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Cablegate: Media Play: (June 7) 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 02 COLOMBO 000982

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 7) Tokyo Conference; Colombo

1. Summary. The Sri Lankan media continued its feverish
coverage of whether or not the Tigers will go to Tokyo.
The LTTE's Tamilchelvan said that if the Tigers' request
for an interim administration is met, they might yet go to
Japan. Tamil newspaper headlines buzzed with Minister
Moragoda's pre-departure reassurances that the Tigers will
not be forgotten after Tokyo, and were full of GSL and US
exhortations urging the LTTE to attend the donor
conference. English and vernacular press reported that
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is optimistic the LTTE
will return to the negotiating table. An editorial in the
nationalist-leaning daily the ISLAND asked, "Can mighty
nations be blackmailed?" and answered that the Tigers'
absence from Tokyo, ".Is an attempt to intimidate the
`international community' involved as well as the Sri Lanka
government and make the "peace process" wag according to
their dictates." End summary.

-----
2. LTTE statements and other Tamil reaction.
-----
In English and vernacular newscasts, state-owned SLRC
television reported on an LTTE press conference in
Kilinochchi. LTTE political wing leader Tamilchelvan said
the LTTE has not given up on the idea of attending the
Tokyo Conference. He stated that if the Tigers receive a
favorable reply from the government for their request to
administer development and rehabilitation work in the north
and east, they would attend. He also noted that there are
two more days for this decision to be made, and that
whatever situation arises, the LTTE will not revert to war.

Tamil newspaper headlines buzzed with Minister Moragoda's
pre-departure reassurances that the Tigers will not be
forgotten after Tokyo. LTTE-leaning SUDAR OLI quoted him,
"We will not undervalue the cooperation of the Tigers in
the development work in NE, [even] though [they are] not
attending the Tokyo Conference," while State-owned
THINAKARAN added, "Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will
explain at the Tokyo Conference how we will utilize foreign
aid - We will not betray the Tigers." Moragoda's comfort
continued with independent daily VIRAKESARI's headline,
"Peace efforts to be carried forward with new energy after
the Conference."

Tamil dailies also sang with GSL and US exhortations urging
the Tigers to go to Tokyo. LTTE-leaning SUDAR OLI quoted
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, "I am anxious to see
the Tigers at the Tokyo Conference." All major Tamil
dailies focused on USAID Deputy Administrator Fred
Schieck's 6/6 comments in Colombo. State-owned daily
THINAKARAN quoted Schieck, "US hopeful Tigers will attend
Tokyo Conference," while independent daily VIRAKESARI
continued, "Big loss to the Tamil people if the Tigers do
not attend the Tokyo Conference - There's time until
tomorrow."

Pro-LTTE website Tamilnet headlined, "Colombo JVP
demonstration attracts more than 10,000," and continued,
"More than ten-thousand members and activists, including
parliamentary members of the Sinhala nationalist party, the
Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), took part in a massive rally
in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, Friday afternoon,
protesting against attempts by the Sri Lanka government to
hand over Northeast interim administration to the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), political sources
in Colombo said."

Tamil editorialists were silent.

-----
3. GSL statements and pro-government reaction
-----
Various media outlets in Sri Lanka picked up a BBC Asia
Today interview with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
BBC online reported, "Sri Lanka's prime minister says he
has no doubt that Tamil Tiger rebels are committed to peace
and that direct talks with the government will resume."

Vernacular and English newscasts on state-owned SLRC
television echoed the BBC and reported that Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe is optimistic the LTTE will return to
the negotiating table. SLRC also covered Minister
Moragoda's airport reassurances to the Tigers - that the
GSL is not underestimating LTTE participation in
development of the north and east, and that the GSL wants
to solve problems with the LTTE through discussion.
Moragoda noted the GSL's desire to proceed with development
work in the north and east at a faster pace after the Tokyo
conference.

Like the Tamil press, English and Sinhala newspapers also
concentrated on GSL and US statements encouraging the LTTE
to go to Tokyo. Independent English DAILY MIRROR
headlined, "Direct talks will resume soon, Tokyo a turning
point: PM." State-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA offered,
"US expresses hope that LTTE will go to Japan," while
independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA went a step further,
"America Warns LTTE - 'Wrong signal to the world by
boycotting Tokyo confab.'"

There were no pro-government editorials.

-----
4. Opposition statements and pro-opposition reaction.
-----
Independent television station MTV reported that Lakshman
Kadirgamar, Presidential Advisor on International Affairs
and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, hopes that there
will be another chance for the UNF and the PA to find a
common approach to solve the ethnic conflict after the
Tokyo conference.
One newspaper sympathetic to the opposition editorialized.
The ISLAND (independent, but nationalist-leaning English
daily) asked, "Can mighty nations be blackmailed?" and
answered, "The threat to keep off [the Tokyo Conference] is
an attempt to intimidate the "international community"
involved as well as the Sri Lanka government and make the
"peace process" wag according to their dictates."

Block quotes:

"The decision to go ahead with the Tokyo Conference with or
without the participation of the LTTE will be proved
correct in the long run.
"Neither the LTTE nor the Tamil community stand to gain by
keeping off Tokyo. It will aggravate the suffering of the
people of the north and east. The threat to keep off is an
attempt to intimidate the "international community"
involved as well as the Sri Lanka government and make the
"peace process" wag according to their dictates.
"The fault lies with the Sri Lanka government. They
pampered the terrorists and gave in to practically every
demand while looking away from gross violations of the law
and the cease-fire agreement. At some stage, some of our
enthusiastic peace negotiators were anxious to confer on
the LTTE the same status as that of the Sri Lanka
government. And that is what appears to figure in the
background of demands that are being made.
"It is quite apparent that the indulgent attitudes of the
Prime Minister and the international community have
encouraged the LTTE to go ahead with bulldozing tactics.
Such bulldozing is no way to peace and the LTTE have to be
made to realize that. Peace is a two-way process.
"The LTTE most probably will be having its own unorthodox
plans if they do not turn up at Tokyo. Whether such plans
are to go back to the gun and the bomb or not, it is time
that this childish and petulant behavior has to be called
to a halt.
"This group of terrorists should be told that they cannot
blackmail mighty nations."
End block quotes.

AMSELEM

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