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Cablegate: Media Play: International "Safety Net" for Sri Lanka's

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000779

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR D, INR/R/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS(FOR JWALLER); SA/PD (FOR LJIRWIN, LSCENSNY,
WREINCKENS); SSA/PAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: International "Safety Net" for Sri Lanka's
Peace Talks

1. Summary: The fate of the peace talks, together with
international efforts to coax the LTTE back to the
negotiating table, dominated the week's press. English and
vernacular headlines chronicled a string of international
visitors who made their way to the Wanni to encourage the
LTTE to return to talks. Predictably, government-owned
newspapers carried stronger, more positive headlines
regarding the "safety net" of international involvement in
the negotiations, while opposition and independent dailies
focused more on one implication of a continued LTTE absence
from the peace talks: loss of donor money. Frequent
editorials in the English opposition newspaper focused on
international involvement as" surreptitious attempts . to
compromise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri
Lanka to keep the peace process on the track," although one
government-owned paper weighed in on this theme as well.
Early editorial comment in independent Tamil papers was
concerned with the continuation of the peace talks, but
later editorials became more outcome-oriented. Considering
Assistant Secretary Rocca's impending visit, media coverage
of international involvement in the peace process will
likely continue over the weekend and into next week. End
Summary.

-----
Headlines.
------

2. Throughout the week, all major newspapers chronicled
the activities of international visitors involved in re-
starting the peace talks. The independent Tamil weekly,
VIRAKESARI, ran a representative headline (5/04):
"Important meetings this week in Vanni regarding the Tiger
stand in peace talks -- Bala, leaders of LTTE, diplomats
will take part." The DAILY MIRROR (independent English
daily) continued on 5/5 with "Norway, Japan to try to
restart peace bid." And two days later an independent
Sinhala daily, LAKBIMA, headlined "`Safety net of the
International Community supports us strongly' - says PM in
the parliament."

3. Predictably, government-owned newspapers carried
stronger, more positive headlines regarding international
involvement. On 5/4 the SUNDAY OBSERVER (government-owned
English weekender) headlined "Peace activities shift to
Colombo & Vanni," and the Tamil weekly, THINAKARAN
VAARAMANJARI, also government owned, reported "U.S.
government interested in removing obstacles in peace
process." On 5/5 the government-owned Sinhala daily,
DINAMINA, led with "Akashi, Helgerson, Solheim and Westborg
here: Christina Rocca will arrive on 12th, Balasingham
came yesterday: a series of vital talks this week between
GSL and LTTE." And the DAILY NEWS (government-owned
English daily) wrote "Continuation of peace process --
diplomatic moves gather momentum" (on 5/6) and "Global
Community will ensure resumption of peace process - PM" (on
5/7).

4. Opposition and independent papers focused on the
implications of a continued LTTE absence from the peace
talks. Under "UK to close doors for Bala if LTTE does not
attend peace talks," the independent Sinhala LANKADEEPA
SUNDAY wrote (on 5/4): "Diplomatic sources say that Anton
Balasingham would be allowed to remain in the UK, which has
also listed LTTE as a terrorist organization, only if the
LTTE decides to attend the peace talks." Concerned with
donor money, the opposition Sinhala daily, DIVAINA,
headlined: "`Tokyo aid Conference vital for LTTE as well
for GSL - Yasushi Akashi." And DIVAINA's English-medium
sister, the ISLAND, continued the theme on 5/8 with "Global
community will not pump funds if LTTE skips Tokyo confab -
Solheim."

5. Late in the week, newspapers began to focus on the
results of international pressure to re-start the peace
talks. The independent Tamil daily, VIRAKESARI, headlined:
"'Talks only after the government implements the decisions
taken at talks' - Prabhakaran informs Japanese Special
Envoy Akashi." "Norway delegates speak plain words to
LTTE" said the government-owned Sinhala daily, DINAMINA.
And on 5/8 the independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL, wrote
"'It is the duty of the International Community to get us a
proper reply from the government' - Prabhakaran tells
Akashi at Kilinochchi," and "President unhappy that the
international community did not assure the continuation of
the talks without interruption."

-----
Editorials.
-----
6. Several editorials complained international involvement
was a threat to Sri Lanka's sovereignty.
- Under "Don't barter sovereign rights," the ISLAND
(opposition English daily) argued: "a few select ministers
and top government officials along with representatives of
foreign nations . cannot barter away the sovereign rights
of the people of this country." Excerpts:
"Right now Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen
and Special envoy of the Japanese government, Yasushi
Akashi are in the Wanni attempting to negotiate on an issue
which is essentially an internal affair of Sri Lanka over
which the country is rapidly losing control.
"We have over the years, by permitting and inviting foreign
powers to come into the issue of quelling a terrorist
uprising internationalized the issue to an extent that the
sovereignty of this nation is being threatened by those
whom we have invited as' facilitators' and `peace keepers'.
".Issues involving the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan nation
are for the Sri Lankan State to decide and are no concern
of foreigners. The president may keep mum and the prime
minister may acquiesce but such rights of the nation cannot
be surrendered in such a manner.
"All those involved in these so called peace negotiations
should realize that a few select ministers and top
government officials along with representatives of foreign
nations-- irrespective of their power-cannot barter away
the sovereign rights of the people of this country."
- Under the headline, "Meeting the Challenges of
Peacemaking," government-owned English DAILY NEWS, said
that, despite international assistance, "the Lankan parties
cannot shun the basic parameters of finding a solution."
Excerpts:
"True, we are receiving the constructive and amiable
assistance of foreign parties such as the Norwegian,
Japanese and US Governments and the majority of Lankans are
warmly appreciative of this help but the final peace could
be evolved by only the Lankan parties involved.
"It is the Lankans themselves who would be finally bearing
the burden of working out a power-sharing arrangement which
would be fair by all our communities. Our foreign friends
are only facilitators. This fact should be faced squarely
and remembered constantly.
"However, the Lankan parties cannot shun the basic
parameters of finding a solution: power-sharing within an
united Sri Lanka where every community could live in
dignity."
- Under "Wiles of Tiger allies" the ISLAND complained, "we
see surreptitious attempts being made to compromise
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country to
keep the peace process on the track." Excerpts:
"The Norway-led monitors seem to be never tired of working
overtime to sanitise LTTE terrorism. They are at present
labouring hard to elevate the so-called Sea Tigers to the
level of the Sri Lanka Navy under the pretext of preventing
clashes at sea.
"The peace process, we were told at the beginning was to
protect the country. But today we see surreptitious
attempts being made to compromise sovereignty and
territorial integrity of the country to keep the peace
process on the track."
"It is imperative that the President and the Prime Minister
put the country before the peace process. The best way they
can protect the national interest, which is under threat,
is to throw out the whole caboodle of terror-allies in
monitors' garb."
And a third ISLAND editorial, "The choice: Sovereignty of
the nation or the `Peace Process,'" noted that
"Representatives of mighty nations" must be told to respect
Sri Lanka's integrity. Excerpts:
"President Kumaratunga, the opposition and the people
cannot permit the government to cave into the demands of
the terrorists and endanger the lives of about 50,000
soldiers in the north as well as the existence of the
security establishments. Yesterday, in parliament former
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar made a scathing attack
on the government and pointed out in detail to the steady
erosion of the sovereignty of the country since the signing
of the Ceasefire Agreement.
"The point has now been reached for the government to
choose between safeguarding the sovereignty of the nation
and saving the `Peace Process'. Prime Minister
Wickremasinghe, President Kumaratunga, the parliament and
the people have no choice because the 'peace Process' is in
the interests of the nation and the nation cannot be
sacrificed for what ever cause.
"Representatives of mighty nations now pushing the
government on the HSZ must be firmly told that protection
of the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan nation supersedes all
other interests."
7. Editorial comment from Tamil newspapers was more
positive.

- Under the headline "Talks to resume talks," the
independent THINAKKURAL questioned "in what way are the
talks going to proceed?" Excerpts:

"Even with Norway, Japan and some other members of the
international communities engaging in putting the talks on
track, they have failed to arrive at a firm decision.

"At the moment the talks should be solely based on resuming
talks. If
Helgesen, Akashi, Bala, Professor Peiris, Milinda Moragoda
and others have to fly from country to country to get out
this situation, what and what will take place to bring
lasting peace."

- Under the headline "Peace talks again," the independent
Tamil daily, VIRAKESARI, noted that international
shepherding of the peace process is a "good sign for the
resumption of talks." Excerpts:

"There were requests from all corners that the talks should
resume. India, which abstained from taking part in any
talks, made a u-turn and said that the talks should resume
under any circumstance. Pressure built up not only from the
international community but also internally that the talks
should resume.

"Soon talks will take place in Vanni with LTTE leader V.
Prabhakaran to clear the obstacles and resume peace talks.
LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, Norwegian Deputy
Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, Norwegian Special envoy
Eric Solheim, Former Norwegian Ambassador for Sri Lanka Jon
Westborg and Japanese Special envoy Ysushi Akashi will
participate in the discussions."

"All these are good signs for the resumption of talks."

- Finally, an editorial in the independent Tamil daily,
VIRAKESARI reminded the LTTE that it has "a duty to perform
in rebuilding North and East." Excerpts:

"Liberation Tigers have its duty to perform in rebuilding
North and East. Oslo Conference has given the Liberation
Tigers this responsibility and has expanded the role of the
international community.

"Prime Minister had clarified that the international
community will support only if steps are taken to develop
not only North and East but the whole country."

Wills

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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