Cablegate: Media Play - 4/14 Washington Conference

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. On April 14 Deputy Secretary Armitage hosted an
international conference on Sri Lanka for representatives
of 21 countries and 16 international organizations who
gathered to discuss Sri Lanka's peace negotiations, and
international assistance for the Island's development and
reconstruction. As expected, the Sri Lankan media's
response to the conference was quick, plentiful, and mainly
positive. All of the Island's major telecasters covered
the story in their 4/15 evening newscasts. On 4/16 and
again on 4/17 the conference received front-page coverage
in most English and vernacular dailies. As of 4/17 one
English and one Tamil daily had commented editorially.
Both editorials were critical of the conference, but we
anticipate that the post-holiday weekender op-ed coverage
will be heavy and more nuanced.


2. In their 4/15 newscasts Sri Lankan telecaster headlined
the conference with stories such as "Washington conference
pledges support for Sri Lanka," "$3 billion dollar
assistance for Sri Lanka for three years from Washington
conference," "In Washington conference, three years
assistance agreed at the rate of $1 billion per year," and
"U.S. assistance assured in Washington conference."


3. Newspaper headlines were invariably positive. "Global
support for 'momentum of peace' in Sri Lanka" and "India
for united Sri Lanka" said the government-owned English
daily, while the government-owned vernaculars used
headlines such as "SLG's Reawakening Sri Lanka fully
endorsed" and "'Last chance for peace -- if we fail, no
more possibilities' says [Milinda] Moragoda," one of the
GOSL's chief negotiators. The independent press was
equally effusive, e.g., "$3 billion assistance for Sri
Lanka," "Plans to disburse 1 billion per annum," and
"Assistance for Sri Lanka - Rs.100,000 each year, for 3
years" said the Sinhala independents, and Sri Lanka's major
English independent daily, the MIRROR, wrote -- in
reference to the fact that 4/14 was New Years Day in Sri
Lanka -- "biggest new year gift for Lanka: aid donors
pledge $2 billion a year at Washington meeting." Even the
skeptical Upali Group's headlines applauded. The Group's
Sinhala daily said "Washington Conference pledges absolute
support for 'Re awakening of Sri Lanka,'" while its English
daily said "U.S., Japan, IMF praise peace effort," adding
only that "LTTE must give up terrorism in word and deed -


4. Under the headline "Washington Summit" the independent
Tamil daily SUDAR OLI focused on the absence of the LTTE,
saying that the "The Washington meeting was like a wedding
without the bridegroom." Excerpts:

"A meeting to encourage international cooperation and
support for the peace process and development was held in
Washington under the chairmanship of U.S. Deputy Secretary
of State Richard Armitage.... Representatives of 21
countries and 16 international organizations attended the
meeting.... But no one represented the Tigers because the
U.S. did not invite them.

"The Tigers were invited to the meeting in Norway, and they
attended. They have been invited to the Tokyo Donor Summit
in June, and have decided to attend. But to the Washington
meeting the Liberation Tigers, the sole representatives of
the Tamil people, were not invited.

"U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard [Armitage] knows
that the Tigers are unhappy.... He explained why they were
not invited. Because the LTTE is on the list of Terrorist
Organizations, inviting them would have been illegal. He
also said that the Liberation Tigers should renounce
violence and terrorism by words and deeds.

"The U.S. has already said that the LTTE has never been
involved in terrorist activities in the U.S. and that they
have no connection with any other international terrorist

"The Liberation Tigers have signed an MOU with the
government and the ceasefire has held for over a year. Six
rounds of talks have been convened, and Armitage himself is
happy with the progress....

"Even under these circumstances, however, he requests the
Tigers to renounce violence by words and deeds. What is
the meaning of this? Why is he asking those who are not
involved in violence to renounce violence?

"Is it correct to label as violence the LTTE actions, taken
prior to the MOU, to win the rights of the Tamil people?
Then the Sri Lankan government was also engaged in

"And what can we call the killing of innocent people in
today's Iraqi war? Law should be equal to everyone.

"The Washington meeting was like a wedding without the

5. Under the headline "Cart before the Horse" the typically
skeptical opposition English daily ISLAND complained that
giving aid to the LTTE does not promote peace. Excerpts:
"American officials such as Mr. Armitage poured ice cold
water on the hot heads of the Wanni when they were not
extended an invitation to the Washington Seminar although
the Tigers were key players. Anton Balasingham, the LTTE
spokesman... even threatened to keep out of the Tokyo
Conference if they were not invited to Washington. Armitage
very coolly pointed out `We do not yet see a rational for
lifting the designation as a foreign terrorist
organisation. Our position is crystal clear. The LTTE must
unequivocally renounce terrorism in word and deed, if we
are to consider withdrawing the designation'."
"We have been very hard on the government, the Norwegian
peace monitors and even western nations involved for
looking away from acts of terrorism of the LTTE. The
thinking behind this indulgent attitude on terrorism is
that it is for the `greater good'. Ignore these `minor
infringements' - even if they be smuggling of arms,
abduction of children and sinking of ships' - for the
`Peace Process' has to be saved, it is claimed. But one
year and four months of the `Peace Process' have passed and
terrorism continues unabated.""Mr. Armitage has said:
`Indeed. I believe that negotiations......have reached
animportant point, on where an infusion of international
support could add an unstoppable force to this momentum of
peace'. We agree that continued moral support would indeed
yield positive results but material assistance to a region,
run by a group still committed to terrorism will only add
momentum to their barbaric ways of governance and not to
"While it is extremely desirable and tempting to commence
rehabilitation and reconstruction as soon as possible, it
will be prudent on the part of all those who want the
people of the North and East to live under a pluralistic
democratic regime to hold back this assistance till a final
agreement has been signed and a durable peace achieved."
"Pumping of massive assistance before democracy and a
durable peace is established into regions under terrorism
is tantamount to placing the cart before the horse."

© Scoop Media

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