Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Too sharp a tilt towards US could potentially subject Ranil to harsh criticism

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.

Given this situation, the PM will have to consider carefully how additional steps toward us might affect his domestic political standing.

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;

WikiLeaks: “Ranil is a Yankee, like his uncle” US cable implies

WikiLeaks: GL a Pomme, Milinda a Yankee, US cable contends

WikiLeaks: President Chandrika a Francophile, US cable contends

WikiLeaks: Moragoda made a startling proposal to US against NAM

WikiLeaks: Sri Lankan intelligentsia and print media are anti-US biased

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

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