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Cablegate: Usaid Staff Discuss Working Level Issues with Ltte

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 001778

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR SA, SA/INS/D
PLEASE PASS TO USAID/ANE/AA, GODRON WEST; ANE/ESA,
BERNADETTE BUNDY, AND ANE/SA, CHARLES UPHAUS.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PTER CE LTTE
SUBJECT: USAID STAFF DISCUSS WORKING LEVEL ISSUES WITH LTTE
IN TRINCOMALEE; USAID COMMODITIES MOVE TO JAFFNA

REF: (A) COLOMBO 01724 (B) STATE 256563

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

SUMMARY

1. (SBU) Based on recent State Department guidance
approving operational/working-level discussions on relief
and development issues with counterpart LTTE representatives
(Ref B) and a September 18 meeting between the Embassy's
front office and USAID/Sri Lanka staff, two USAID staff met
on October 7 with an LTTE representative in Trincomalee to
introduce the head of the USAID/Office of Transition
Initiatives (OTI) field office there and give an overview of
USAID's ongoing activities. Like the earlier meetings, the
conversation was cordial, largely stayed on topic and
resulted in a clearer understanding of USAID/OTI's small-
grants assistance program. On a related matter, USAID/OTI
transported for the first time project-related supplies
through LTTE-controlled territory for delivery to
beneficiaries in Jaffna after making the necessary
arrangements with LTTE officials (Ref A). This event,
juxtaposed with the U.S. redesignation of the LTTE as a
terrorist organization, received minor press play.

TRINCO MEETING

2. (SBU) USAID staff had first scheduled a meeting with
the LTTE in Trincomalee for September 30, one day after the
meetings with LTTE representatives in Jaffna and Kilinochchi
to discuss transport of USAID Office of Transition
Initiatives (OTI) project-related supplies. That meeting
never took place, however, as Mr. Thilak, the LTTE's
Trincomalee District representative, was not there when
USAID staff called at the scheduled time. He phoned the
USAID/OTI Trincomalee office later the same afternoon,
apologizing for his absence and expressing his willingness
to meet. Unfortunately, the two USAID staff from Colombo,
including one Tamil-speaking American, were halfway back to
the capital with other travel planned from there for the
next day. Tentative plans were made to reschedule a meeting
for the following week.

3. (SBU) The meeting was rescheduled for October 7 at the
USAID/OTI premises in Trincomalee town. The USAID/Colombo
Special Projects Officer, a Tamil speaker with several years
of experience working with other international agencies in
the North and East of Sri Lanka, initiated the conversation
by introducing the USAID/OTI Trincomalee Head of Office and
himself. Although Thilak preferred to speak in Tamil, his
English was more than adequate. The conversation proceeded
switching back and forth between both languages.

4. (SBU) USAID staff made reference to the meetings last
week with LTTE representatives in Jaffna and Kilinochchi
regarding the duty-free transport of project-related
supplies. Thilak claimed to be unaware of these
conversations, though a comment he made later during the
discussion suggested otherwise. It was noted that based on
the positive outcome of those meetings, the first such
shipment would take place this week with materials to
benefit fisher families on Karainagar Island and an English
teacher training program in Jaffna. The purpose of the
meeting in Trincomalee, it was explained, was to give a
brief overview of USAID's work as a basis for similar
discussions regarding operational issues. USAID staff asked
that in the future Thilak contact the USAID/OTI Head of
Field Office directly, rather than approaching local staff
as had happened on one occasion, with any questions related
to the program or USAID-funded activities.

5. (SBU) Thilak asked about the geographic areas in which
USAID was working. USAID staff explained that under current
USG policy activities can only be implemented in areas
controlled by the GSL. Thilak appeared well aware of this
policy and commented that it was "mean" and "unfair" to the
war-affected civilian population living in areas under LTTE
control. "When you need a favor, you come to us and ask,"
Thilak said, apparently referring to the previous week's
meetings in Jaffna and Kilinochchi of which he had earlier
said he was unaware. "Otherwise you don't want anything to
do with us."

6. (SBU) USAID staff emphasized that there is no desire by
the USG to deny any segment of the civilian population
needed support or assistance, adding that significant
numbers of Tamil civilians live in GSL-controlled areas of
the North and East where USAID is working. Furthermore,
USAID staff pointed out that the conversations held with the
LTTE the previous week were intended to eliminate
bottlenecks preventing the Agency from implementing
activities directly benefiting the people of Jaffna.
7. (SBU) The meeting ended with Thilak agreeing to read a
program overview, written in Tamil, and return with any
questions that he might have about USAID/OTI activities in
Trincomalee. Before he left, he cited about 10 villages --
all predominantly or exclusively Tamil -- that he said were
in particular need of support and assistance due to poverty.
Notably, all of the villages were in areas under GSL
control; no villages in areas controlled by the LTTE were
mentioned.

8. (SBU) Comment. Despite Thilak's overt disapproval of
USG policy vis--vis the LTTE, overall the conversation was
cordial. Thilak at first wanted to debate USG policy, which
he found hypocritical and biased -- particularly in light of
the GSL de-proscription of the LTTE. Without much effort,
however, USAID staff were able to keep the discussion
focused squarely on development-related issues. His
conscious decision to cite needy villages in only GSL-
controlled areas of Trincomalee seems to indicate that the
message got across. End comment.

TRANSPORT OF SUPPLIES

9. (SBU) USAID/OTI staff successfully delivered on October
10 the project-related supplies that the LTTE had on
September 30 said would not be taxed during transport
through areas under its control. The materials were for two
USAID/OTI-funded projects: one assisting fisher families on
Karainagar Island, the other supporting an English teacher
training program in Jaffna. The supplies were transported in
a private lorry escorted by two USAID/OTI local staff
members in a clearly marked USAID/OTI vehicle with
diplomatic plates. USAID/OTI staff reported a high level of
cooperation during the transport and checking process by the
LTTE, which in accordance to its standard policy for
materials related to relief and development activities did
not attempt to levy taxes on the items.

10. (SBU) Over the long weekend, at least newspapers picked
up on the fact that USAID had held discussions with the LTTE
in order to move project commodities to Jaffna without
paying taxes at the same time the USG had redesignated the
LTTE as a terrorist organization. We have had no press
inquiries on this topic but, if asked, we will confirm that
the commodities did in fact move as described in the
article.

LUNSTEAD

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