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.
041117Z Nov 03
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 001901
DEPT FOR INR/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (CAMP, DEAN, WALLER); SA/PD (REINCKENS, SCENSNY,
TAGS: KPAO PTER OPRC KMDR OIIP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: SRI LANKAN MEDIA RESPOND TO LTTE
REF: (A) Colombo 1893, (B) Colombo 1888
1. In reftels Colombo reported on the 11/1 unveiling of the
LTTE's long awaited response to the GSL's Interim
Administration proposals. As noted in reftel (B), the
counterproposal elicited immediate and enormous coverage:
all major front pages carried the story, and three English,
two Sinhala, and one Tamil weekender editorialized on the
subject. Coverage continued unabated on 11/3 and 11/4.
2. Most dailies carried a press release issued by the
Embassy on 11/3 (see Para. 12). The release appeared under
a variety of headlines: "USA hails LTTE's delivery of
counter proposals to government" (independent English DAILY
MIRROR), "U.S. supports resumption of peace negotiations"
(government-owned DAILY NEWS), "America urges both parties
to get back to peace talks" (government-owned Sinhala
daily, DINAMINA), "U.S. government supports resumption of
peace talks (independent English daily, ISLAND), "U.S.
Supports resumption of peace talks" (pro-LTTE Tamil daily,
SUDAR OLI), "America is concerned regarding LTTE's IA
proposals" (government-owned Tamil daily, THINAKARAN),
"America requests both parties to resume talks soon"
(independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL.
3. Other headlines focused on other "takes." The DAILY
MIRROR's financial pages noted "Jitters over LTTE proposals
bring stock market down." The DAILY NEWS quoted Muslim
politician Rauff Hakeem as saying that "Muslims will submit
alternative proposals." DINAMINA quoted the Muslim
Congress: "If LTTE says NO to a central government, its NO
from us too." DIVAINA (independent Sinhala daily) said
that "Devolution of power of any kind should confirm the
rights of all ethnicities." LAKBIMA (independent Sinhala
daily) quoted the National Bhikku Front as asking "true
men" to "come forward ... to oppose the Tiger document."
LANKADEEPA (independent Sinhala daily) said "If peace talks
collapse, both President and PM are answerable." And
VIRAKESARI (independent Tamil daily) reported: "Government
seek TNA's support if opposition brings a no-confidance
4. DAILY MIRROR (independent English daily): "Decks
"With the government proposals and LTTE's counter proposals
before them, the people of this country can now have a
clear idea of what the government is prepared to offer by
way of devolved power and what the LTTE expects to get....
It is clear from the LTTE proposals that they, as expected,
have asked for the maximum.... The proposals and counter
proposals that are before the people today are for
discussion and deliberation by those parties who believe in
finding a solution to this national question through
negotiation on the basis of power devolution.... The
LTTE's metamorphosis from an outfit arrogantly insisting on
non-negotiable positions in the past, into an organisation
willing to settle matters through negotiation, is ... an
encouraging trend.... The government should also enter
into a dialogue ... with other political parties too, as it
has persistently vowed.... Those parties that are against
devolution and negotiations, but are for averting another
armed conflict, also have a role to play. Even if they
think that the government had acted unwisely in its moves
to bring peace upto now, no purpose will be served by
heaping abuse on it in a contentious manner. Scrambled
eggs cannot be unscrambled. They should instead show how
the country could wriggle out of the present situation
unscathed. It is for them to place before the government a
practical plan to deal with the situation in the same way
that the LTTE has spelt out its position. The ostensible
design of these parties to replace the government before
they formulate their solution will certainly spell doom for
5. DAILY NEWS (government-owned English daily): "Pursue
peace with a sense of realism."
"The major parties to the conflict need to pursue peace
with a strong sense of realism. The Government and other
parties in the South need to be realistic enough to
understand that the LTTE has been waging a war for the
furtherance of the Tamil community's power aspirations.
While the LTTE is on record as saying that it is seeking an
alternative to Eelam within one country, it is unlikely to
be satisfied with the current system of power devolution.
The LTTE, on the other hand, needs to realise that the
Government cannot be seen as compromising the unity and
territorial integrity of the State. If it is seen as doing
this a compromise solution cannot be arrived at.
Therefore, a sense of realism, on both sides, is essential
6. DINAMINA (government-owned Sinhala daily): "LTTE
proposal should be looked at honestly and intelligently."
"Both the Government and President ... Chandrika
Kumaratunga hold the same view that power should be
devolved to find a peaceful solution to the North-East
problem. The essence of the LTTE proposals is that a self-
governing authority should be established to govern the
North and East. The President has declared that this goes
beyond the devolution of power. It is not wrong to say so.
But it is also true that the degree of devolution of power
varies from country to country and that there is no
definite conclusion about it, and it depends on the two
negotiating parties. This can be settled at the
negotiating table and the entire country should support the
effort to consolidate the peaceful conditions prevailing in
the country. No one who respects democracy can reject the
LTTE proposals in their entirety."
7. DIVAINA (independent Sinhala daily: "The difference
between beheading and decapitation."
"The LTTE proposals which demand every thing except the
cost of erecting a wall to separate the North and East from
the country's Southern region were declared last Friday.
The main objective of the proposals is to establish a Self
Governing Authority to govern, Amparai, Batticaloa, Jaffna,
Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Vavuniya
Districts. These proposals have sparked off a serious
debate among the Sinhalese Muslims and Tamils who are not
supporters of the LTTE. The patriotic Tigers are however
not involved in this debate. It is obvious that short of
demanding a separate State, these proposals ask for all the
administrative and other systems necessary to run such a
state. It can only be compared to a person being beheaded
but being told that only his head has been severed."
8. ISLAND (independent English daily): "Peace Talks:
Wanted negotiators not appeasers."
"The peace makers are whipping euphoria and hysteria to
support the LTTE and destroy any dissent expressed against
these proposals. All relevant and scathing criticisms are
being dismissed with the contention that these are 'mere
proposals' and that they have to be negotiated. Whether
they are proposals, demands or sheer blackmail are to be
seen. But it is essential that the entire country -- not
only the government be prepared and involved -- in the
selection of negotiators.... The matter of selection of
negotiators for Sri Lanka should not be left to the prime
minister and the government in power alone. The opposition
particularly from the SLFP and other minority parties too
should be included if there is to be a durable settlement.
Such a selection necessarily calls for a common strategy to
be adopted by all parties concerned -- a vital requirement
that has not been achieved so far. But such a common
strategy is absolutely essential even to the LTTE.
Agreement with one party together with a minority party
will not mean acceptance by the whole country.... Today,
there are far too many cooks in this peace soup. Notable
are those 'academics' and NGO activists, most of whom have
failed to enter our Sri Lankan Universities, qualified
abroad and arrived here to head heavily funded NGOs who
dance to the tune of their governments or sponsors. These
people under the cover of 'civil society' do not represent
the people -- only a minuscule anglicised Colombo society.
Our negotiators should be persons of the calibre who can
tell these 'elitists' to get lost with their offers of free
junkets and research funding. If negotiations are to
succeed we need politically responsible negotiators not
9. ISLAND (independent English daily): "Tiger demands:
beyond the federal paradigm."
"Forget the hype, ignore the spin. The Tigers' Kilinochchi
proposals ... aren't about power sharing. They aren't
about federalism or autonomy or devolution or peace
processes. In fact they aren't about sharing anything at
all. This set of proposals is based upon the doctrine that
there's nothing to share. They are a set of demands for
the total and unconditional relinquishing of power. What's
being shared? What's there to share? What in fact is the
power left to the democratically elected Government of Sri
"Here's a 10 point strategic framework, which may provide a
response to the Tigers' ISGA demand: (1) eschew
unilateralism and adventurism; (2) avoid frontal assault
either on each other, or on the principles of federalism,
autonomy, and power sharing. Point out that the Tigers'
ISGA is way outside any federalist paradigm; (3) change the
zero-sum character of the Southern political game; (4)
build the broadest possible front, in the national
interest; (5) recognize the new equilibrium between the
President and PM, both of whom have strengthened themselves
politically through adroit moves, the President
domestically, the PM externally; (6) negotiate under an
Indian umbrella, a condominium reflecting the new ratio of
forces: the President is clearly stronger and has more
options than the PM, including that of instant ejection,
dissolution; (7) fast-forward the defense pact with India
and make it a robust and full-blooded one. Have it signed
by both President and the PM; (8) strengthen our external
support using the principle of 'double insulation',
bringing Sri Lanka under two strategic arcs: India's
defense perimeter, and the larger envelope of Indo-US-
Israeli security cooperation; (9) the Sri Lankan response
to the ISGA must be crafted in close consultation and
presented with the concurrence of India; (10) the
settlement itself must be underwritten and guaranteed by
India (and perhaps the USA)."
THINAKURAL (independent Tamil daily): "Maha Sangha's
"The North-East Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA)
proposal has been hailed as a progressive move by
politicians, diplomats and intellectuals. This cannot be
rejected totally. It should be examined in detail. On the
whole, this document has been prepared in such a manner
after getting legal expertise from many quarters. The
Mahanayake's of the Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters too have
welcomed the LTTE's counterproposals and stated that the
President and the Opposition should act in a far-sighted
manner and should not disrupt the peace efforts. They have
said that if these proposals affect the security and
sovereignty of the country, talks should be held and a
decision arrived at."
10. THINAKURAN (government-owned Tamil daily): "Opinions
not desirable for the peace of the country."
"Two shades of opinion have emerged in the South regarding
the proposals placed by the LTTE for an interim
administration. There are many intellectuals in the
majority and the minority communities who can analyze the
proposals critically and express support. At the same time
there are persons in the South who will not attempt to go
through the LTTE proposals but oppose it for the sake of
opposing. When a political solution is to found for a
local problem, it is a democratic right for anybody who
express their opposition. But before commenting they
should be able to grasp the problem in its entirety. If
not they do not possess the ability to comment on it. The
European Union welcomed the LTTE proposals. Western
diplomats have supported it. The upcountry political
leaders and the leftist leaders have supported these
proposals. There are two shades of opinion prevailing.
All should understand that the LTTE proposals are not
final. The Government and the LTTE will be holding talks,
which will lead to a settlement."
11. VIRAKESARI (independent Tamil daily): "The next
"The LTTE counter-proposals have been sent to the
Government. Both the Government and the Opposition have
begun to analyze the pros and cons of the proposals. By
presenting their proposals the LTTE has given the sign to
the Government to get ready for the next phase of
activities. All the people are expecting that both sides
should resume talks very early and find a permanent
solution to the problems of the Tamil speaking people. If
permanent peace is to be established in the country a
political solution should be found for the ethnic issue
through discussions. But as a curse, the Government and
the President belong to two different parties. As a result
all good attempts are being destroyed. On the whole, both
major political parties have not done anything for the
benefit of the minorities. This is the reality of the
12. Embassy press release.
U.S. GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS RESUMPTION OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
The U.S. Embassy has taken note of the LTTE's delivery of
counterproposals made in response to the Sri Lankan
Government's interim administration proposal for the North
and East. The Embassy urges both parties to build on this
step by resuming negotiations in a timely manner.
With a constructive approach and willingness to compromise,
we continue to believe that a negotiated solution to the
conflict is possible.
We also believe that it is possible for both sides to reach
agreement on an interim administration which, over time,
must lead into a permanent peace settlement and
governmental structure, in keeping with the principles and
statements put forward in Oslo and Tokyo.
We salute the Norwegian government for its ongoing