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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Ambassador Opens Usaid Projects in The

VZCZCXRO7436
OO RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #0368/01 1001123
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091123Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7989
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0833
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7826
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 6009
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4345
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1959
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4344
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3440
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8433
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5904
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0613
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2710
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000368

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM MOPS ELAB KCRM CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: AMBASSADOR OPENS USAID PROJECTS IN THE
SOUTH; DISCUSSES CONCERNS WITH LOCAL LEADERS

1. SUMMARY: Ambassador visited Galle on April 4 to open two
USAID projects and meet local officials. Party leaders
expressed concern about Southern Province's disproportionate
share of the war burden, a growing drug problem, a shortage
of labor for traditional industries. A representative of the
hotel industry noted that police and hotel owners have been
educated on trafficking in persons through Tourist Board and
National Child Protection Authority programs. End Summary.

Ambassador Opens USAID Projects
-------------------------------

2. The Ambassador visited a USAID funded vocational training
school in Ambalangoda, one of the areas in the South most
hard-hit by the tsunami. The new school offers vocational
training for high school graduates who are not planning to
attend university. Men are trained in outboard motor, motor
cycle, and tri-wheeler maintenance, and women receive
training in beauty services. The center has negotiated with
state and private banks to obtain loans for successful
trainees to set up their own businesses. Ambassador also
opened the eighty-seventh USAID-funded playground for
children, another tsunami rehabilitation project, in the
coastal town of Koggala.

South Bears Weight of War Effort
--------------------------------

3. Ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA)
parliamentarian Lionel Premasiri and Deputy Minister of
Social Services and Social Welfare told Ambassador that the
government's war policy and military expenditures are
acceptable to the southern polity because people of the rural
south are less affected by the cost of living than urban
people. Premasiri emphasized that army recruitment was
mostly from the South, a clear endorsement of the war
policies. Opposition United National Party (UNP)
parliamentarian Gayantha Karunathileke disagreed that the
cost of living had little impact on southerners and said
southern youth "are joining the army because they are poor."
The South has the highest poverty levels outside the theater
of conflict in the Northern and Eastern provinces. People
are not criticizing the government openly, he said, because
they live in fear of government rights violations.

Employment Trends Impacted by Conflict
--------------------------------------

4. Local leaders expressed concern about trends in the
southern labor market. Chairman of the Hikkaduwa Hoteliers
Association Siri Goonewardene said the 100,000 jobs lost in
the tourism sector have mostly affected the South. He blamed
the international media's portrayal of the conflict for the
plight of industry. He noted that southern youth are
choosing jobs in the military over tourism because the army
provides continuous employment, while tourism employment is
seasonal and unreliable. UNP MP Karunathileke, also a tea
small holder, said despite the boom in the tea industry,
women prefer to work in garment factories rather than in the
estates. He predicted that the low-grown tea industry in the
South is heading for a labor crisis.

No Recent Security Incidents, But Increase in Drug Use
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. Galle District Senior Superintendent of Police Keerthi
Silva told Ambassador that since the LTTE attack on naval
vessels in the Galle harbor in 2007, no further activities
have been detected. He said close surveillance is maintained
on the 1,500 Tamil residents in Galle town and the greater
Tamil population in the interior tea plantation areas.

6. A more immediate problem, he said, is widespread drug use
among southern youth. A representative of the Galle Bar

COLOMBO 00000368 002 OF 002


Association, Thilina Panditaratne, said the lack of
recreational activities in Galle drove youth to drugs. Silva
noted, however, that the police have been working to address
the problem. The number of addicts had dropped during the
last year due to direct police action and arrests, he said.

GSL TIP Efforts Show Some Results
-----------------------------------

7. Chairman of the Hikkaduwa Hoteliers Association
Goonewardene said the police and hotel owners have been
educated on trafficking in persons through Tourist Board and
National Child Protection Authority programs. President of
the Galle District Press Association Sanjeeva Wijeweera said
journalists in the South have virtually no conceptual grasp
of trafficking as an issue or criminal offense, and tend to
report inaccurately on these incidents. Police
Superintendent Silva said overseas employment of women due to
poverty has increased child abuse and incest in the South.

8. COMMENT: Reports of greater awareness of TIP among
police and hotel owners in the South are encouraging.
Projects such as USAID's vocational center will help address
Galle leaders' concerns about unemployment and provide young
people with employment options other than the army. USAID
projects in the South send a signal that our development
assistance is balanced and is not directed exclusively at the
predominantly Tamil populations in conflict-affected regions.
BLAKE

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