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Cablegate: Media Play: Sri Lankan President Meets Pm,

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 001967

SIPDIS

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

E.O.12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Sri Lankan President Meets PM,
Norwegians meet LTTE

1. Summary. The 11/12 meeting between the President and
the Prime Minister dominated the headlines in Sri Lankan
English and vernacular media. Government-owned television
and newspaper headlines predictably slanted toward the
President, but the independent press was less positive.
The media also reported on the fate of the three ministries
taken over by the President, developments on the
parliamentary front, and the impact of the political crisis
on the economy. Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar
Helgessen's 11/13 meeting with LTTE leader Velupillai
Prabhakaran garnered significant attention. Editorial
comment was heavy. Government-owned English and vernacular
newspapers vocally supported the President. One government
daily commented, "No leadership can ignore the honest and
sincere call made this time for a government of national
reconciliation by President Chandrika Kumaratunga."
Independent English editorialists criticized possible
elections, party politics, and commented on the need to
keep an eye on the LTTE during the crisis. One Sinhala
commentator supported cohabitation efforts, while a Tamil
editor noted, "...the actions of the President are being
considered as sinister political moves." End Summary.

-----
Headlines
-----

2. The 11/12 meeting between the President and the Prime
Minister dominated the headlines in English and vernacular
newspapers. Government-owned television and newspaper
headlines predictably slanted toward the President.
Sinhala daily, DINAMINA reported (11/13), "President and PM
agree to continue talks on a government to save the
nation." Government-owned Rupavahini television reported
(11/12) a similar headline on evening newscasts.
Meanwhile, the independent press was less positive.
Independent English DAILY MIRROR's lead headline was
(11/13), "No breakthrough in talks," and independent Tamil
daily, THINAKKURAL offered expanded coverage (11/13), "No
progress in the efforts to end political crisis; PM
stresses again and again that President should take care of
the peace process; President and PM agree to meet next
week."

3. The fate of the three ministries the President took
over also made the news. Two newspapers carried the
comments of Sarath Aumunugama, MP and PA Spokesman.
Independent English DAILY MIRROR quoted him (11/13),
"Defence portfolio will remain with President," while
independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL reported his comments
more extensively (11/13), "Three ministries taken over by
the President will not be handed over to the government for
any reason; Pact with JVP may be announced at any moment."
The government perspective, in the voice of UNP Minister
S.B. Dissanayake also made the headlines. Independent
Tamil daily, VIRAKESARI reported his comments (11/13), "We
will stop funds to the three ministries taken over by the
President," while independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA
quoted (11/13), "No alternative to election if the
ministries are not given back."

4. The media paid attention to developments on the
parliamentary front as well. Independent English DAILY
MIRROR reported (11/13), "Speaker denies request to re-
summon house," and government-owned ITN television reminded
viewers of the President's position (11/12), "The speaker
says parliament will meet on the 19th." Independent
Sinhala daily DIVAINA's headline cautioned (11/13), "Don't
convene parliament unconstitutionally - opposition leaders
tell the speaker." Independent Maharaja Television's
English newscasts followed up on an earlier report (11/13),
"PA denies allegations of attempts to buy UNPers."
Finally, independent English DAILY MIRROR reported (11/14),
"Deal with JVP, dissolution [of parliament] likely."

5. The Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen's
11/13 meeting with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
garnered significant attention. Government-owned English
DAILY NEWS reported (11/14), "Prabhakaran assures
Norwegians: LTTE committed to peace process," while
independent English daily, ISLAND soothed (11/14), "Tigers
will respect ceasefire. " Independent Tamil daily,
VIRAKESARI elucidated (11/14), "Until war is waged on us,
the agreement will be effective - Political stability is
required to resume talks, says LTTE Leader V. Pirabaharan,"
a headline echoed by all other Tamil dailies and pro-LTTE
website TAMILNET (11/13). The Sinhala press offered a
different slant, evidenced by independent Sinhala daily
LANKADEEPA's headline (11/14), "Skeptical about South
crisis; Prabhakaran wants an assurance."

6. The media avidly followed the impact of the political
crisis on economic issues. Government-owned English DAILY
NEWS' headline sounded a hopeful note about the Colombo
bourse (11/13), "Stockmarket recovers from slump," but
independent English DAILY MIRROR was less sanguine (11/13),
"Stock market soars on hope, inconclusive CBK - Ranil talks
a damper." Independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA's headline
was still more pessimistic (11/14), "FTA held up: 4
conventions cancelled."

-----
Editorials
-----

7. Editorial comment was heavy. Government-owned English
and vernacular newspapers vocally supported the President.
Independent English editorialists criticized possible
elections, party politics, and commented on the need to
keep an eye on the LTTE during the crisis. One Sinhala
commentator supported cohabitation efforts, while a Tamil
editor noted, "...the actions of the President are being
considered as sinister political moves."


----- Under the headline, "Timely proposal of the
President," government-owned Sinhala daily, DINAMINA
supported the President (11/13), "No leadership can ignore
the honest and sincere call made this time for a government
of national reconciliation by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga."

Block quotes.
...This time, the proposal for a national government has
arisen with the President's experience and ability to lead
the country as one who was returned to power with a massive
majority twice
over being recognized.

No leadership can ignore the honest and sincere call made
this time for a government of national reconciliation by
President Chandrika Kumaratunga. This is the considered
opinion of the people.
End block quotes.

----- Under the headline, " Growing consensus for
political solution," government-owned English DAILY NEWS
commented (11/13) that on the importance of the pro-peace
stance of the clergy and the PA, and also warned
compromising with ultra-nationalistic forces would, "...
dilute the PA's stance on a just peace based on power-
sharing."
Block quotes.
The clergy constitute an important opinion-moulding group
and their acceptance of a political solution should be
considered a ground-breaking development in the
mobilisation of public opinion for peace. Meanwhile, the
PA has gone on record as saying that it is prepared to
forge ahead with the peace process....Therefore, a fairly
wide consensus could be said to exist on the need for a
peace based on power-sharing within an united Sri Lanka,
despite a resurgence of sorts of ultra-nationalistic
sentiments among some sections.
While the UNF is unambiguously committed to the current
peace process, it is up to the PA to ensure that it has no
truck, whatsoever, with political forces which are
recalcitrantly opposed to the peace effort. It should be
plain to see that an effort to make compromises with such
forces would dilute the PA's stance on a just peace based
on power-sharing.
End block quotes.

----- Under the headline, "Ready for Elections?"
independent English DAILY MIRROR commented (11/13) on the
possibility of elections, "the existing environment is
clearly unsuitable, if the country hopes to have a
democratic election now."
Block quotes.
Are the conditions prevailing in the country today
conducive to the conduct of democratic elections?
Definitely not... An independent and impartial election
commission is a sine qua non if a country is to have free
and fair elections. In acknowledgement of this need, the
required legislation was passed and paved way for its
establishment. Mainly because of the ongoing political
bickerings, the authorities have so far failed to make it a
reality... So, the first essential prerequisite for
elections, is the establishment of this commission.

The independent police commission that was set up to
overcome this problem, is yet to act with vigour to achieve
the set objectives. This vital law enforcement arm of the
state will inevitably suffer manipulation by political
authorities during elections, if this commission fails to
function properly.
The state media have now come under the grip of the head of
state who is the head of her party. Judging from what goes
on today, it is futile to expect the state media to
function impartially in the event of an election.
So, the existing environment is clearly unsuitable, if the
country hopes to have a democratic election now.
End block quotes.

----- Under the headline, "Moratorium on party politics,"
independent English DAILY MIRROR commented that (11/14),
"If all the parties are really concerned about the
country's future and honest about adopting a consensual
approach to the national question, what they should
immediately agree to is a moratorium on all political
activity."
Block quotes.
It is encouraging, that the talks between the country's two
main leaders, the President and the Premier have been
friendly and cordial, while their followers are generating
a politics of malice and hatred. However, what the country
desperately needs now is a quick end to the present state
of uncertainty and tension.
If the leaders engage in building their own images and
those of their parties with a view to promoting their polls
prospects while talking of reconciliation, unity and peace,
then their attempts to resolve the issues amicably will be
doomed to failure.
If all the parties are really concerned about the country's
future and honest about adopting a consensual approach to
the national question, what they should immediately agree
to is a moratorium on all political activity. First they
have to make a collective decision to suspend all elections
until such time as a consensual and conclusive finality on
a solution to the national issue has been reached. It is
obviously the prospect of a snap election that has caused
the present intensified party activity.
If this agreement is possible, the attempt at demonstrating
each party's strength by assembling crowds in Colombo and
other places will cease. Therefore, political stunts of
this nature... should take a holiday at this juncture when
maturity and seriousness should prevail.
End block quotes.
---- Under the headline, "Time for Miracles," independent
English daily, ISLAND (11/14) referred to the LTTE as the
"source of all evil," and cautioned that it is, "..vitally
important to keep track of the happenings in [the North and
East] under the gun."
Block quotes.
Meanwhile, what is Prabakaran and his cohorts up to in the
north and east? They are after all the fons et origo mali-
source of all evil. For the time being, they seem to have
been put on the back burner but it is vitally important to
keep track of the happenings in this region under the gun.
The realpolitik of it all is that there is not very much of
difference between the policies of the SLFP and the UNP on
this issue... This does not mean that the basic policies of
the two parties on this issue are correct. For example,
though both sides are agreeable to a federal form of
government there is also very strong opposition to it from
other parties as was expressed in the massive rally held at
Campbell Park by the National Patriotic Movement on Friday.
And even if a common policy is arrived at, the basic
problem remains: Vellupillai Prabakaran.
This is certainly the time Sri Lanka needs miracles, if
they do really happen.
End block quotes.

----- Under the headline, "Talks to build a national
coalition," independent Sinhala daily, LAKBIMA commented
(11/13) that cooperation between political parties, "will
be beneficial to the country and the Nation."

Block quote.
If all parties get together to discuss a common program
towards forming a government of National Alliance
considering the vital role it could play in resolving the
ethnic issue, it will be good. If all sections have this
important factor in mind the result will be beneficial to
the country and the Nation.
End block quote.

----- Under the headline, "Southern politics; Conspiracy
after conspiracy," independent Tamil daily, THINAKKURAL
commented (11/13) that as they relate to Tamils, "...the
actions of the President are being considered as sinister
political moves."

Block quote.
After unilaterally taking over the three Ministries and
proroguing Parliament, the President is now sending
invitations to form a government of National
Reconciliation. As regards the Tamil political heads and
the Tamil people, the actions of the President are being
considered as sinister political moves.
End block quote.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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