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Cablegate: Media Play: Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 000831

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
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca
May 11-14 Sri Lanka Visit

1. Summary: The media received Assistant Secretary
Christina Rocca's May 11-14 visit to Sri Lanka positively
and interpreted her visit as further indication of
international support for the Island's peace process.
English, Sinhala and Tamil television coverage of Rocca's
visit was extensive. Major English and vernacular
newspapers headlined her remarks regarding cohabitation and
encouraging the LTTE to attend the Tokyo donor conference.
English editorial comment was muted and focused on
cohabitation and sovereignty issues. Tamil editorial
reaction was more robust and for the most part agreed with
Ms. Rocca's comments regarding cohabitation. Sinhala
editorialists remained silent.
A transcript of Rocca's May 13 Colombo press conference was
picked up by the Washington File, and was also distributed
to the English and vernacular Sri Lankan press. In India,
the transcript was distributed to Tamil Nadu media outlets.
India's English Sun-TV and Tamil channels carried clips of
Ms. Rocca's briefing. End summary.

-----
2. Television.
-----

English, Sinhala and Tamil television coverage of Rocca's
visit was extensive. Independent and government-owned
television stations heralded both her arrival on May 11 and
her meetings with the President, Prime Minister and the
Foreign Minister on May 12. On May 13, post hosted a
press conference for Rocca, which was aired by independent
and government-owned television stations on lunchtime and
evening newscasts in and English and vernacular broadcasts.

Indian English Sun-TV and Indian Tamil channels carried
clips of Ms. Rocca's briefing.

-----
3. Headlines.
------
Throughout Rocca's visit, major English and vernacular
newspapers focused on her comments regarding cohabitation
and the LTTE's attendance at the Tokyo donor conference.
Independent English DAILY MIRROR headlined (5/15), "US
tells UNF and PA to come together." Government -owned
English DAILY NEWS wrote (5/14), "Act in unity to achieve
peace - Rocca," and (5/15), "Rocca lauds Lankan peace
process: US urges LTTE to go to Tokyo." Opposition Sinhala
daily, DIVAINA led with (5/14), " `In order to make the
peace process happen, all political parties get together'
announces America." Independent Tamil VIRAKESARI reported
(5/15), "'LTTE should definitely attend the Tokyo
Conference- Cohabitation between President and Prime
Minister necessary' - says Christina Rocca."

Regarding her 5/12 meeting with President Kumaratunga,
independent English DAILY MIRROR (5/14) reported, "CBK
complains to US against LTTE and govt. " This was echoed by
opposition Sinhala daily DIVAINA (5/15), "Christina Rocca
is informed of MOU violations of LTTE. " The Tamil press
was predictably silent.

-----
4. English editorials.
-----
English editorial comment was muted and focused on
cohabitation and sovereignty issues.
---- Under the headline, "The spirit of Vesak and the
spirit of the constitution," opposition English daily
ISLAND (5/15) warned, ".foreign donors .consider co-
habitation quarrels will eclipse peace negotiations."
Excerpts:
"While Sri Lankans and the world outside hoped that some
form of compromise could be reached between the prime
minister and president over an issue that is not as
contentious as many other issues before them, the
president's resounding reply (my decision remains unchanged
and valid) has dashed hopes of a settlement and deepened
the political crisis.
"At yesterday's press briefing by America's key official to
the South Asian region, Assistant Secretary of State
Christina Rocca, she spoke of two challenges that are
particularly worrying: `One the possibility that the LTTE
may ignore the donor conference in Tokyo; two the
possibility that cohabitation quarrels will eclipse peace
talk deliberations'. The reference made to is quite obvious
and if the president pursues with her intended moves it
could well lead to paralysis of government, dissolution of
parliament and threaten the `Peace Process'.
"Despite President Kumaratunga's cavalier dismissal of
charges of jeopardising the `Peace Process', as pointed out
earlier in our comments, foreign donors do consider co-
habitation quarrels will eclipse peace negotiations. Indeed
even before the lotteries board issue, there were far
greater co- habitation issues that had to be resolved if
peace was to come about. But if this seemingly less
innocuous issue is to take us further down into the mire,
it will probably take this `Peace Process' along with it."

---- Under the headline, "Erosion of sovereignty,"
independent English DAILY MIRROR commented (5/16), "But for
our head of state. to obsequiously place her domestic
problems before a visiting representative of another
sovereign state, is .tantamount not only to putting the
country's sovereignty to ridicule but to bringing disgrace
to the honour and dignity of the office she holds."
Excerpts:

"The extent of the erosion of our country's sovereignty
could be judged from the fact that it has become necessary
for our head of state to complain to an outsider against
the government's alleged harassment of her party activists
and supporters and about other domestic problems.
"The President has lodged this complaint about the LTTE's
ceasefire violations and about 3,000 incidents of assault,
arson and battery against PA activists and supporters
following the December 2001 general election and regarding
police inaction over these incidents, when US Assistant
Secretary of State Christina Rocca met the President on

SIPDIS
Tuesday.
"It would indeed be a different matter if these parties
took their woes and disputes to international institutions
specifically set up for the resolution of such conflicts.
But for our head of state who wields extensive executive
powers, to obsequiously place her domestic problems before
a visiting representative of another sovereign state, is
certainly tantamount not only to putting the country's
sovereignty to ridicule but to bringing disgrace to the
honour and dignity of the office she holds."
-----
4. Vernacular editorials.
-----
Tamil editorial comment was more robust. For the most
part, Tamil editorials incorporated Ms. Rocca's remarks
into their own editorial messages, encouraging the
government to overcome its cohabitation problems. Sinhala
editorialists remained silent.


---- Under the headline, "Christina Rocca's timely
expressions," independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL
commented (5/15) that "...The government, opposition,
President and the Liberation Tigers should take note of the
views expressed by . Rocca at a time when the peace process
is facing many challenges." Excerpts:


"...The government, opposition, President and the
Liberation Tigers should take note of the views expressed
by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian
Affairs Christina Rocca at a time when the peace process is
facing many challenges.

"Tiger participation at the Tokyo Aid Conference is
uncertain. At the same time a new political crisis between
the President and the Prime Minister has emerged.

"These two issues may bring an end to national peace. The
political forces should get together and put an end to such
disputes.

"Christina Rocca has said that it is important that the
political forces apply the correct approach and settle
these two issues if Sri Lanka is to prosper in the future
within a peaceful environment. All those trying to show
their muzzles should bear this in mind."


---- Under the headline, "Disputes and Aid," Independent
Tamil daily, VIRAKESARI (5/16) echoed Rocca's comments and
wrote: "If all these parties fail to raise a common voice
the full quota of the anticipated aid may not reach Sri
Lanka." Excerpts:


"American voice is again heard that Sri Lanka should take
care of the peace talks to achieve lasting peace. The US
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Ms. Christina
Rocca has made this comment.

"Her voice at this stage, when the talks are faced with
many obstacles, is a request to the President, Prime
Minister and the Tigers to pay attention and proceed in the
right direction. ...
"... While commenting that the recent actions of the
President and the use of her executive powers are connected
to internal affairs of Sri Lanka, she said that the
international community is very much interested regarding
solution to the Sri Lankan ethnic problem and lasting peace
in Sri Lanka.

"The US government has always said that the participation
of the President at the peace talks is very vital. This has
been stressed this time too. She has stressed that the
President and the Prime minister should solve the disputes
between them amicably and should work together to find a
solution to the ethnic problem.

"The Aid Conference to be held in Tokyo, Japan in June is
very important to the government, President, Tigers and the
citizens of Sri Lanka. If all these parties fail to raise a
common voice the full quota of the anticipated aid may not
reach Sri Lanka."


---- Under the headline, "Executive powers that challenge
cohabitation," Independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL
comments (5/16), "The chances of bringing a solution to
this problem is far away." Excerpts:


"The government sources, international facilitators and the
local political forces working for peace are trying their
level best to solve the political crisis between Liberation
Tigers and the Sri Lankan government enabling the Tigers to
continue with peace talks and attend the Tokyo Aid
Conference. The chances of bringing a solution to this
problem is far away.

US Assistant Secretary for South Asia Christina Rocca
clearly said "should not allow the peace talks with
Liberation Tigers to break up and that is the advice the US
government can offer"


---- Under the headline, "A good omen," independent Tamil
daily, SUDAR OLI commented (5/16): Finally [the US] has
understood that whenever the government wants to fulfill
the aspirations of the Tamils the racists in the opposition
always try to stop such a move." Excerpts:

"Although many of them are customary statements as the
international policeman, one of here views show that the US
has understood something they refused to understand in the
past.

"The ethnic problem in Sri Lanka has along history of more
than five decades. During that period many Tamil leaders
wanted to find solutions for their problems in a peaceful
manner. But every time they tried to win the rights of the
Tamil people, the Sinhalese leaders who were in power
fooled them."

"When the Tamil people became convinced that their demands
could not be won through peaceful negotiations, they had to
start an armed struggle."

"All this time, the US government did not understand or
rather did not want to understand the basic reasons for the
armed struggle of the Tamils. Finally they have understood
that whenever the government wants to fulfill the
aspirations of the Tamils the racists in the opposition
always try to stop such a move."

"... Therefore she has warned the President and the Prime
Minister not to allow the peace talks to break off."

Wills

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