Cablegate: Media Play - Ambassador Wills' 4/24 Reuters

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 21, the LTTE announced it was suspending peace
talks. In a letter to the GSL, the LTTE listed its reasons
for suspending talks as: its exclusion from the 4/14
Washington Conference, problems with the ceasefire accord
implementation, and that GSL had not focused enough on
rebuilding the economy of the North and East. On April 24,
Reuters ran an exclusive interview with Ambassador Wills
focusing on USG reaction to this letter. The full text of
the interview was later released to the press (Reftel
Colombo 0707). In addition to Reuters and Agence France-
Presse, nearly all major English, Tamil and Sinhala dailies
carried the story, some with the full text of the
interview. Major television and radio stations did the
same. There were no editorials. Given the extensive
attention from the dailies, we expect less weekend paper
news coverage.

Television and Radio.

2. In their 4/24 newscasts, independent and government-
owned Sri Lankan telecasters (MTV, SLRC, ITN, Swarnavahini
and TNL) and radio stations carried the Ambassador's
interview as a headline story. Ambassador Wills also spoke
with BBC World's television program Asia Today.


3. The Ambassador's comments were headlined by all major
English, Sinhala, and Tamil dailies. The independent
English daily, the MIRROR ran the headline "Get back to
talks - US tells Tigers" with the full text of the
interview on the second page. Government-owned English
DAILY NEWS ran "U.S., France urge return to peace table"
below the fold, and mentioned France only briefly. Both
the MIRROR and DAILY NEWS articles highlighted the US
desire for the Tigers to return to negotiations, negative
Tiger behaviors, development assistance, and the need for
the LTTE to give up terrorism to gain international
recognition. Opposition English daily, the ISLAND led
with,"LTTE should return to negotiating table - Ashley
Wills." They covered the same topics, (but selected
excerpts somewhat more critical of the LTTE), and included
the full text.

4/24 Tamil headlines were similar. Independent Tamil
daily, Virakesari reports:"US request Tigers to attend
talks" continuing "...if the Liberation Tigers wish to
represent the Tamil people in fulfilling their aspirations,
they cannot pull out but should participate at the peace
talks" and significant excerpts of the text. Under the
headline,"Tigers should not pull out from talks; Must
attend Tokyo Conference" - requests US," Independent Tamil
daily, Thinakkural noted "Today, world's attention on Sri
Lanka is more than ever before. The international community
will be watching closely to see that no one's rights get
abused systemically once a final settlement is found. If
Tigers wish to be respected, they should accept the true
situation and work together with the government to build a
new Sri Lanka. Tigers should not pull out from talks with
the government. They also should attend the Tokyo Aid
Conference, said the US Ambassador for Sri Lanka Ashley
Wills." State owned Tamil daily, Thinakaran's headline
article, "US informs Tigers to resume talks" continued with
"US requests Tamil militants to attend talks as that is the
only way to wipe out the sufferings of Tamil people. LTTE
has informed that it is temporarily pulling out of peace
talks showing that nothing has been done to uplift the
standard of living of the Tamil people in the north and
East and for not being invited to the Washington
Meeting...If LTTE wishes to safeguard the welfare of the
Tamil people, they should not pull out but attend the peace
talks, said US Ambassador Ashley Wills....Further he said,
that the government and the LTTE should honor the
conditions in the ceasefire agreement during the time of
the suspension of talks."

Headlines in the Sinhala dailies were more slanted against
the LTTE. Government-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA led
with "Return to negotiation table; announcement of
withdrawal from Japan talks is a great mistake - America
tells LTTE," and reported "America has pointed out to LTTE
that it has done a big mistake with this
announcement..Facts like assassination of opponents, child
soldier issues, ransom etc do not help build any confidence
on the LTTE.LTTE had earlier stated that exclusion from
Washington talks, no progress in the north development
process etc, paved way to their decision of withdrawal..But
Mr. Ashley Wills stated that the exclusion was because of
US's seeing them as terrorists .." Independent Sinhala
daily LANKADEEPA led with, "America rejects tiger
reasoning" and reported "If they genuinely represent Tamils
they should not have flee from the negotiations table...
Did not LTTE engage in violations of MOU, ransoms, child
soldier recruitment? American Ambassador requests to
return to peace talks.." Independent Sinhala daily DIVAINA
ran, "If LTTE respects Tamil people's rights, they should
have not withdrawn from peace talks" - US Ambassador Ashley
Wills," and continued "If they are genuine on Tamil
people's interests, they should attend peace talks... Blame
should not be only on SLG... Solution only through
negotiations... Devolution of power a possible solution...
Sri Lanka should be one country... All ethnicities rights
can be protected only through a democratic system... Tiger
objective should be achieving peace as quickly as
possible... Their acts delay this... delay the day of Tamil
communities living in a peaceful environment... They have
already missed several opportunities..."

International coverage began with the exclusive granted to
Reuters (4/23) , "U.S. urges Tamil Tigers to return to
peace table." Agence France-Presse (4/24) also carried
excerpts from the interview under the headline "US slams
Tigers over pull out from Sri Lanka talks," and began with
"The United States Thursday slammed Tamil Tiger guerrillas
for suspending peace talks with the Colombo government and
warned the rebels they must renounce "terrorism" and resume
negotiations." The Hindu of India (4/24) states, "LTTE
pursuing violent, separatist agenda: U.S."


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