Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks:Since Karu had openly expressed a lack of confidence in Ranil, resuming deputy party leader was not likely to come up

By Colombo Telegraph-

“Ambassador met opposition leader Wickremesinghe on January 22 to urge him to seek common ground with his UNP critics, including leading dissident Karu Jayasuriya. Our only interest was in supporting the peace process” the US Ambassador Robert O. Blake informed Washington five days before Karu Jayasuriya  joined Mahinda Rajapaksa government with a group of UNP parliamentarians.

Wickremesinghe appeared just as composed, but somewhat less self-assured than usual. He clearly was feeling under pressure and realized he might not win the battle to hold his party together. His efforts to reach out to the disaffected in his party nevertheless strike us as perhaps too little, too late. On the other hand, if he can manage to swallow some of his legendary pride, admit some mistakes, and make a frank appeal for unity to Jayasuriya and other would-be crossovers

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeak database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and written on January 23, 2007 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert O. Blake.

The Ambassador wrote “Ambassador noted, but the current round of political wrangling threatened to derail the MoU between the major parties. Wickremesinghe noted he had tried to accommodate party reformers by appointing them to party positions and acceding to their request for a Special Session on March 17 to reform the party constitution. He appeared unsure that he could hold his party together, however. Ranil observed that the President’s strategy of attracting crossovers risked destabilizing the entire political structure in the South. He noted that the President’s SLFP, the JVP and the SLMC were all having cohesion problems as a result of government pressure tactics”

“Ambassador urged leader of the UNP and the opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe to exercise leadership by reconciling with the dissidents in his party, sharing some power, and allowing more intra-party democracy.” ambassador Blake further wrote.

Ambassador Blake wrote “Wickremesinghe noted that he planned to speak to Karu Jayasuriya, the nominal leader of the UNP dissident faction, later that day. He said that he needed to consult further with the entire senior UNP leadership. However, he did not think that the majority of his party could agree to the idea of accepting ministerial posts. Karu and the other potential cross-overs had an obligation to make the case for their strategy to the party as a whole, he added. Since Jayasuriya had openly expressed a lack of confidence in him, the subject of Karu resuming his previous function as deputy party leader was not likely to come up, Ranil thought.”

Placing a comment ambassador Blake wrote “Wickremesinghe appeared just as composed, but somewhat less self-assured than usual. He clearly was feeling under pressure and realized he might not win the battle to hold his party together. His efforts to reach out to the disaffected in his party nevertheless strike us as perhaps too little, too late. On the other hand, if he can manage to swallow some of his legendary pride, admit some mistakes, and make a frank appeal for unity to Jayasuriya and other would-be crossovers, he might still fend off the approaching UNP train wreck. (In fact, septel will report that early readouts on the outcome of the meeting with Jayasuriya indicate Ranil fell short of his goal.) We continue to think that the realization of Basil Rajapaksa’s plan to provide the government with a simple majority in parliament is more likely to detract from the peace process than to reinforce it. There is considerable risk that the government hardliners will seek to press the military advantage from their recent success in Vakarai. They may then try to cash in on the expected political bonus for the President’s party by calling new elections before the country – or the peace process ) are ready.”

Read the cable below for further details;

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000130

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2017
TAGS: PGOV PTER PHUM MOPS PREL CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: OPPOSITION LEADER SEEKS TO MEND PARTY
RIFT, MAYBE TOO LATE

REF: A) COLOMBO 102 B) COLOMBO 115 C) COLOMBO 127

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr., for reasons 1.4(b,d).

1.  (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador  met opposition leader
Wickremesinghe on January 22 to urge him to seek common
ground with his UNP critics, including leading dissident Karu
Jayasuriya.  Our only interest was in supporting the peace
process, Ambassador noted, but the current round of political
wrangling threatened to derail the MoU between the major
parties (ref a).  Wickremesinghe noted he had tried to
accommodate party reformers by appointing them to party
positions and acceding to their request for a Special Session
on March 17 to reform the party constitution.  He appeared
unsure that he could hold his party together, however.  Ranil
observed that the President's strategy of attracting
crossovers risked destabilizing the entire political
structure in the South.  He noted that the President's SLFP,
the JVP and the SLMC were all having cohesion problems as a
result of government pressure tactics.  End summary.

2.  (C) In a meeting on January 22, Ambassador urged leader
of the UNP and the opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe to
exercise leadership by reconciling with the dissidents in his
party, sharing some power, and allowing more intra-party
democracy.  The U.S.'s only interest was in assisting the
peace process, the Ambassador said, but we saw this as
endangered by the ongoing internal political infighting.  The
peace process needed the SLFP-UNP MoU to drive it forward,
and this required that both major parties remain strong and
viable.

3.  (C) Wickremesinghe noted that he planned to speak to Karu
Jayasuriya, the nominal leader of the UNP dissident faction,
later that day.  He said that he needed to consult further
with the entire senior UNP leadership.  However, he did not
think that the majority of his party could agree to the idea
of accepting ministerial posts.  Karu and the other potential
cross-overs had an obligation to make the case for their
strategy to the party as a whole, he added.  Since Jayasuriya
had openly expressed a lack of confidence in him, the subject
of Karu resuming his previous function as deputy party leader
was not likely to come up, Ranil thought.

4.  (C) Wickremesinghe defended his approach to intra-party
democracy, saying that he had accepted the dissidents'
proposal of holding a Special Session to amend the party
constitution on March 17.  Before then, a consultation
process needed to take place with the various party organs
about their composition, and how the members are selected.
The party's Political Affairs Committee, representing a broad
cross section of the various tendencies in the party, would
meet in February to draft proposals for the various reforms.
However, most of the party would have problems accepting that
those who wanted to leave it should participate materially in
the reform process.

5.  (C) Ranil noted that he had tried to accommodate
divergent views by nominating most of the dissidents to
important party positions.  However, it was difficult to
consummate this reconciliation because the dissidents had yet
to withdraw a court case they had filed against party
decisions.  In any case, the UNP realized that it would lose
a significant part of its talent pool if the crossovers took
place.  Still, he said the party base was holding together
and would continue to support the UNP in future elections.

6.  (C) Wickremesinghe said that although he was naturally
concerned about the future of his party, at the moment he was
more preoccupied with rescuing the MoU between the SLFP and
the UNP.  Under its terms, he noted, the UNP had committed to
working with the government on the peace process and had
agreed to support it on the budget and not to introduce a
no-confidence motion for two years.  The President, by

COLOMBO 00000130  002 OF 002

failing to work with him to implement the MoU, and pursuing
the crossover strategy to assure a narrow parliamentary
majority, was actually destabilizing the entire political
system in the South, Wickremesinghe said.  Not just the UNP
was having problems, but the JVP was experiencing internal
difficulties as well in deciding whether to continue to
support the government.  He also mentioned the pressure that
the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress was under from the government
side (ref b).

7.  (C) Ambassador underlined our point that only a solid
parliamentary majority in favor of a strong peace proposal
would give the government a mandate to conduct serious
negotiations to end the conflict.  Only the MoU had the
potential to deliver such a majority.  Ranil agreed, but
reiterated that once the government violated the MoU by
taking on the crossovers as ministers, the UNP would not be
able to continue to implement the MoU.  The government should
not believe that it could recruit the JVP for a serious peace
process, he added; the ultra-nationalists would keep
attacking any reasonable proposals for compromise with the
LTTE.

8.  (C) Wickremesinghe believed that the government's back-up
plan might be to call early elections in order to ensure
itself a majority.  The UNP was ready to fight an early
election, he said, but as a practical matter, a ceasefire was
a necessary condition for free and fair elections to proceed.
 It would not be possible to carry out credible polls in the
North and East under war conditions, and the LTTE might
attack election activities in the South as well.  However,
Ranil thought it would be appropriate to elect a new
Parliament with a mandate to pass the constitutional reforms
required for a settlement.  Still, a ceasefire was the
prerequisite for any such development.

9.  (C) Wickremesinghe said that he was convinced the LTTE
would seek a way to strike back after the government's
capture of Vakarai (ref c).  He thought the LTTE was
following a strategy of tying down government security forces
assets in the East, but he was not sure what the LTTE's
riposte would be.  The attack on the supply ship near Jaffna
showed that the LTTE was possibly trying to isolate Jaffna
before striking there.  The government and the international
community should be trying to engage LTTE thinkers, for
example, by arranging a visit with Nepalese Maoists to study
the resolution of Nepal's conflict.  However, the death of
LTTE ideologist and chief negotiator Anton Balasingham left a
void.  There was now a dearth of interlocutors in the LTTE
one could approach in this way.

10.  (C) COMMENT:  Wickremesinghe appeared just as composed,
but somewhat less self-assured than usual.  He clearly was
feeling under pressure and realized he might not win the
battle to hold his party together.  His efforts to reach out
to the disaffected in his party nevertheless strike us as
perhaps too little, too late.  On the other hand, if he can
manage to swallow some of his legendary pride, admit some
mistakes, and make a frank appeal for unity to Jayasuriya and
other would-be crossovers, he might still fend off the
approaching UNP train wreck.  (In fact, septel will report
that early readouts on the outcome of the meeting with
Jayasuriya indicate Ranil fell short of his goal.)  We
continue to think that the realization of Basil Rajapaksa's
plan to provide the government with a simple majority in
parliament is more likely to detract from the peace process
than to reinforce it.  There is considerable risk that the
government hardliners will seek to press the military
advantage from their recent success in Vakarai.  They may
then try to cash in on the expected political bonus for the
President's party by calling new elections before the country
- or the peace process ) are ready.
BLAKE
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