Cablegate: Media Play: (June 10) Tokyo Conference: Colombo
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 001008
Department for D (Gastright), INR/MR, I/RW, I/REC,
SA (CAPM, WALLER), SA/PD (BRENNIG, IRWIN, SCENSNY),
SSA/PAS; SSO (PASS TO D); TOKYO (Hara, Bryan)
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: (JUNE 10) Tokyo Conference: Colombo
1. Summary. Tamil newspapers reserved pride of place for
optimistic headlines about an interim administration and the
future of the peace talks. Donor money and international
support of the peace process were also well-represented
subjects. English and vernacular government-owned and
independent media echoed these themes. Even the opposition
newspapers were unusually sunny, Editorials were
apprehensive about how donor money will be spent and
cautioned, "..peace will be secured only in democracy." End
2. LTTE statements and other Tamil reaction.
Tamil newspapers reserved pride of place for optimistic
headlines about an interim administration and the future of
the peace talks. All major dailies relayed Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe's remarks in their lead stories.
Independent daily VIRAKESARI quoted, "Development work in
the north through provisional administrative structure -
participation of the Tigers assured," while state-owned
daily THINAKARAN added, ".will amend the constitution once
[they] reach a solution." Independent daily THINAKKURAL
enthused, "Next stage of peace efforts started."
As always, Tamil media was detail-oriented - in this case -
about the money. Pro-LTTE SUDAR OLI wrote, "Expected USD 3
billion, received USD 4 billion at the Tokyo Conference -
Period extended from three to four years." Independent
daily VIRAKESARI sealed the deal, "Japanese Representatives
will visit Kilinochchi next week and inform Tigers
officially about the aid received."
Surprisingly, pro-LTTE SUDAR OLI quoted Minister of Muslim
Religious Affairs Rauf Hakeem, "Tokyo Conference a victory
to Muslims," state-owned THINAKARAN quoted him as well, "All
communities benefit by development through peace."
International support of the peace process was well
represented in the Tamil dailies. Independent daily
VIRAKESARI quoted Deputy Secretary Armitage, "President
should inform the international community about her support
towards peace efforts. Independent daily THINAKKURAL did
the same, "The US is ready to point out the duties of the
Tigers to obtain official recognition - Break of talks,
unimaginable," and quotes the conference host, "Japan
requests LTTE to return to peace talks ASAP."
Under the headline, "Armitage addresses Sri Lanka donors'
conference, pro-LTTE TamilNet ran a transcript of the Deputy
Secretary's opening remarks in Tokyo. The introductory
quote is below.
Noting that the momentum of the Sri Lanka peace process is
slowing, US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said the
international community needs to provide an infusion of
moral and material support to move the parties and the
process forward when he addressed the Sri Lanka donors'
conference in Japan, Monday. But, he said, "no matter how
much we pledge at this conference, it is ultimately the
prime minister, the president of Sri Lanka, members of the
LTTE, and most importantly of all the people of Sri Lanka,
who will have to deliver on the promise of peace."
End block quote.
Tamil editorialists did not address Tokyo directly. Marking
World Environment Day, the pro-LTTE SUDAR OLI editorial page
headlined, "With reconstruction, a better environment is
also necessary," and commented, "The aid given by the
international community is required only for the
reconstruction and rehabilitation work. The protection of
environment is in the hands of all people. If the
environment is polluted there's no prosperity." Independent
daily THINAKKURAL's editorial, "Japanese Prime Minister's
concern," chronicled his comments, and summarized, "The
international community is anxiously awaiting the dawn of
peace, ending the conflict in Sri Lanka. The peace
negotiations, started by President Chandrika Kumaratunga,
are being carried forward by the Prime Minister with the
support of the people. The day peace will dawn, fulfilling
the expectation of people and the international community,
is not far away. The peace efforts in Sri Lanka should end
up victorious and be model to the whole world."
3. GSL statements and pro-government reaction.
State-owned television and radio stations' English and
vernacular coverage of the Tokyo Conference was heavy, and
included stories about unexpectedly large donor pledges and
the participation of more than 50 countries and 20 financial
institutions. International requests for the LTTE to return
to the negotiating table also figured prominently,
particularly Deputy Secretary Armitage's remarks to the
State-owned newspapers focused on donor money and
international exhortations for the LTTE to return to the
peace talks. State-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA
"Assistance pledged for PM's programs on Reawakening Sri
Lanka and peace; (Rs) Kouti 40000 [US $4 billion] for Sri
Lanka - Highest financial assistance so far." State-owned
English DAILY NEWS reported, "Prove commitment to negotiated
settlement, Armitage tells LTTE," and "LTTE should return to
talks - Japanese PM."
Concern about the domestic front also surfaced in government-
sympathetic headlines. State-owned English DAILY NEWS
reassured, "Govt. will continue efforts to bring lasting
peace - PM," while state-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA
observed, "People in the north blame the LTTE for not going
to the Japan confab."
ED: Approaches to development dominated the editorial pages
of the state-owned English daily. The state-owned Sinhala
daily editorialized about the threat to peace killings in
the north pose.
--- Under the headline, "The challenges ahead," state-owned
English DAILY NEWS comments, that a ""bottom-up" approach"
to development, "would enable a fuller fleshing out of
development plans and ensure a more sensitive response from
the State to the people's needs."
However, the process of economic rejuvenation is not going
to prove easy, and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was frank
enough to recognize this reality.
It was also recognized that although development needed to
be put on a fast track, our public service was too large,
poorly paid and lacks the capacity to handle the increased
rates of project design and implementation.
We believe we are blessed with sufficient local expertise
for these major projects, although their capacity for
handling these challenges may need to be upgraded and
enhanced. This, the State may need to concern itself with
rightaway. A skills and capacity upgrading program for these
exercises we consider an essential requirement.
Besides, there needs to be closer interaction between the
grass roots masses, their organisations and the State and
its agencies for a comprehensive push towards development.
It is widely felt that the approach which is dominating on
the development front right now, is a "top-down" one which
could lose sight of the real needs of the people.
On the other hand, a "bottom-up" approach would enable a
fuller fleshing out of development plans and ensure a more
sensitive response from the State to the people's needs.
End block quotes.
--- In a rare business page editorial, "Using Tokyo funds
prudently," state-owned DAILY NEWS commented, "The
government's implementing agencies should work closely with
business chambers and key players in the private sector in
formulating development plans that use the Tokyo funds.
Their input will be valuable in identifying and designing
projects that could propel Sri Lanka ahead of its regional
----Under the headline,"` Killings in the north- a threat to
peace," state-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA commented, "There
have been so many violations of the MOU in the past period.
America and other countries sternly advised the LTTE quite a
few times to renounce terrorism. Whether in or outside
Tokyo, the LTTE will have to face allegations on human
rights violations. They have to accept the basic principles
of democracy. We condemn these ruthless killings and wish
to state that peace will be secured only in democracy."
4. Opposition statements and pro-opposition reaction.
Opposition newspapers offered many of the same stories as
the Tamil and state-owned press. The independent, but
nationalist-leaning, ISLAND and Sinhala sister paper DIVAINA
were unusually conciliatory in their coverage of an interim
administration. DIVAINA wrote, "LTTE and the GSL are not
poles apart in their views on an interim administration,
while the ISLAND quoted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, "To
facilitate normalcy in civil life north and east should be
given an interim administration."
Under the headline, "LTTE, JVP and democracy," independent,
but nationalist-leaning, English daily ISLAND criticized the
international community for legitimizing Prabakaran's
leadership of the LTTE, and "is acting in a manner which is
suggestive that it has accepted the terror outfit as the
sole representative of the Tamils."
Today the JVP has, no doubt, realised that democracy is much
more rewarding than terror: It has won 16 seats in
Parliament and a large number seats in provincial councils
and local government bodies. Lo and behold! It is
campaigning against terrorism today.
Why the JVP was not amenable to a negotiated settlement
during its heyday of terror was its intransigence, which
stemmed from the obduracy of its leadership. Hadn't the JVP
leadership come to perish, the situation would have been
Likewise so long as Prabhakaran remains the `supreme leader'
the LTTE's intransigence which is blocking the path to
negotiations let alone peace will be insurmountable.
It is strange that the international community, which is
pontificating on the virtues of tolerance of dissent,
internal democracy and a host of other democratic principles
and has given full cry to regime change in 'rogue states'
has taken for granted the LTTE leadership and its ruthless
suppression of democracy and is acting in a manner which is
suggestive that it has accepted the terror outfit as the
sole representative of the Tamils.
Hypocrisy of the so-called international community
notwithstanding, the irony is that when the `doves' try to
counter the JVP campaign against the peace process by asking
them if they could enter democratic politics despite an ugly
past why can't the LTTE do so, they unwittingly support the
cry of the anti-terror activists for countering LTTE
terrorism in the same manner as that of the JVP.
End block quotes.
5. Independent media reaction
Independent television and radio stories about Tokyo
focused on donor money and international support of the
peace process. Independent newspapers followed suit.
Independent English DAILY MIRROR headlined, "'I will never
give up on peace': PM - Expresses appreciation of
significant role by President," and reported, "US strongly
urges LTTE to return to talks." Independent Sinhala daily
LANKADEEPA observed, "`Promised funds will come only
according to the progress of peace talks'-says Japan PM and
asks LTTE to come to negotiations." The DAILY MIRROR's
business page headlined, "ADB points to effective, quick aid
utilization - Flood of donor support for peace and growth at
Tokyo boosts Sri Lanka's profile internationally."