Cablegate: Media Play: Cohabitation Crisis Returns
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 000790
DEPT FOR D, INR/R/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (FOR JWALLER); SA/PD (FOR LJIRWIN, LSCENSNY,
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: COHABITATION CRISIS RETURNS
1. Sri Lanka's chronic cohabitation problems resurfaced on
Friday (5/9) when President Kumaratunga announced her
intention to remove the Development Lotteries Board from
the Ministry of Economic Reforms and put it under
presidential purview. Media reaction was quick. Some
Saturday (5/10) headlines were straightforward:
"Development Lottery Board taken over by the President,"
DIVAINA (independent Sinhala daily) reported. "President
takes over Development Lotteries Board" said the DAILY NEWS
(government-own English daily). But by Saturday other
headlines had assumed that cohabitation, not lottery
boards, was the subject. For example, the front page of
Saturday's DAILY MIRROR (independent English daily) said:
"President, PM clash head-on."
2. On Sunday (5/11) the imbroglio spilled into nasty
headlines. "Ready to fight if solution is not welcome"
said SUNDAY LANKADEEPA (independent Sinhala weekender),
quoting the Prime Minister. "Serious violation of
cohabitation," said SUNDAY DIVAINA (independent Sinhala
weekender) quoting Milinda Moragoda, the Minister from whom
the lottery was being taken. "President's action beginning
of a plot," SUNDAY THINKAKURAL (independent Tamil
weekender) suspected. And "country plunged into crisis"
headlined the SUNDAY LEADER (independent English
weekender). Clearly, another - and a badly timed - round
of cohabitation problems had arrived.
3. Predictably, Sunday editorials pounced on the story.
Some blamed the President, others the Prime Minister. All
were of a single mind, however: not this, not now;
negotiations with the LTTE are more important that
cohabitation bickering. Items:
- the DAILY MIRROR (independent English daily) turned
metaphorical under the headline" Stop descent to further
degeneration": "When a house is on fire, if the members of
the household begin a brawl inside, instead of making a
collective effort to put out the fire, what is immediately
called into question is the state of their sanity. It is a
question of similar nature that has arisen in the public
mind over what the political leaders of this country are
doing today. After we witnessed a flurry of diplomatic
activity engaged in by our foreign godfathers in a bid to
bring the recalcitrant LTTE back to the conference table,
we are now treated to a dramatic domestic battle over
- Under the headline "Negotiation and agreement is what we
need," DINAMINA (independent Sinhala daily) said:
"political parties may have political differences . but for
the sake of peace there should be co-habitation, not a
- DIVAINA (independent Sinhala daily) called it "a
political crisis ... totally uncalled for," noting that
when "the international community and its aid teams look at
the peace process, they see political comedy instead."
- "Don't let unwanted crises topple the country," headlined
LANKADEEPA (independent Sinhala daily). "This may effect
the aid conference," create "a conducive environment for
the Tigers," and damage the peace effort. "Please
negotiate and solve problems without taking power hungry
approaches: that is our earnest request to both parties."
- Under the headline "Tit for tat?" the SUNDAY ISLAND
(independent English weekender) wrote: "both sides have to
be roundly condemned about the games they are playing at a
time when the country needs more statesmanship and less
pettiness in the conduct of national business."
- Said the SUNDAY OBSERVER (government-owned English
weekender): "A return to the old practices of intense
rivalry over the resources and powers of the Sri Lankan
state will serve only to undermine the political impetus
towards an ending of the war. Neither party can afford to
return, at this juncture, to the politics of contest of
over the `spoils' of State. The focus of the entire
nation, especially of the political leadership, must remain
fixed on the critical issue of the time.
- The independent Tamil daily, Virakesari, called it a
"political crisis" that must be avoided. "... all should
join hands in finding a lasting solution rather than any
infighting over petty issues.... This is the wish of the