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Cablegate: Media Play: (June 11) 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 04 COLOMBO 001015

SIPDIS

Department for D (Gastright), INR/MR, I/RW, I/REC,
SA (CAMP, WALLER), SA/PD (BRENNIG, IRWIN, SCENSNY),
SSA/PAS; SSO (PASS TO D); TOKYO (HARA, BRYAN)

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: (JUNE 11) TOKYO CONFERENCE

1. Summary. In the aftermath of the Tokyo Conference, Sri
Lankan English and vernacular media was in high gear. Tamil
newspapers ran positive headlines about Tokyo's outcome, but
reflected concern about opposition party views of donor
money. Tamil editorials encouraged the LTTE to return to
peace talks and discussed the international community's
interest in Sri Lanka. One Tamil editorialist observed, "It
should be noted that the change of attitude of the Tigers in
seeking solutions for the problems of the Tamil people and
entering the democratic stream was a great give-in by the
LTTE." State-owned television, radio and newspapers toed
the optimistic government line. Opposition media headlines
were sour, but editorials lacked their usual vitriol aimed
at the international community. Independent media coverage
of Tokyo's outcome was very positive. End summary.

-----
2. LTTE statements and other Tamil reaction.
-----
Tamil newspapers ran positive headlines about Tokyo's
outcome, but reflected concern about opposition party views
of donor money. Major dailies led with headlines about the
interim administration and international encouragement of
the peace process. Independent daily VIRAKESARI reported,
"`Government and Tigers should soon talk on interim
administrative structure - Must find solutions on the basis
of a federal a system' - Declaration at the Tokyo
Conference." Independent daily THINAKKURAL elaborated,
"Tokyo Conference invites Tigers to resume peace talks;
Akashi will meet Balasingham in London; Japanese Ambassador
in Sri Lanka will travel to Kilinochchi immediately," while
pro-LTTE SUDAR OLI focused on Armitage's comments, "All
should work with courage and achieve peaceful solution
through talks."

The fate of donor money generated much consternation in the
Tamil press. Pro-LTTE SUDAR OLI headlined, "Tokyo
Conference wants GSL to assure that the funds allocated for
NE will be spent in respective areas," while independent
daily THINAKKURAL quoted Japanese Special Envoy Akashi,
"Considerable amount of the aid received would be spent for
NE."

Nearly all Tamil dailies paid special attention to People's
Alliance Spokesman Sarath Amunugama's recent comments.
Independent daily VIRAKESARI quoted him, "No benefits from
Tokyo Conference; we will speak on this once we come to
power." Independent daily, THINAKKURAL added, "PA worried
that the Tokyo Conference has made the Sri Lankans bigger
debtors."

Pro-LTTE TamilNet also featured Amunugama's remarks under
the headline, "`Tokyo donors' conference will not benefit
Sri Lanka' -PA."

Block quote:

Sri Lanka's main opposition People's Alliance (PA) led by
President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge Tuesday said ninety
percent of aid pledged at the Tokyo donors' conference are
loans and not grants. "Majority of the aid given at the
donors' conference are on various interest rates with
several conditions attached," said People's Alliance media
spokesman Mr.Sarath Amunugama at a press briefing held
Tuesday at the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

End block quote.

Tamil editorials encouraged the LTTE to return to peace
talks and discussed the international community's interest
in Sri Lanka.

--- Under the headline, "Prime Minister's speech and the
administrative structure," independent daily VIRAKESARI
commented, "It should be noted that the change of attitude
of the Tigers in seeking solutions for the problems of the
Tamil people and entering the democratic stream was a great
give-in by the LTTE."

Block quotes.

The LTTE alleges that the aid received for NE would not be
spent on NE. SIHRN, a body formed as a result of the peace
talks is almost paralyzed. This made the Tigers to demand a
powerful body with more authority to handle the aid that
would be received.

The speech made by the PM has solutions for all these
problems. SL Constitution is the barrier for all the
progress. That is why the Tigers opted to go their way. It
was a victory for the government when the LTTE agreed to a
solution through peace talks. It should be noted that the
change of attitude of the Tigers in seeking solutions for
the problems of the Tamil people and enter the democratic
stream was a great give-in by the LTTE. If lasting peace
should dawn, both parties should be prepared to give-in more
and more. Otherwise this will be an ongoing series forever.
End block quotes.

--- Under the headline, "Two things that the Tokyo
Conference teaches," pro-LTTE daily SUDAR OLI chronicled the
international community's interest in Sri Lanka and noted
that the cooperation of the LTTE is necessary to reach a
political settlement and reconstruct the north and east.

Block quotes.

It was possible to find out about the interest the
international community has in the LTTE at the Tokyo
Conference they boycotted.

While addressing the conference, the Prime Minister accepted
the fault of the government and pointed out that action will
be taken to establish a provincial administrative structure
with the support of the international community. There's
not much of a difference between an interim administrative
structure and a provincial administrative structure. The
international community has accepted the provincial
administrative structure.

The Tokyo Donor Conference has stressed that government and
the LTTE should jointly continue with peace talks and
utilize the assistance provided by the international
community in a proper manner for the reconstruction and
development work.

The international community has given an assurance to grant
USD 4.5 billion as aid instead of USD 3 billion that was
expected. If there is progress in the peace efforts the
international community will consider more aid. The
international community is greatly interested in a peaceful
Sri Lanka.

End block quotes.

-----
3. GSL statements and pro-government reaction.
-----
State--owned television, radio and newspapers toed the
optimistic government line. One editorial addressed the
impact of donor conditions on the peace process. State-
owned English DAILY NEWS enthused, "Donors reaffirm
commitment to rebuilding Sri Lanka," while state-owned
Sinhala sister DINAMINA reported, "`Message given by the
Tokyo conference - a supportive tool for restoring peace-
talks' says PM at the conclusion of the confab." The DAILY
NEWS' positive coverage continued, "Tokyo a new beginning to
re-energise peace process - PM," and "We will support you
in quest for peace - Armitage."

Under the editorial headline, "Seizing the moment," state-
owned English DAILY NEWS observed that donor considerations
".should prompt both major parties in the peace process to
carefully map out their future courses of action."
Block quotes.
In other words, the massive aid pledge is an unprecedented
vote of confidence in Sri Lanka, on the part of the aid-
giving community. Chief, of course, among the latter are
Japan, the US and the EU.
Clearly, the aid promised would be concretely realised only
in tandem with tangible progress made in the peace effort.
In other words, this is financial assistance with strings
attached. Sri Lanka would need to provide proof that it is
safely on the path to a negotiated settlement, if the
promised donor funding is to be forthcoming.
These considerations should prompt both major parties in the
peace process to carefully map out their future courses of
action. As far as the Government is concerned, it is
abundantly clear that it would want to go ahead with the
negotiating process. However, it is only fair that it is
realised that the conditions on the ground should be
conducive to a return to the negotiating table on the part
of the LTTE. For instance, the development process in the
North-East should get on to a fast track if the LTTE is to
realise that it would be worthwhile giving the negotiations
another try.
End block quotes

----
4. Opposition statements and pro-opposition reaction.
-----
Opposition media headlines were sour, but editorials lacked
their usual vitriol aimed at the international community.
Independent, but nationalist-leaning, Sinhala daily DIVAINA
reported, "LTTE boycotted confab to keep away from
international human rights convention," and echoed the
opposition's gripes about donor aid delivery, "PA
spokesperson says `Tokyo aid added to our debts.'" Sister
paper English daily ISLAND detailed the same theme, "Per
capita debt zooms to Rs. 95,000 after Tokyo Aid - PA," but
softened its coverage with," "Donors pledges $4.5 b at Tokyo
confab - Aid above expectation and foundation for peaceful
Lanka - PM." Independent Sinhala LANKADEEPA also covered
the PA's comments, "[This is] not a gift from Santa - 95%
aid is debt, per capita debt is 95,000- says Sarath
Amunugama [PA-spokesperson]."


--- Independent, but nationalist-leaning, English daily
ISLAND's editorial comment slammed the LTTE, but reversed
its frequent criticism of the international community's
involvement in the Sri Lanka's peace process. Under the
headline, "Boycott boomerangs!" the ISLAND wrote, ".we do
concede the conference has been a great accomplishment by
those who put it together-- US Ambassador Ashley Wills,
Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi, Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremasinghe and Minister Milinda Moragoda. This support
of the developed nations was . ice cold water on the
hotheads of the LTTE who tried to hijack the conference by
virtual blackmail of the Sri Lanka government and the donor
nations."
Block quotes.
Despite this newspaper's reservations on foreign
interference in this purely internal affair of this country
and belief that foreign assistance is no panacea, we do
concede the conference has been a great accomplishment by
those who put it together-- US Ambassador Ashley Wills,
Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi, Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremasinghe and Minister Milinda Moragoda. This support
of the developed nations was also ice cold water on the
hotheads of the LTTE who tried to hijack the conference by
virtual blackmail of the Sri Lanka government and the donor
nations.
The reaction of the LTTE to the Tokyo Conference is not
known at the time of writing but it would be extremely
quixotic for this terrorist group to defy this well meaning
and While reconstruction and rehabilitation is a process
that can bring the two growling parties together, the hard
nut to crack is the Eastern Province with Tamils, Muslims
and Sinhalese in near equal numbers. Till that issue is
resolved it is apparent that a solution will not be
forthcoming.
We have time and again said in this column that the basis on
any agreement will be dependent on the consensus being
reached between the UNF government and President
Kumaratunga. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has paid
very statesmanlike compliments to President Kumaratunga at
Tokyo and if this is responded to in the right spirit that
elusive consensus may be reached.
End block quotes.

--- LAKBIMA, a strongly nationalist Sinhala daily, was
unusually accommodating on its editorial page. Under the
headline, "Assistance required for development," LAKBIMA
commented, "What the country needs right now is not
unconstructive criticism caused by political differences.
It needs positive dialogue as to how we should use this aid
appropriately. Being highly enthusiastic about the funds
received is not enough. Proper development plans are
needed. Mutual cooperation is essential. If everybody's
goal is the country's development, it will not be difficult
to work in unison."

-----
5. Independent media reaction
-----
Independent media coverage of Tokyo's outcome was very
positive. Independent television and radio carried
interviews with Deputy Secretary Armitage on both English
and vernacular news programs. Independent Sinhala daily led
with, "`Return to peace talks' - Tokyo confab's joint
statement - 51 countries, 21 organizations say in unison to
LTTE." Independent English DAILY MIRROR gushed, "World
urges LTTE to resume talks - Clear and powerful message with
whopping aid package of US$ 4.5 billion," and "Overwhelmed
Premier says `Istuti, Nandri [thank you].'" DAILY MIRROR
business coverage observed, "Ranil promises speed for aid
projects," and "Private sector hails donor support."
Independent editorialists were silent.
AMSELEM

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