaksa is trying to garner majority support in parliament,
which means courting the UNP, the second largest political
party.

5. (C) COMMENT: Until now, the Foreign Secretary position has
always gone to a career diplomat.  Samaraweera sought to
maintain this practice, recommending that current Sri Lankan
High Commissioner to India Romesh Jayasinghe get the job.
Rajapaksa is breaking with tradition to select a political
appointee.  We will report septel on Samaraweera's rift with
Rajapaksa.  Rajapaksa's willingness to discuss his plans with
Wickremesinghe is a positive sign cooperation between the two
major parties might continue.  However, to date, the MoU has
yielded no solid results, other than UNP parliamentary
support for the president's budget.  When Wickremesinghe
signed an MoU with the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(SLFP), many analysts believed he did so in large part to
stop UNP members jumping ship to join the government.  Now,
it seems, Rajapaksa may co-opt opposition members whether or
not they formally switch political parties.  However, if  the
president actually names Moragoda, formerly Wickremesinghe's

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closest ally, Foreign Minister, this may well complicate UNP
cooperation with the SLFP on the peace process.  The
Ambassador will meet with Wickremesinghe on January 11 to
hear his perspective.
BLAKE
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