Cablegate: Media Play: Coverage of Ambassador's Roundtable

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

280934Z Jun 04




E.O. 12958:N/A
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Coverage of Ambassador's roundtable
on Brussels/Peace Process with senior newspaper editors

REFS: Colombo 1075

1. (U) SUMMARY. Following an Ambassadorial roundtable on
June 24 with senior newspaper editors (see Reftel), press
coverage in Sri Lanka was largely positive and upbeat.
Newspapers, both English and vernacular, covered the event
factually and placed their coverage of the event
prominently. Key topics of the coverage included the co-
chairs statement given at Brussels, the peace process, and
religious freedom issues. Editorial comment was also
positive. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) Highlighting the recent co-chairs' Brussels
Statement, independent Sinhala daily, LANKADEEPA (6/25)
said : "Don't let USD 4.5 Billion go by delaying peace
talks anymore - U.S. Ambassador tells government and LTTE"

3. (U) Many headlines focused on peace process issues or
specific topics dealing with the LTTE. Pro-LTTE Tamil
daily SUDAR OLI reported under the headlines (6/25): "We
have no differences with India regarding a peaceful
solution for the ethnic problem" - U.S. Ambassador, and
"Can achieve peace only if the Sri Lankan forces are strong
enough" - U.S. Ambassador

- Government-owned Tamil weekender THINAKARAN VAARA MANJARI
said (6/27): "Self-governing proposals of the LTTE should
not exceed the limits of the final settlement" - U.S.

- Government-owned DAILY NEWS (06/25) "Solution to ethnic
crisis vital for prosperity - U.S. Envoy"

- Independent English DAILY MIRROR, (06/25) "U.S. urges
LTTE, military to talk"

4. (U) Under the headline "Religious Conversions -- an
issue already in Sri Lanka-U.S. relations - U.S.
Ambassador," the independent English daily ISLAND (6/28)
quoted the Ambassador on a variety of topics:

- Conversions. "it's important that it be handled in a way
that it not become a divisive issue. We're encouraged when
we see religious leaders, sometimes encouraged by the
government, taking steps to deal with this in a positive
way by discussing among themselves how they deal with the
issue, but it's always important to ensure that individual
freedom is maintained. And this is guaranteed in the Sri
Lankan Constitution, it's guaranteed in the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sri Lanka has
signed, and within those boundaries, Sri Lanka obviously
wants to try to deal with the issue."

- India. "India did not come to Tokyo and is not a member
of the co-chairs, but I ... don't think that there is any
difference of opinion, or major difference between the co-
chairs, the other concerned countries and India, on the
necessity for a peaceful settlement in Sri Lanka which
preserves the unity and integrity of the State, as will be
in some type of a federal set-up.... This is a huge
benefit for Sri Lanka. It's unique, really. I've never
seen in all my diplomatic experience a situation where all
the major concerned countries, the donors, are in such
agreement, and co-ordinate so closely with each other.
This is to your advantage.... This is an opportunity that
should not be wasted, the outside world wants to help Sri
Lanka. We don't want to try to solve your problem, it's
your problem, you need to solve it. We think that you are
on the right track. We want to help. This is something you
really have to take advantage of, and doesn't occur that

Editorial excerpts:

5. (U) Under the header "Inspiring words of support," the
government-owned English DAILY NEWS (06/25) commented:
"Unflagging international support for the peace process in
Sri Lanka is one predominant positive from which this
country could gather succor and strength. Close on the
heels of a recent joint statement by the Co-chairs of the
Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri
Lanka, pledging ardent support for our peace process, comes
a strong word of support from the U.S. Ambassador to Sri
Lanka, Jeffrey Lunstead, that this country should
courageously soldier on to peace, making itself an example
to the rest of the world, in the process. The U.S.
Ambassador was unambiguous in his pronouncement that Lanka
enjoyed the backing of the international community in this
effort. It is their wish that Sri Lanka would overcome all
obstacles on the path to peace. Inasmuch as we are buoyed
by these warm words of support for our peace endeavor, we
could also take heart from the fact that the U.S. has made
very clear its conditions for lifting its ban on the LTTE.
On this issue, its principled position is most exemplary
and we hope other sections of the world community which
cannot quite make up their minds on the issue, would be
inspired into a clearer stand by the U.S.' clarity of

6. (U) Under the header "Interim Administration and the
final solution" the independent Sinhala weekly, SUNDAY
LAKBIMA (6/27) commented: "(The) bottom line of the
discussion the U.S. Ambassador had with editors on Brussels
meeting is the importance of the link between the agreement
on ISGA and the final solution .... But whatever is said
and done, we need to talk with the LTTE to end war. The
LTTE wants the ISGA established before restarting the talks
... This time although returning to war is not that simple,
they seem to be taking advantage of the weakness of
government .... In the meantime, the government is forced
to push for peace talks, because of the huge amount of
money that has been pledged for Sri Lanka...."


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