Cablegate: Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Assures Boucher That Human Rights Issues Will Be Addressed and Requests More Support
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 001643
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2027
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER CE IN
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA'S FOREIGN MINISTER ASSURES BOUCHER THAT HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES WILL BE ADDRESSED AND REQUESTS MORE SUPPORT
Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: In his meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Assistant Secretary Boucher emphasized that it was vital that the forthcoming devolution package reassure moderate Tamils about their future place in Sri Lankan society and guarantee that their rights are protected. Boucher warned that the U.S. government is closely monitoring the resolution of human rights cases and the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons of eastern Sri Lanka. He underlined that cases before the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights must go beyond the investigative stage and produce substantive results with culprits held accountable. Bogollogama assured Boucher that the ""code of conduct"" to prevent human rights abuses will be announced on 6 April. He acknowledged that mistakes have been made while resettling Internally Displaced Persons but pledged that the U.S. government ""can hold me personally responsible for any future imbalances.""
2. (C) Reflecting on the recent Tamil Tiger air attack, he said that Sri Lanka has requested three additional radar units from India. He remarked that Sri Lanka required port and container security assistance, as the Tamil Tigers' arms, plane parts, and drugs are being smuggled through Colombo's port. Bogollagama also asked Boucher to follow up on a request for an additional coast guard cutter originally made to Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawless. END SUMMARY.
3. (C) Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher opened a 3 April meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama by inquiring about the state of Sri Lanka's air defenses and the government's plans to deal with the Tiger air threat. Bogollagama claimed that the three radars provided by India require down time every eight hours, and the government was investigating if the one installed at Katunayake air base was down during the Tigers' air strike. He explained that radar efficiency levels were being discussed and that Sri Lanka had requested an augmentation of one additional 3-D radar and two more 2-D radars from India. Boucher requested that Bogollagama keep the U.S. apprised of Sri Lanka's increased air defense plans.
4. (C) Turning to the political situation in Sri Lanka, Boucher asked for an update on the Sri Lanka Freedom Party's power sharing proposals. Bogollagama said that the package would be presented to the All Party Conference immediately upon President Rajapaksa's return from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in New Delhi. He stated that the proposal included a parliamentary system with a premiership and claimed that ""the consensus is there to address the problem politically. ""However, the international community needs to influence the Tigers to get to the table too."" Boucher countered that a credible power sharing proposal is a vehicle to peace talks, and it can weaken political support for the Tigers. However, he noted, any successful political plan must assure the Tamil population that they have a secure and equitable stake in society and are accorded civil rights guarantees.
5. (C) Boucher declared that the U.S. government was seriously concerned about ongoing reports of human rights abuses, continued attacks on Tamils in the east by the Karuna faction, and the forced resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons. He emphasized that the Tamils in eastern Sri Lanka must receive the benefits of good governance and cautioned Bogollagama that Washington was watching the situation NEW DELHI 00001643 002 OF 002 closely. Bogollagama asserted that he had discussed recent government human rights initiatives with Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at length and an Administrative Declaration will be announced on 6 April. He noted that a ""code of conduct"" on human rights would be reissued for law enforcement and all high-profile cases of missing persons and disappearances will be dealt with. He also explained that the 2006 government declaration established procedures for arrests including informing next-of-kin, informing the Human Rights Commission within forty-eight hours of detentions and providing commission access to detainees. He said that the Human Rights Commission was in place already but needed to become operational. He stressed that if the administrative declarations were not followed it will be raised in the political arena. Boucher reminded Bogollagama that, while it was important to conduct inquiries, the U.S. government wanted to see results and accountability for the culprits.
6. (C) In defense of Sri Lanka's resettlement of the 81,000 Internally Displaces Persons in the east, Bogollagama noted that their resettlement was endorsed by the international community. He conceded that the Internally Displaced Persons taken from Batticaloa to Trincomalee two weeks ago was ""a mistake by government agencies and sent the wrong signals.""
He explained that he consulted with Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about the incident and stopped the resettlement. Admitting that the government was trying to address some resettlement imbalances, he pledged, ""Hold me personally responsible in the future.""
7. (C) Bogollogama said that, during his recent meetings in Washington with Secretary Rice, he had relayed Sri Lanka's request for more port surveillance assistance. He asserted that most of the Tigers' offloading of arms and drugs is occurring in Colombo due to container inspection problems. Boucher said that he would follow up on the request and see what assistance could be provided. Bogollagama also noted that he has discussed the possibility of obtaining a coast guard cutter from the U.S. government to assist in maritime interdiction. Boucher said that he was aware of the request and would follow up.
8. (C) Boucher closed the meeting by reiterating that the most important aspect of any political evolution in Sri Lanka is how the government relates to the Tamil and Muslim communities. ""The more the Tamils are included, the less the Tigers can claim."" Bogollagama assured Boucher that, ""we have the will for a credible solution.""