Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Tissa Vitharana thanked US for pushing Sri Lanka closer to China

By Colombo Telegraph

“On human rights and media freedom problems, Vitharana instantly became offensive, and regretted that the international community did not understand the situation on the ground. He praised the President as being ‘admirable’ on improved relations with countries such as Iran, Libya and China when the west was so weak now economically speaking” the US Embassy wrote to Washington.

“He thanked the U.S. for pushing Sri Lanka closer to China which represented the economic future.” The US Embassy further informed to Washington.

Vitharana is awaiting the Presidents response and comments and he

A leaked US unclassified, but “SENSITIVE” diplomatic cable, recounts details of meetings the US Senate Foreign Relations staff members has had with the senior government officials, international organizations, political leaders, civil-society activists, and journalists between November 2-8, 2009. The Colombo Telegraph found the cable from WikiLeaks database. The cable was written on December 1, 2009 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Patricia A. Butenis.

The US Ambassador wrote “ The StaffDel met Minister of Science and Technology and All-Party Representative Committee (APRC) Chairman Tissa Vitharana, who emphasized the need for sustaining peace, working towards a political solution and empowering the people. The key goal of APRC was permit the devolution of powers to the provinces under the 13th Amendment. He informed the StaffDel that the APRC had submitted its assessment report to President Rajapaksa and was awaiting the Presidents response and comments.” “ Vitharana criticized the 13th Amendment as an Indian creation, but found some useful elements in the 17th Amendment. His goal was to simplify and streamline the government, giving more power to traditional village councils. This would give proper representation to small ethnic enclaves scattered throughout the country. He commented on his recent meetings with diaspora representatives in Europe as prat of his work with ethnic community.” she further wrote.

The Colombo Telegraph publishes the relevant part of the leaked cable below.

Related news;

WikiLeaks: ‘I am not saying we are clean!’ –  Basil to US Senate Foreign Relations staff

WikiLeaks: The war had ‘not been clean’ Gota to US Senate Foreign Relations staff

WikiLeaks:  GSL is very interested in greater engagement with the U.S. – Moragoda

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 COLOMBO 001054

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM CE
SUBJECT: SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE (SFRC) FACT FINDING
MISSION TO SRI LANKA

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On November 2-8, Senate Foreign Relations staff
members Nilmini Rubin and Fatema Sumar visited Sri Lanka and held
meetings with senior government officials, international
organizations, political leaders, civil-society activists, and
journalists to discuss post war reconciliation, resettlement of
internally displaced persons (IDPs), the humanitarian situation, and
media freedom.  They also visited the South, East and IDP camp at
Manik Farm.  The StaffDel observed that the post-war situation in
Sri Lanka was complex, particularly in light of possible elections;
Sri Lankans no longer sensed a strong partnership with the U.S.; the
U.S. "tool box" in dealing with the government of Sri Lanka (GSL)
was self-limited; a sense of palpable fear still hung over the media
and civil society; and while the GSL was making progress and doing
some good things, SL had a long way to go on reconciliation and
resettlement.  Recognizing SL's geo-strategic importance to the U.S.
and the current and long-term bilateral relationship, many SL
interlocutors gave their recommendations on strengthening the
relationship and noted a need for more U.S. assistance for
resettlement and demining. END SUMMARY.

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR:
CRITICISMS NOT WARRANTED
------------------------

2. (SBU) The president's brother, MP, and de-facto czar of the IDP
and demining issues Basil Rajapaksa hoped to improve the bilateral
relationship and build trust with the U.S.  He was critical of
recent U.S. remarks and recommended that the U.S. should choose its
words carefully.  For example, he noted that "the U.S. monitoring
the progress" was perceived as "U.S. encroachment on SL's
sovereignty."  While Sri Lanka was a small but proud country, SL did
not warrant a "minority mindset".  He suggested that the U.S. should
approach SL as "friends" and "give suggestions rather than make
critical remarks," and such criticisms were a recent phenomenon.  In
response to the "incident's report," Rajapaksa candidly remarked,
"I'm not saying we're clean; we could not abide by international law
- this would have gone on for centuries, an additional 60 years."
He highlighted the GSL's excellent relationship with India, and
argued that even India did not request monitoring of SL's progress.
Basil spoke at length on the resettlement progress and noted that
January 31 ends the 180-day plan, and that the GSL had promised to
have 80% of the IDPs released in 180 days, but that "Blake had said
our plan was too ambitious."  He asserted that 80% of the IDPs would
be released by the end of January.  He did not want to release
details of the government's plan because any delays or changes would
leave the GSL open to international criticism.  Basil believed SL
was well on its way "to win the hearts and minds of the people" and
to resettle the IDPs.  On freedom of movement, the GSL was still
concerned about LTTE sympathizers in the camps and took a paternal
view of the safety of IDPs returning to cleared lands.  On media
freedom, Basil argued that the media had not been singled out, and
that high ranking police and army officials and members of the
business community had also been imprisoned on the terrorism
charges.  On media access to the camps, Rajapaksa emphasized that
media restrictions in the camps were for the benefit of the IDPs and
commented that "IDPs don't like media, cameras, because they don't
want to be portrayed in those conditions."  He pointed out that free
access would be only granted to those "genuinely interested" and
only those "that could be truly trusted."

DEFENSE SECRETARY:  NO
RECOGNITION OF GSL'S PROGRESS
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa expressed frustration
that the U.S. and international community had not recognized the
government's progressive transition to democracy, ethnic
reconciliation, disarmament and demobilization of paramilitary
groups, rehabilitation of child soldiers, and economic development.
He repeatedly used the Eastern Province as an example of the
government's demonstrated performance record and as a model for

COLOMBO 00001054  002 OF 006

plans in the North.  He regretted that SL was "poor at propaganda"
and had done a poor job communicating its actions and intent to the
international community, especially the U.S. and the West.  While
quick to criticize, the U.S. had been slow to acknowledge SL's
achievements.  Rajapaksa believed strongly in the value of repairing
SL's relations with the U.S. and recommended that the U.S. should
focus its attention on the future and not the past, judging the GSL
on its record of performance in the Eastern Province, and not on the
agendas of its critics.  Rajapaksa reiterated SL's real victory over
the LTTE and contended that lasting peace would only be achieved by
development in the North.  Rajapaksa noted that in defeating the
LTTE terrorists the war had "not been clean," but was still a
success. The Defense Secretary ruled out expansion of the military -
dismissing it as "only the army talking" - and said he hoped to
increase SL military's involvement in future UN peacekeeping
operations.  According to Rajapaksa, the increases in the defense
budget were meant to meet payment schedules for acquisitions during
the war from China, Pakistan and Israel. The Defense Secretary took
the opportunity to apologize to the staffers for involving them in a
security incident at their hotel room the night before.  The
incident occurred when they received a surprise visit to one of
their rooms by Sri Lankan plain clothes police.  The police, acting
on orders to investigate an anonymous tip that room 1603 (staffer's
room) was harboring a terrorist, reacted by going directly to the
room (not alerting the hotel) to investigate.  The Defense Secretary
explained that he had personally received this tip; had he known
that the staffers were the occupants of the room 1603, he would have
prevented the incident.  While the Defense Secretary apologized for
the incident, it demonstrated heightened security concerns and lack
of an adequate information-screening process by the police and the
Defense Secretary.

JUSTICE MINISTER: "GOLDEN MOMENT"
BUT "COMPLEX"
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) Minister of Justice Malinda Moragoda told StaffDel the GSL
was very interested in greater engagement with the U.S. but said the
political situation was "complex."  According to Moragoda, there was
much resentment towards the old families and elites in Sri Lanka
amongst the Sinhalese middle and lower classes for past economic
focus on Colombo and appeasement of the LTTE, and some of this
resentment spilled over into GSL relations with the U.S. and other
western countries.  Nevertheless, with the end of the war, Sri Lanka
was at a "golden moment" for building national reconciliation.
StaffDel suggested that an independent investigation of war crimes
allegations was a necessary step in national healing and
reconciliation.  Moragoda said Sri Lanka "must find its own way" on
dealing with the war crimes issue and noted "frankly" that while the
panel of eminent persons recently appointed by the president was a
reaction to the publication of the Congressional report on incidents
during the war, Sri Lanka had a regrettably long history of periodic
violence and so the publication of the State Department's report to
Congress on incidents during the war had little relevance to most
Sri Lankans.

APRC CHAIRMAN: EMPOWER THE PEOPLE
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) The StaffDel met Minister of Science and Technology and
All-Party Representative Committee (APRC) Chairman Tissa Vitarana,
who emphasized the need for sustaining peace, working towards a
political solution and empowering the people.  The key goal of APRC
was permit the devolution of powers to the provinces under the 13th
Amendment.  He informed the StaffDel that the APRC had submitted its
assessment report to President Rajapaksa and was awaiting the
President's response and comments.  Vitarana criticized the 13th
Amendment as an Indian creation, but found some useful elements in
the 17th Amendment.  His goal was to simplify and streamline the
government, giving more power to traditional village councils.  This
would give proper representation to small ethnic enclaves scattered

COLOMBO 00001054  003 OF 006

throughout the country.  He commented on his recent meeting with
diaspora representatives in Europe as part of his work with ethnic
community.  On human rights and media freedom problems, Vitarana
instantly became defensive, and regretted that the international
community did not understand the situation on the ground.  He
praised the President as being "admirable" on improved relations
with countries such as Iran, Libya and China when the West wouldn't
help them finish the war against the LTTE, since the West was so
weak now economically speaking. He thanked the U.S. for pushing Sri
Lanka closer to China which represented the economic future.
BUTENIS

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