By Colombo Telegraph –
“Party members all noted that they were not worried about General Fonseka overreaching or becoming too independent as the UNF’s presidential candidate. Wickremesinghe told the Charge that he was confident that Fonseka would agree to a figurehead role if elected president. Wickremesinghe opined that Fonseka had very few options; he could either retire or agree to become the UNF’s figurehead leader.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from WikiLeaks database, which details the meetings US Embassy has had with UNP leadership regarding General Fonseka’s presidential candidacy The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and written by the Charge D’Affaires Valerie Fowler on November 25, 2009.
“Separately, UNP party leaders assessed that parliament would function as the ultimate guarantor against Fonseka becoming too headstrong if he were elected president. UNP leaders assessed that parliament would withhold money from Fonseka if he veered too far away from any pre-election pact. Wickremesinghe told Emboffs that he envisioned a pre-election pact with Fonseka to include Fonseka abolishing the executive presidency and ceding power to a executive prime minister. UNP leaders also assessed that Fonseka would naturally be hamstrung if he became president because he would not have a political party to back him.” Under the subheading “UNP Not Concerned About Fonseka” Fowler wrote.
Below we give the relevant part of the confidential cable;
Related news to the cable.
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001073 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019 TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE SUBJECT: RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE: UNP LEADERS BELIEVE THEY ARE READY TO DEFEAT PRESIDENT RAJAPAKSA REF: COLOMBO 1066 COLOMBO 00001073 001.2 OF 003 Classified By: CHARGE D' AFFAIRES VALERIE C. FOWLER. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D) ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Members of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) are upbeat about the party's electoral prospects and are confident that UNF alliance candidate General Sarath Fonseka can beat President Rajapaksa in the upcoming presidential election. UNP party members noted that the UNF's campaign message would focus on getting rid of the Rajapaksas and the corruption associated with them. Interlocutors did not appear worried about General Fonseka being a team player if he won the election. UNP party members uniformly predicted election-related violence and asked for international election observers to ensure a credible election. END SUMMARY. Fonseka is the UNF Candidate ---------------------------- ¶2. (C) Emboffs recently met with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and several senior UNP leaders to discuss the way forward for the UNP. In a 24 November meeting, Wickremesinghe told the Charge that General Fonseka would be the common candidate for the UNF alliance. Wickremesinghe expected the JVP to make a public announcement of the decision on 25 November (the JVP announced the decision on 24 November in the local media), the UNP working committee to make an announcement on 26 November, and the entire alliance to announce the decision on 27 November. Wickremesinghe noted that the UNF was hoping to maximize the publicity and media coverage of the announcement by spreading out the unveiling of Fonseka over several days. Wickremesinghe noted that the UNP did not give serious consideration to the idea of Fonseka running as a UNP candidate because they did not want the public to think that Fonseka was running as a front for Wickremesinghe. Separately, UNP party leaders stated that Wickremesinghe was not considered as a presidential candidate because he probably would not have been a competitive candidate against President Rajapaksa. Feeling Good About Electoral Prospects and Message --------------------------------------------- ----- ¶3. (C) All UNP interlocutors projected confidence about their electoral prospects and campaign message. UNP senior leader Ravi Karunanayake assessed that President Rajapaksa had become too extreme in his views and that the electorate was ready for a change. UNP leader Dinesh Weerakkody noted that recent polling completed by the UNP was partially behind the party feeling confident about the upcoming presidential race. Weerakkody noted that the party,s internal polling had shown strong support for General Fonseka (especially amongst younger voters) in a matchup with President Rajapaksa, but not for Wickremesinghe. Weerakkody frankly noted that the polling showed that Tamils were wary of General Fonseka, but overall the party was pleasantly surprised that Fonseka polled even with President Rajapaksa. ¶4. (C) Party leaders appeared to have already formed the main crux of their campaign message. Interlocutors, including Wickremesinghe, noted that the UNF alliance would focus on the misdeeds of the Rajapaksas -- including their association with corruption and dynastic ambitions -- and the broader failings of democracy within the country. Weerakkody noted that UNP polling had shown the electorate was ready for the concept of change and said the alliance probably would model its broad electoral message after the recent U.S. presidential election. When queried on the possible role of COLOMBO 00001073 002.2 OF 003 the economy in the presidential campaign, Wickremesinghe assessed that the economy most likely would only be brought up indirectly. Wickremesinghe noted that the UNP had tried to gain political traction on the economy before and had failed in its efforts; he also opined that there were far too many differences between the UNP and the leftist JVP on the issue of the economy to campaign on the issue. Alliance Cooperation Will Be Crucial -------------------------------------- ¶5. (C) Weerakkody, Karunanayake, and UNP senior leaders John Amaratunga and Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena all assessed that members of the UNF would have to work closely together if they hoped to defeat Rajapaksa. All interlocutors opined that the parties of the alliance would have to make up for each other's weaknesses. In general, the UNP leaders noted that the UNF would focus on the UNP's strength in urban areas, the JVP's strength in the south and its vast grassroots networks, the Tamil parties' relative strength in the north and the east, and Christian leaders' strength in Jaffna. Weerakkody noted that the party's internal polling had shown that the UNP's support base was a solid 35 percent and the JVP's 8-10 percent. He assessed that General Fonseka's popularity would be the last bit of electoral support the alliance needed to win the presidency. ¶6. (C) All interlocutors opined that the role of Wickremesinghe would be crucial for the UNF's electoral prospects. Party members noted that the role of the Tamil parties would be huge in the election and that Wickremesinghe was the only one who could calm their concerns over Fonseka (see REF). UNP Not Concerned About Fonseka... ----------------------------- ¶7. (C) Party members all noted that they were not worried about General Fonseka overreaching or becoming too independent as the UNF's presidential candidate. Wickremesinghe told the Charge that he was confident that Fonseka would agree to a figurehead role if elected president. Wickremesinghe opined that Fonseka had very few options; he could either retire or agree to become the UNF's figurehead leader. ¶8. (C) Separately, UNP party leaders assessed that parliament would function as the ultimate guarantor against Fonseka becoming too headstrong if he were elected president. UNP leaders assessed that parliament would withhold money from Fonseka if he veered too far away from any pre-election pact. Wickremesinghe told Emboffs that he envisioned a pre-election pact with Fonseka to include Fonseka abolishing the executive presidency and ceding power to a executive prime minister. UNP leaders also assessed that Fonseka would naturally be hamstrung if he became president because he would not have a political party to back him. ...But Worried About a Credible Election ---------------------------------------- ¶9. (C) All UNP interlocutors noted that they were worried about the conduct of the upcoming election. Amaratunga, Weerakkody, Karunanayake, and Jayawardena all feared that the upcoming presidential election would be characterized by widespread political violence and the government misusing state resources to gain an electoral advantage. Within this context, Amaratunga stated that the opposition parties would have to rely on a credible election commission (NOTE: The COLOMBO 00001073 003.2 OF 003 election commission is not independent because President Rajapaksa has not implemented the 17th amendment to the constitution, which requires multi-party representation on the commission, and appointed his own people. END NOTE.) and Chief Justice. Wickremesinghe and Amaratunga additionally noted that they were relying on General Fonseka to split the loyalties of the security services, who they feared would be used to crack down on the opposition during the election. Karunanayake noted that unions probably would be a part of the political violence as well. ¶10. (C) The UNP leaders all stressed the importance of international pressure and election monitors to ensure that the election would be credible. Wickremesinghe noted to the Charge that international pressure had worked on a variety of fronts -- including GSP Plus and the release of IDPs -- and that the pressure should be maintained. FOWLER