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Cablegate: Media Play: Sri Lankan Media Respond to 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 03 COLOMBO 001888

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR INR/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (CAMP, WALLER) SA/PD (SCHWARTZ, SCENSNY, REINCKENS)
SSA/PAS

E.O.12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO PTER OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: SRI LANKAN MEDIA RESPOND TO LTTE
COUNTERPROPOSALS


1. On 11/1 the LTTE unveiled its long-await response to the
GSL's Interim Administration proposals (see septel). The
LTTE counterproposal elicited immediate and enormous press
coverage. Some headlines covered straightforward
reportage: "LTTE hands over IA proposals; copies to
President and party leaders today," said the independent
Sinhala weekender, LANKADEEPA. "LTTE proposes 'Interim
Self-Governing Authority' in united Sri Lanka," said the
government-owned English weekender, SUNDAY OBSERVER. Other
headlines covered more provocative responses, however.
"Tigers want lion's share of power," said the independent
English weekender, SUNDAY ISLAND. The government-owned
Tamil weekender, SUNDAY THINAKARAN, quoted Tamil leader V.
Tamilchelvan as saying: "we will not be able to find a
solution satisfying chauvinist forces." And the
independent English weekender, SUNDAY TIMES, used several
bristly headlines: "LTTE seeks sweeping powers," "PA, JVP
to plan joint action tonight," "LTTE proposals
'unacceptable': [Rauff] Hakeem," "Swift, angry reaction
from JVP," and "Big gap, but government calls for talks."

2. Other headlines:

- DINAMINA (government-owned Sinhala daily): "LTTE
proposals handed over to the government; President and
other party leaders to be given copies as soon as
possible."

- LAKBIMA (independent Sinhala daily): "Unofficial talks
on Interim Administration next week" and "LTTE proposals
handed over to government through Norwegian Ambassador."

- SILUMINA (government-owned Sinhala weekender): "LTTE
says yes to devolution of power within one country-agree to
devolve power under the 13th amendment" and "Discrepancies
exist: ready to minimize through talks, says ... G. L.
Peiris.

- SUNDAY LEADER (independent English weekender):
"Government committed to direct talks with LTTE - [G. L.]
Peiris."

- SUNDAY THINAKURAL (independent Tamil weekender): "Draft
framework different from government proposals,"
"Tamilchelvan: duty of government and international
community act on realities of proposals" and "Tamilchelvan:
interim self-government authority will provide environment
to solve problems peacefully."

- VIRAKESARI (independent Tamil daily): "LTTE is
requesting interim self-government authority," "Tiger
proposals differ from government proposals - Peiris,"
"Tamilchelvan: solution . cannot be found in Sri Lanka
constitution," and "draft framework does not address Muslim
aspirations - Hakeem."

3. Editorials and op-eds. Five weekenders carried
editorials and/or op-ed pieces on the counter proposal.
The SUNDAY ISLAND, Sri Lanka's most consistently dyspeptic
observer of the peace process, ran an editorial under the
headline "The Long Haul" and an op-ed piece provocatively
titled "Eelam's soft opening: unveiling the interim
administration." The government-owned SUNDAY OBSERVER
countered with an editorial under the headline "Re-
integration." "Devolution or Eelam" asked the SUNDAY
TIMES. An editorial in THINAKURAL called the
counterproposal a "door to freedom for Tamil-speaking
people" THINAKARAN called the counterproposals a "hopeful
start after a long interval." And VIRAKESARI wondered
editorially: "What will the Sinhalese ruling majority do?"
Excerpts follow:

- SUNDAY ISLAND editorial: "The long haul." "So the
LTTE's proposals are finally in and the long haul must now
begin reconciling what is possible with what is demanded
within a framework of reality.. The Tigers were widely
expected to pitch their demands sky high. It's not as bad
as the fatalists anticipated but is not a cause for
cheering judging by a government statement issued last
morning which spoke of the 'disparities of the positions of
the parties' and the admission that the LTTE vision of a
framework for a political solution 'differs in fundamental
respects' from the government's proposals. It is well
within the bounds of probability that the LTTE crafted its
present demands using the Chelvanayakam dictum, 'something
now, more later.' ... the new Thalaivar in the Wanni is in
an entirely different league and playing for massively
different stakes. He is backed not only by heavy
artillery, battle hardened cadres and all the other
appurtenances of a modern army, but also a fanatically
motivated corps of suicide killers who have time and again
proved their prowess. ... this country obviously cannot
return to war and the military option is no option at all.
Whatever our politics, that is a reality we must live with
and the absolute bottom line. Negotiations therefore must
proceed despite the many landmines along the way....
Meanwhile the serious business of reaching the necessary
accommodations to begin realizing the full potential of the
available international goodwill for the reconstruction and
rehabilitation of the war devastated areas as well as
reviving the national economy must begin."

- SUNDAY ISLAND op-ed: "Eelam's soft opening: unveiling
the interim administration." "As we wait for the IA
proposals to be unmasked this weekend, and received with
predictable ecstasy by the GOSL, let us decode Balasingham.
The LTTE's objective is to legalise their rogue occupation
of the north and east, clearing the decks for UDI whenever
they choose. And Tamilchelvam, to make sure the IA will be
an offer the GOSL can't refuse, has made it clear that the
IA comes with an ultimatum attached -- accept, or face war
and secession."

- SUNDAY OBSERVER editorial: "Re-integration." "The
current peace process seems to have reached a certain
maturity in that both sides have now presented substantive
positions that can be taken up for intensive discussion,
clarification, reasoning, bargaining and collective
agreement. At last both sides know, at least broadly, what
each side wants and is also prepared to acknowledge as the
parameters for negotiation. Now, it is to be hoped that
both the Government's as well as the LTTE's documents will
come to be used as a common basis for reaching agreement.
It will necessarily be a slow process in which agreement is
reached on the various aspects of the process of political
settlement as and when they are taken up for negotiation.
That there may be crucial differences between the
Government's and LTTE's positions is also very relevant,
especially in envisaging the length and complexity of the
negotiations that lie ahead. But once the negotiations
revive, it is to be hoped that the negotiators from both
sides, and mediators, use both sets of proposals as a
common resource of ideas from which both sides could take
up elements to meet the various needs that must be
addressed in a final settlement."

- SUNDAY TIMES editorial: "Devolution or Eelam." "And so,
hatched and incubated with much fanfare, we have the LTTE's
proposals for a Provincial Self-Administration under their
command in Sri Lanka's North and East provinces. The UNF
Government leadership could well have been taken aback by
these proposals that call for an extra-Constitutional
exercise to hand the LTTE virtual self-rule. The
Government Spokesman and Chief Negotiator has already
conceded that the 'disparities between the positions are
evident' and while reiterating a firm commitment to a
negotiated settlement, he sees that the shock to an
increasingly disturbed South is cushioned.... No doubt
these are matters up for negotiation now. It is a well
established practice that when going in for negotiations
one must ask for the maximum plus plus. So, the Government
negotiators will now need more than a cool head and a warm
heart. They will need a strong stomach for tough
bargaining in the months ahead, quite apart from a need to
hone in on their negotiating skills. But if there is one
thing that the Government must take the rap for in
permitting the LTTE make these grandiose claims, it is that
they allowed things to fester during the period of the
Ceasefire from February last year uptodate. They allowed
banks, courts, taxation, IGPs, Chief Justices as they did
the military build-ups, while they ignored the Muslim
resentment. Now comes the hard grind to undo all these --
or give in.. The question that would linger nevertheless,
is whether the LTTE by accepting devolution has given up
its goal of a separate state, or whether this Interim
arrangement is simply the stepping stone for that separate
state."

THINAKURAL editorial: "Door to freedom for Tamil-speaking
people" "The LTTE counterproposal is a door to freedom for
the Tamil-speaking people. The LTTE has proclaimed that
they are not enemies of democracy, but are engaged in an
effort at national peace. The racist opposition and the
President should look to the future of this country with
vision and far sightedness. The LTTE proposals are not
communal in any way. The international community is aware
of the travails of the Northeast. Now the Sinhalese
people, too, are aware that the armed struggle that took
place was not against their government and its army of
aggression."

THINAKARAN editorial: "Hopeful start after a long
interval." "After seven months of stalled peace talks, a
hopeful new start has begun. The LTTE has presented its
counterproposals. A movement, which has conducted a 20-
year armed struggle against the government has offered
interim administration proposals to relieve the problems of
the people in a peaceful manner.... Many quarters have
accepted the fact that ... an interim administration in the
Northeast with full powers is necessary before a permanent
political solution is achieved.... Further, both parties
have assured the Muslims that their aspirations will not be
discarded.

VIRAKESARI editorial: "What will the Sinhalese ruling
majority do?" "The LTTE has handed over their
counterproposals. This is an important event not only in
the history of the Tamils but in Sri Lankan ethnic history
as well.... The Tamils had earlier hoped to settle issues
with Sinhalese leaders without exposing the hegemony of the
Sinhalese Buddhists. But these counterproposals are
powerful enough to expose Sinhalese Buddhist domination....
Many political analysts believe that Sri Lanka's
Constitution is bankrupt, and that the LTTE proposals are a
formidable challenge.

ENTWISTLE

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