By Colombo Telegraph –
“Given this situation, the PM will have to consider carefully how additional steps toward us might affect his domestic political standing. Too sharp a tilt toward the U.S. could potentially subject him to harsh criticism from the Opposition, which will reverberate to the prime minister’s disadvantage in press channels and among the leftist intellectual set.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeak database. The cable classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” analyses Sri Lanka’s pro – US foreign policy under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The cable was written on May 29, 2003 by the US Ambassador to Colombo E. Ashley Wills.
Ambassador Wills wrote “In the post-Iraq war environment, we think the Sri Lankan government will continue to want to draw closer to the U.S. The prime minister faces a very precarious cohabitation situation, however, with his party holding control of Parliament by only several seats. Given this situation, the PM will have to consider carefully how additional steps toward us might affect his domestic political standing. Too sharp a tilt toward the U.S. could potentially subject him to harsh criticism from the Opposition, which will reverberate to the prime minister’s disadvantage in press channels and among the leftist intellectual set.”
“Nonetheless, with Sri Lanka facing a difficult peace process and needing help to constrain the unpredictable Tamil Tigers, we think the larger trend in the country provides sizable ballast for the PM’s pro- U.S. proclivities. (Note: In general, polls show that Sri Lankans of all ethnic groups view the U.S. in a very friendly way.) One key test of the prime minister’s chosen course is whether he uses UNGA to take on NAM and propose some sort of new grouping. If he does that, he would have consummated a dramatic shift in his country’s foreign policy orientation.” placing an end comment to the cable Wills further wrote.
Read the cable below for further details;
Related news to this cable;
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 000909 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/P, IO, INR/NESA; NSC FOR E. MILLARD LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL E.O. 12958: DECL: 05-29-13 TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR CE UN SUBJECT: Sri Lanka's foreign policy: Prime Minister tilts toward U.S., but faces resistance Refs: Colombo 873, and previous (U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills. Reasons: 1.5 (b,d). ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Since coming to power, PM Wickremesinghe has taken steps to steer Sri Lankan foreign policy closer to the U.S. In doing this, he has had successes, including the signing of an ICC waiver with the U.S. and in regard to Iraq where the GSL steered a constructive course. Moreover, one of his key ministers recently proposed that the GSL take the lead in forming some sort of counterweight to NAM. That said, the PM's initiative has faced stiff resistance from MFA bureaucrats. In addition, the president and Opposition, backed by much of the press and the intelligentsia, have cut into his room for maneuver via their generally anti-U.S. biases. ¶2. (C) In the post-Iraq war environment, we think the GSL will continue to want to draw closer to the U.S. With the PM facing a precarious cohabitation situation, however, additional steps toward the USG will have to be carefully plotted out. Nonetheless, with Sri Lanka facing a difficult peace process and needing help to constrain the Tamil Tigers, we think the larger trend in the country provides ballast for the PM's pro-U.S. proclivities. END SUMMARY. -------------------- PM tilts toward U.S. -------------------- ¶3. (C) Since coming to power in late 2001, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken steps to steer Sri Lankan foreign policy closer to the U.S. Wickremesinghe's pro-U.S. views have been long-standing and are in part a function of family connections. His uncle, J.R. Jayewardene, for example, was Sri Lanka's president from the late 1970s through the late 1980s, and maintained very close links with the U.S. (Note: In fact, Jayewardene was called "Yankee Dickey" by leftists for years.) Moreover, Wickremesinghe, who comes from a very wealthy business family, is a strong advocate of free enterprise and strongly opposed to the disastrous socialist policies of former governments. Wickremesinghe is also surprisingly knowledgeable about U.S. history and politics; he is an avid reader about the American Civil War, U.S. military history, and U.S. legislation. The prime minister's pro-U.S. views also emerge out of his political calculus that Sri Lanka needs the support of the international community, especially the U.S., to constrain the Tamil Tigers. With the peace process his government's number one priority bar none, the prime minister has worked hard to secure U.S. support for his efforts in this area from very early on in his tenure. ¶4. (C) In pursuing this pro-U.S. course, Wickremesinghe has been supported by two dynamic advisers, Minister of Constitutional Affairs G.L. Peiris and Minister of Economic Reform Milinda Moragoda. (Note: Beyond their official titles, both Peiris and Moragoda play key roles as peace process negotiators and policy formulators for the GSL.) In general, the Oxford-educated Peiris' focus has been more on cultivating ties with former colonial power Britain and other Commonwealth countries, but he is very pro-U.S. and often visits Washington. More than Peiris', Moragoda's direct focus has been on cultivating relations with the U.S. and with India. Re the U.S., the intelligent, articulate Moragoda is a perfect fit. Born in Washington, D.C, he is a dual national Amcit (please protect) married to an American, with plenty of Washington connections, many from his days as a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and at Harvard. A "big picture" person, Moragoda is also highly aware that the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, and he feels that it is better that Sri Lanka recognize that fact and work within it. ¶5. (C) (((Note: Of late, the duo of Peiris and Moragoda have been joined by a new pro-U.S. player: In just several months on the job, Ambassador Devinda Subasinghe, a U.S.-educated financier and close friend of the PM, has already made a mark in Washington.))) ------------------------------------ Pro-U.S. Policy reaps some Successes ------------------------------------ ¶6. (C) In moving forward on a pro-U.S. agenda, the PM has had some notable successes. Last November, for example, he overruled the recalcitrant Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see more below re the MFA) and had the GSL sign an Article 98 waiver to the International Criminal Court (ICC) agreement with the U.S. While this agreement did not receive much local publicity, the move placed Sri Lanka squarely in the U.S. camp on an issue of high importance to us. In another sign of a pro-U.S. tilt, the PM directed the MFA to take a relatively moderate posture regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom, despite strong anti-U.S., anti-war currents in Sri Lanka's polity, including from the large Muslim population (see Reftels). Although the government's statement was not all we would have wanted, it was relatively constructive, with the prime minister going so far as to ask us for comments re the draft. ¶7. (C) More recently, Minister Moragoda made a startling proposal to U.S. officials. In discussions in Washington, Moragoda stated that the GSL was interested in forming some sort of group that would counter the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) block of countries. Moragoda was a bit vague about his idea. He indicated, however, that the GSL -- although a charter member of the group since its formation decades ago -- felt that the NAM was too strident and too anti-U.S., and that greater practicality was now called for. The way forward is still being worked on, but once the idea is fleshed out further, the current thinking is that PM Wickremesinghe might announce some sort of formal proposal re a new grouping at the UN General Assembly this September. ¶8. (C) (((Note: Aside from the ICC, Iraq, and Moragoda's proposal, the government has also made an effort to draw closer to the U.S. in economic/commercial and defense-related areas. The GSL, for example, inked a Trade and Investment Agreement, "TIFA," with the U.S. last year. On the defense side, the government has consistently supported U.S. military operations with blanket overflight and landing clearances as well as access to ports. As the peace process continues, the military has also begun to look toward increasing participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations and accepting a larger role in assisting the U.S. in the global war on terror. Most recently, the government even has begun to explore ways of possibly assisting in Iraqi reconstruction efforts. End Note.))) ------------------------------------- Resistance from MFA, Opposition, etc. ------------------------------------- ¶9. (C) The PM's tilt toward the U.S. has faced stiff resistance from bureaucrats in the MFA, who are wedded to NAM, "G-77"-type thinking. As mentioned above, for example, the MFA fought tooth-and-nail against the proposed ICC waiver. Because of resistance at the working level, signing of the agreement was delayed for several weeks, as MFA bureaucrats made various changes meant to weaken the text. Mission, collaborating closely with Moragoda and others at the political-level, fended off these attempts and the accord was eventually signed. Re the government's statement re Iraq, it was also clear to Mission that elements in the MFA wanted to take a line that hewed much more closely to the French- German-Russian anti-U.S., pro-Saddam Hussein position. (Note: The MFA's deadening hand is also noticeable in UN voting. Despite strong USG efforts, for example, the GSL only abstained on the recent UNCHR vote re the Castro regime's atrocious human rights record.) ¶10. (C) (((Note: Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando is actually quite friendly to the U.S. In fact, Fernando has been one of those in the government who have told us that Sri Lanka should separate itself more from NAM. Fernando's effectiveness in communicating these views to his ministry are hampered by the fact that he has been ill with a serious heart condition and does not seem to be a hands-on manager in any case. Moreover, while he has not announced it officially, Fernando also makes no bones about the fact that he wants to be the next UN Secretary General after Kofi Annan's term is up. Due to SIPDIS this latter factor, Fernando seems to go out of his way at times not to rock the boat and challenge the "UN consensus." End Note.))) ¶11. (C) In addition to the entrenched bureaucracy in the MFA, Wickremesinghe's tilt toward the U.S. has also encountered sharp resistance from the president, her People's Alliance (PA) party, and the radical Janantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party. While she is not anti- U.S. per se, President Kumaratunga -- who shares a very tense cohabitation relationship with the PM -- is not particularly friendly to our international positions on issues as diverse as Iraq, climate change, the ICC, general North/South affairs, etc. Kumaratunga's stance seems to be strongly influenced by the fact that her parents, who were both prime ministers, were advocates of NAM-type thinking on the international stage. The president's Sorbonne education also appears to have affected her and she is quite pro-French. As could be expected, the president's PA party basically mirrors her perspectives. As for the leftist JVP, the party has always been strongly anti-U.S., accusing us routinely in public of being the "arch-imperialist. Given that an alliance between a large section of the PA with the JVP is set to be announced soon, there is little indication that Opposition views of the U.S. will improve in the near-term. ¶12. (C) It is also the case that much of the intelligentsia in Sri Lanka and much of the press share a general anti-U.S. bias. Intellectuals, such as they are in Sri Lanka, are mostly influenced by Marxism to a large extent with a fair amount having studied in the former Soviet Union, and they routinely chatter against U.S. "hegemony" and "world empire." In the meantime, Sri Lanka's press -- both the English and vernacular -- contains a large amount of anti-U.S. commentary, including the ritual condemnations of our policy on Iraq and alleged excesses in the war on terrorism. The government, including PM Wickremesinghe and especially Moragoda, also come under considerable heat for allegedly wanting to make Sri Lanka a U.S. "lackey." (Note: While the newspapers have their decided biases, TV and radio in Sri Lanka are generally apolitical on international issues -- but not on domestic issues where they tend to take sides.) ------- COMMENT ------- ¶13. (C) In the post-Iraq war environment, we think the Sri Lankan government will continue to want to draw closer to the U.S. The prime minister faces a very precarious cohabitation situation, however, with his party holding control of Parliament by only several seats. Given this situation, the PM will have to consider carefully how additional steps toward us might affect his domestic political standing. Too sharp a tilt toward the U.S. could potentially subject him to harsh criticism from the Opposition, which will reverberate to the prime minister's disadvantage in press channels and among the leftist intellectual set. ¶14. (C) Nonetheless, with Sri Lanka facing a difficult peace process and needing help to constrain the unpredictable Tamil Tigers, we think the larger trend in the country provides sizable ballast for the PM's pro- U.S. proclivities. (Note: In general, polls show that Sri Lankans of all ethnic groups view the U.S. in a very friendly way.) One key test of the prime minister's chosen course is whether he uses UNGA to take on NAM and propose some sort of new grouping. If he does that, he would have consummated a dramatic shift in his country's foreign policy orientation. END COMMENT. ¶15. (U) Minimize considered. WILLS
« My own attitude towards philosophy is somewhat ambivalent
WikiLeaks: Full implementation of the 13th Amendment is something of a "red herring" – Perera and Saravanamuttu to US »