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Cablegate: Mission Team Journeys Through Ltte Controlled

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 002204

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR SA/INS

E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV CE LTTE
SUBJECT: Mission team journeys through LTTE controlled
territory; Tamil Eelam still touted in the Vanni


1. (U) This message is Sensitive But Unclassified,
please handle accordingly.

2. (U) SUMMARY: Mission team successfully concluded its
first journey through the Tiger controlled north since
opening of the A-9 road in April 2002. Although the
trip was uneventful in terms of LTTE actions, travelling
on the ill-kept A-9 was arduous. The presence of LTTE
cadre, predominantly women, was clearly visible along
the entire route. Villages in the Tiger controlled
areas appeared lively and colorful. Despite these
observations, the majority of the trip was through vast
tracks of unused land. The A-9 is an example of the
government and LTTE cooperating to make travelling as
easy as possible. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) Mission team successfully traversed Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled territory in
northern Sri Lanka to reach the Jaffna Peninsula on
November 25 and returned the next day in another
uneventful journey. This was the first time since the
A-9 road reopened on April 8 that representatives from
the U.S. Mission used the road. The last time an
American from the U.S. Mission used that portion of the
road in the Vanni, the area of northern Sri Lanka
controlled by the LTTE, was in 1987.

4. (U) Although the Mission team was quickly cleared
through all checkpoints and had no interaction with LTTE
cadre, the trip itself was arduous due to the poor
condition of the road. The road varied in quality from
short stretches that were smooth and wide enough for
two-way traffic to areas that were washed out with the
tarmac that was once in place barely recognizable. One
small section was flooded. Despite all of the problems,
the road was useable. It took just over three hours to
travel through approximately 94 kilometers (58 miles)
controlled by the LTTE. According to government
estimates, there is an average of 3000 people travelling
the same route each day. Some low-tech and labor
intensive repair work of the road is ongoing, but it is
unclear if repairs can keep pace with the use.

5. (U) Mission team noted the ubiquitousness of women
LTTE cadre along the stretch of the A-9 in LTTE
controlled areas. The checkpoints into and out of the
Vanni were controlled by LTTE police (men and women) and
women LTTE cadre. Except for certain women cadre (those
in black or dark green uniforms), which had automatic
weapons, the LTTE representatives tended not to be as
heavily armed as the military at the government
checkpoints.

6. (SBU) One additional sign of the complete control,
which the LTTE exercises in the Vanni is that they
register and issue license plates for the vehicles
operating in their area. Some drivers change the
appropriate license plates on their trucks or busses
between the government and LTTE checkpoints. The LTTE
license plates all began with the Tamil letter "thaana,"
which is often seen as signifying "Tamil Eelam." Signs
alongside the road also referred to Tamil Eelam. One
map went so far as to indicate that Tamil Eelam
stretched from south of Puttalam on the west coast
around to Yala National Park on the southeast coast and
significant portions inland. This map showed "Tamil
Eelam" covering at least two-thirds of the coast and in
excess of a third of Sri Lanka in general. The martyrs'
day posters, the Tamil Eelam maps, and the recruitment
posters all point to an attachment to the notion of
"Tamil Eelam."

7. (U) The villages along the A-9 were colorful and
lively. The stores appeared full and people seemed
busy. Just off the main road and outside the village
centers, however, the destruction wrought by previous
military campaigns was visible. Driving into the LTTE
controlled territory the roadside became noticeably
cleaner than in government-controlled areas. NGO
representatives in Jaffna commented positively on the
government's easing of restrictions on transport of
goods into LTTE areas. Their comments seemed to be
verified by the amount of basic consumer goods available
in roadside stores. The work of international
organizations is also clearly seen along the A-9. UNHCR
material, UNICEF mine awareness signs, and ICRC stations
were all prominent in the Vanni.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The most striking aspect of the
journey was the ease with which Mission personnel were
able to conduct the trip. The government and the LTTE
have worked out the difficulties they had in April and
May re access to the A-9. Government officials, NGOs,
INGOs, and IOs working in the area reportedly have IDs
that permit them to travel without taxation or undue
hassle at the LTTE or military checkpoints. In
addition, there are provisions for diplomats to travel
through the region. Mission still has some concerns
with the safety of the road and how any vehicle
difficulties would be dealt with, but for now the A-9
appears to be a viable option in travelling to Jaffna.
(Note: The RSO intends to travel the A-9 in the near
future to review in detail security issues.) END
COMMENT.

WILLS

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