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Cablegate: Official Informal Number 003 (01/09/04)

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 000043

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

OFFICIAL INFORMAL

FOR SA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT CE MV
SUBJECT: OFFICIAL INFORMAL NUMBER 003 (01/09/04)


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

CONTENTS: PARLIAMENT TO PROBE SAFEHOUSE RAID
- PRESIDENT SHUFFLES DEPARTMENTS TO NEW MINISTRY
- COMMITTEE TO STUDY ANTI-CONVERSION LEGISLATION
- PRIVATE SECTOR READY TO JOIN THE FRAY - BUT HOW?
- ROGER WINTER VISIT

PARLIAMENT TO PROBE SAFEHOUSE RAID
----------------------------------
1. (U) FYI. On January 8, Parliament passed a motion to
appoint a parliamentary select committee to examine the
differences between the findings of two reports on the 2002
police raid of a Sri Lanka Army safehouse. As reported in
03 Colombo 2121, a retired judge commissioned by President
Kumaratunga to probe into the raid released findings that
indirectly blamed the PM, his assistants, and several
ministers of being aware of the raid but doing nothing to
stop it. (Note: An Army court of inquiry issued a report
in 2002 that found no evidence of high-level government
official foreknowledge of the raid, in contradiction to the
subsequent report by the Presidential Commission.) The
motion to establish the committee passed despite opposition
from the President's People's Alliance (PA) party, as well
as the extremist Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
(POL)

PRESIDENT SHUFFLES DEPARTMENTS TO NEW MINISTRY
--------------------------------------------- -
2. (U) On January 2, President Kumaratunga issued a gazette
notification removing five departments -- Prisons,
Immigration and Emigration, Registration of Persons,
Registration of Persons of Indian Origin, and Census and
Statistics -- from the Ministry of Defense, and transferring
them to the newly-created Ministry of Internal Security.
(Note: As reported in 03 Colombo 2179, the Internal
Security Ministry was established by the President on
December 19. At that time, the majority of departments in
the old Interior Ministry were moved to the Defense
Ministry, leaving the newly created Interior Security
Ministry with only the police departments.) Although the
Census Department is listed as being removed from the
Defense Ministry in the January 2 gazette, it does not show
up on the list of departments added to the Internal Security
Ministry. Mission has spoken to the government printer who
assures us this is merely a technical glitch. Moving these
portfolios back to the "Interior" (now renamed) ministry
corrects one of the obvious oddities about the December 19
move and underscores that the exercise had a "poorly thought
out" air about it. (POL)

COMMITTEE TO STUDY ANTI-CONVERSION LEGISLATION
--------------------------------------------- -
3. (U) FYI. In response to the fasting protest of Buddhist
monks over the need for "anti-conversion" legislation,
Buddhist Affairs Minister Lokubandara agreed to set up a
committee of Buddhist clergy to consult on such proposed
legislation. This 31-member committee, which includes
clergy from around the island and representatives of all
three major Sri Lankan Buddhist sects, is scheduled to have
its inaugural meeting on January 9. This committee is in
addition to the interfaith ministerial committee which is
also evaluating proposed anti-conversion legislation (see
Colombo 3). (POL)

PRIVATE SECTOR READY TO JOIN FRAY - BUT HOW?
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) In a boisterous session yesterday, over 300 high
level business reps debated actions to push the PM and CBK
toward resolution. The meeting was called by JBIZ, an
organization comprised of chambers and business associations
that represents the majority of the private sector.
Suggestions for actions ranged from strikes, demonstrations
and refusal to pay taxes to consensus building, hiring
professional lobbyists and meetings with both parties.
Another option raised was to hold all Provincial Elections
on the same day and use them as a referendum on this issue.
Due to the wide range of opinions, it was not surprising
that no course of action was decided. JBIZ was to come up
with a plan within 24 hours.

5. (SBU) Comment: Until now, there had been some private
sector reaction to the political squabble, including
individual meetings with PM and CBK, Chamber of Commerce
meetings and some press interviews of business leaders.
Though no consensus was reached yesterday, the fact that
this sector of civil society, representing a large number of
citizens, has come together and is exploring peaceful, but
strong, actions to express their frustration with the
situation is healthy. If the business sector is as divided
as the population appears to be over which side is right and
what the final solution should be, however, their entry into
the fray may not prompt faster resolution.

ROGER WINTER VISIT
------------------
6. (U) As you may be aware, Roger Winter of USAID will
visit here the week after next, with trips to Jaffna and
Puttulam. The schedule is well in hand. We suggest SA
invite Winter over for a general political and policy
briefing before his visit. FYI - when AMB and DCM were
fellow desk officers in AF/E in the late 1980s, they both
worked with Winter, who was then at the U.S. Committee for
Refugees.

LUNSTEAD

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