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Cablegate: Media Play: Sri Lanka Co-Chairs Meeting In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

250857Z Feb 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000307

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP PREL CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Sri Lanka Co-Chairs Meeting in
Washington Draws Little Editorial Comment

REF: COLOMBO 271

1. (U) Summary. While media reaction to the statement
Washington released after the 2/17 Sri Lanka co-chairs
meeting was headline heavy, editorial comment was limited.
All major English, Sinhala and Tamil Sri Lankan media
outlets reported on the post-meeting statement with
straightforward headlines. Election fever, particularly
the emergence of a slate of candidates composed solely of
Buddhist monks, (and supported by extremist nationalist
party Jathika Hela Urumaya - formerly called Sihala
Urumaya), occupied newspaper commentators. As a result,
only one independent Tamil daily and the government-owned
English daily offered commentary. Independent Tamil daily
VIRAKESARI commented (2/21), "...The international
community is not going to be worried who wins the election.
But, they expect those coming to power to establish lasting
peace. This is the only way to obtain financial assistance
from the international community." End Summary.

2. (U) All major English, Sinhala and Tamil Sri Lankan
media outlets reported on the meeting outcome with
straightforward headlines. Government-owned (and President
Kumaratunga-controlled) English DAILY NEWS reported (2/19),
"Donors will continue aid flow to Lanka," and its Tamil
sister THINAKARAN elaborated (2/19), "Donor countries re-
affirm USD 4.5 billion aid for SL - Washington Confab
decides that the peace process should not be affected."
Government-owned Sinhala daily DINAMINA echoed (2/19),
"Donor countries decide to continue help for Sri Lanka."
Government-owned Rupavahini Television reported (2/18),
"Sri Lanka donor co-chairs say no situation has arisen in
the island which would prevent the granting of aid," in
English, Sinhala and Tamil broadcasts.

3. (U) Independent media outlets stressed that aid would
continue, provided the peace process continues.
Independent English DAILY MIRROR reported (2/19), "Donors
affirm aid pledged - On condition peace process
progresses." Independent Sinhala daily LANKADEEPA observed
(2/19), "Disappointment over collapse of cohabitation; 450
billion aid only on progress of peace process," while
independent Tamil daily VIRAKESARI's lead headline
comforted (2/19), "America and donor countries want peace
talks resumed - assure continued humanitarian aid."

4. (U) Pro-LTTE media outlets were also straightforward
in their reporting of the co-chairs statement. Under the
headline (2/18), "Donors call for early return to Peace
Talks," pro-LTTE website TAMILNET carried the entirety of
the statement. Pro-LTTE Tamil daily SUDAR OLI reported
(2/19), "'Assure free and peaceful election' - request to
Sri Lankan leaders at the Washington Meeting."

5. (U) Election fever, particularly the emergence of a
slate of candidates composed solely of Buddhist monks, (and
supported by extremist nationalist party Jathika Hela
Urumaya - formerly called Sihala Urumaya), occupied
newspaper commentators. As a result, only one independent
Tamil daily and the government-owned English daily offered
commentary. Independent Tamil daily VIRAKESARI commented
(2/21), "...The international community is not going to be
worried who wins the election. But, they expect those
coming to power to establish lasting peace. This is the
only way to obtain financial assistance from the
international community."

----- Under the headline, "No peace means no financial
assistance, " independent Tamil daily VIRAKESARI commented
(2/21), "...The international community is not going to be
worried who wins the election. But, they expect those
coming to power to establish lasting peace. This is the
only way to obtain financial assistance from the
international community."

Editorial excerpts.

Peace talks have stalled since April last year and now we
face an election as a result of the executive presidential
powers. In the meantime, donors to Sri Lanka met in
Washington and have requested that the peace talks be
resumed to establish permanent peace in the country. They
have also informed that the financial assistance will be
provided based on the progress of the talks. There's no
point in granting financial assistance if there's no peace,
as development cannot be undertaken if there's war. It is
unfortunate that the humanitarian assistance meant for
those affected by the war is on hold. Anyway, the donors
had assured that the humanitarian assistance would
continue.. The international community is not going to be
worried who wins the election. But, they expect those
coming to power to establish lasting peace. This is the
only way to obtain financial assistance from the
international community.
End editorial excerpts.

----- Under the headline, "Election promises," independent
Tamil daily VIRAKESARI commented (2/23), "The US Deputy
Secretary of State has spoken to the leaders of both main

SIPDIS
parties, and stressed the need for peace... Then only the
country will be able to obtain the financial assistance
from the international community for reconstruction and
development."

Editorial excerpts.

With the election announcement, crossovers, violence, new
alliances and election promises have started to come out.
All the promises that are given on the election platform
regarding peace, democracy, and human rights go with the
wind after elections. At the last elections peace was the
victor.. If the country wants to develop economically,
peace is essential. There are accusations that the
international community is involved in the internal affairs
of our country. But, as a developing nation we need the
support of the international community. The US Deputy
Secretary of State has spoken to the leaders of both main

SIPDIS
parties, and stressed the need for peace. He has said that
the war must not begin, but that peace should be
established, and that the peace talks should continue.
Then only the country will be able to obtain the financial
assistance from the international community for
reconstruction and development.

End editorial excerpts.

----- Under the headline, "Peace prospects undimmed,"
Government-owned English DAILY NEWS commented (2/20), "In
what could be considered a vote of confidence in Sri Lanka,
the international community has, once again, decided not to
hinder the aid flow to Sri Lanka, while re-expressing the
prime condition that substantial aid will remain tied to
significant progress in the peace process, which is, of
course, at present in a state of partial paralysis... "
Editorial excerpts.
In what could be considered a vote of confidence in Sri
Lanka, the international community has, once again, decided
not to hinder the aid flow to Sri Lanka, while re-
expressing the prime condition that substantial aid will
remain tied to significant progress in the peace process,
which is, of course, at present in a state of partial
paralysis... Simultaneously almost, President Kumaratunga
was quoted saying at a public function that a future
government under her would in no way compel the LTTE or
give it cause to get back to war. On the contrary, the LTTE
would be encouraged to get into the democratic mainstream,
through the working out of a political solution to the
ethnic conflict. Thus has the donor community's faith in
Sri Lanka been justified. While some mischievous elements
have thought it best to play on public fears over a future
return to hostilities, the President's words are proof that
no such thing is on the cards. This is substantial evidence
that the present peace will hold and that every effort
would be made to negotiate a solution to the ethnic
problem. However, it would be essential that the President
receives a clear and unambiguous mandate to launch a fresh
peace bid and to take Lanka along the development path...It
is best that the country sees what is in store for it, as
it weighs its options. The ceasefire is remaining largely
unaffected but the ethnic conflict is still to be resolved.
Every lost moment is a virtual victory for those opposing
peace. The challenge consists in convincingly answering the
LTTE's ISGA proposals. As long as the latter remains
unanswered, the Lankan State could be faulted as the party
which is dragging its feet...It is only fair that if the
President is willing to work for peace she be afforded an
opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, political duplicity should
be shunned by all relevant parties to the conflict.

End editorial excerpts.

Lunstead

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