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Cablegate: Media Play: Armitage to Attend Tokyo Conference

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 000898

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Armitage to Attend Tokyo Conference
on Sri Lanka Reconstruction


1. Summary: On 5/23 Washington announced that Deputy
Secretary Armitage would attend the Tokyo Conference on

SIPDIS
reconstruction for Sri Lanka. Post issued a similar press
release to local media on 5/24. Independent and
government-owned television stations heralded Armitage's
decision in all languages. English and vernacular coverage
of the announcement was heavily covered in Sri Lankan
weekend newspapers. One English opposition paper commented
on US and international involvement in Tokyo (5/25),
"Obviously if the world community did not believe that
there was a genuine possibility of working out a durable
peace here, they would not be devoting their time, energy
and money in backing the effort." End summary.

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

Independent and government-owned television stations
heralded Armitage's decision to attend the Tokyo Conference
in English, Sinhala and Tamil newscasts (5/24).

-----
3. Headlines.
------
English and vernacular coverage of Armitage's announcement
was heavy in Sri Lankan weekend newspapers. Opposition
English daily ISLAND scooped on 5/24 with, "US will attend
Tokyo conference." Government-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA,
headlined (5/25), "`Japan Aid Conference to be held as
scheduled' - American State Department." Government-owned
Sinhala weekly SILUMINA reported (5/25), "'Go ahead with
Japan Aid Conference'-says America," while state-owned
Tamil weekly, THINAKARAN VAARAMANJARI ran a stronger
headline (5/25), "`Irreparable loss to Sri Lanka if the
Tokyo Conference does not take place'- Richard Armitage."
-----
4. Editorial Comment.
-----
On 5/25, under the headline, "The Tigers and Tokyo,"
opposition English weekly ISLAND SUNDAY commented on U.S.
and international involvement in Tokyo: "Obviously if the
world community did not believe that there was a genuine
possibility of working out a durable peace here, they would
not be devoting their time, energy and money in backing the
effort." The editor also observed, "If the Tigers really
feel for their people, their duty lies in maximizing
foreign assistance that can be raised for reconstructing
and repairing the war devastation in both the North and the
East." Excerpts:

"Whether the news from Washington and Tokyo that the major
donor conference to be hosted in mid-June by the Japanese
government will be held regardless of LTTE participation
will nudge the Tigers to abandon their hard line and attend
the meeting remains to be seen. There is no doubt that the
absence of the LTTE from this meeting, showcased to both
Sri Lanka and the world as an event where the pledging of
some serious money is assured, will rob the event of some
of its glamour. But it is not going to scuttle it
altogether as the LTTE, now playing a dangerous game of
brinkmanship, seems to expect. This became unmistakably
clear on Friday.
"The Tigers understand international pressure very well.
That, together with the war weariness of the people they
claim to represent, is what encouraged them in the first
place to sign the cease-fire agreement and sit at the
negotiating table with Colombo's representatives.
"The U.S. State Department said on Friday that Deputy
Secretary Armitage was attending the Tokyo meeting. In

SIPDIS
language that was clearly unambiguous, the State
Department's spokesman repeated the dates - June 9 and 10 -
and the venue adding that Armitage looked forward to
discussing reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance to
Sri Lanka at the conference. The high ranking official was
quoted saying that this event was important for the
international community, enabling it to "demonstrate its
solid support for the peace process and its full commitment
to contribute to the reconstruction and development of all
regions of the country, including the North and East, which
have been devastated by nearly 20 years of conflict."
"Washington intends to back up its statement with letters
to some 60 countries about the importance of the Tokyo
meeting and the need for their attendance and support.
Obviously if the world community did not believe that there
was a genuine possibility of working out a durable peace
here, they would not be devoting their time, energy and
money in backing the effort. That is why the LTTE, seeking
to extract the last ounce of possible advantage for itself,
has adopted its present strategy. Given the ease with which
it extracted other concessions like having Colombo lift its
proscription on the Tigers and the softening of their
stance by some countries where the LTTE is outlawed,
Prabhakaran and Balasingham may well have believed that
there is more to get. The run-up to Tokyo was obviously the
best time to grab what they can and that's the way the game
is now being played. The interim administration for the
northeast dominated by themselves is clearly the immediate
objective.
"The people of Sri Lanka have already enjoyed some benefits
of peace in the fifteen months since the gun went silent.
But the economic dividends have been slow in coming.
Colombo has built up massive expectations that this would
change post-Tokyo and the signals from abroad tended to
support that view. Apart from the U.S. position that the
Tokyo meeting must be held as scheduled, "notwithstanding
the LTTE's stated position not to participate," the arrest
in Thailand of some Tiger arms smugglers and the whip
cracking by the Thai prime minister that followed must also
send a message to the Tiger hierarchy that they are now
sailing very close to the wind.
"Now that it's clear that the Tokyo meeting will be held,
with or without the LTTE, they must also remember that
pledges can also get diverted for flood relief in the south
if they are absent from that forum when how the funds
pledged will be utilized. Undoubtedly, flood relief too is
badly needed but rebuilding the infrastructure in the
northeast will still command greater donor focus if the
case is properly presented. If the Tigers really feel for
their people, their duty lies in maximizing foreign
assistance that can be raised for reconstructing and
repairing the war devastation in both the North and the
East. Losing out there by default will be criminal folly."

Wills

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