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Cablegate: Media Play: Coverage of Suicide Bombing by Alleged Tamil

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 001145

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO PTER PHUM OIIP PREL CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: Coverage of suicide bombing by alleged Tamil
Tiger in Colombo

Ref: Colombo 1142


1. (U) SUMMARY. Per Reftel, on July 7, a suspected Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside a police
station in the heart of downtown Colombo, near the Prime Minister's
office, U.S. Embassy and British High Commission. The suspected targ
of the suicide bomber -- a young woman -- was a Tamil politician,
Douglas Devananda, a vocal critic of the LTTE and current Cabinet
minister. Four police officers and the bomber were killed and twelve
people injured. Headlines, both English and vernacular, July 8-9 wer
largely devoted to factual coverage of the attack and how it would
affect the peace process. Late July 8, the Tigers denied involvement
in the attack through pro-LTTE website "TamilNet," as well as through
an interview with an AP correspondent. Editorial comment surrounding
the incident questioned whether the bombing would adversely affect th
peace process. END SUMMARY.

---------
Headlines
---------

2. (U) Headlines uniformly focused on the bombing, its supposed targ
and possible repercussions for the peace process. Independent Englis
DAILY MIRROR, (07/08) reported:

- Attempt on Devananda's life fails

- Four policemen killed, ten injured; Govt. condemns attack

- Devananda says terror can't stop his mission

- Suicide bomb rips hole in last hour of trading

- Business community aghast over blast

DAILY MIRROR (07/09)

- Blast won't affect peace process - JVP

Independent Sinhala daily, LANKADEEPA (07/08) said: Effort to
assassinate Devananda in his ministry unsuccessful; four in police
service give their lives

Pro-LTTE Tamil daily SUDAR OLI reported under the headlines (07/08):
Suicidal bomb blast inside the Colpetty police station -- five,
including a police inspector dead; 10 injured -- Was Minister Douglas
Devananda the target?

Government-owned DAILY NEWS (07/08) Devananda survives 10th
assassination bid -- woman Black Tiger blows herself up, four killed

- Tiger feline's failed mission

- President does not expect any change to peace process

- Govt. condemns attempted assassination on Devananda

DAILY NEWS (07/09)

- Bomb blast not against peace process - UPFA

- LTTE denies involvement in attack

3. (U) Independent English daily ISLAND (07/08) said: Govt. raises
bomb attack with Oslo

- Revive peace process - UNP to Govt.

- EPDP wants CBK to pursue peace even after assassination bid

- Govt. condemns blast without naming perpetrator

- Suicide bomb triggers selling on bourse

ISLAND (07/09)

- SLMM warns Govt. and Tigers - forces say LTTE responsible; Tigers
deny

- Petersen hopes truce will hold

4. (U) Also of note was the Tigers' denial of involvement in the
attack:

- Pro-LTTE website "TamilNet" stated that Tiger political chief S.P.
Thamilchelvam has said the Tigers had "absolutely no connection in th
suicide bombing in Colombo. This is an act to destabilize the peace
process. We suspect this has been carried out by elements that want
disrupt the peace process."

- In an interview with an AP correspondent that appeared on Lanka
Academic, a local independent website, Thamilchelvam reportedly said
that the Tigers "condemn this attempted assassination," and that the
group denied any involvement in the bombing, saying that "it may have
been carried out by some anti-peace elements."

-------------------
Editorial excerpts:
-------------------

5. (U) Under the header "Dastardly attack," the government-owned
English DAILY NEWS (07/08) commented: "The bomb blast in the heart o
Colombo yesterday, which claimed almost half a dozen lives and injure
several others, meets with our strongest condemnation. The evidence a
the time of writing is that the explosion was the work of a woman
suicide bomber who was awaiting a meeting with EPDP leader and Minist
of State, Douglas Devananda. She apparently detonated the bomb, whic
was on her person when she was whisked off for questioning by the
Police. Inasmuch as the loss of lives in this incident meets with ou
forthright condemnation we also bemoan the human suffering the traged
has engendered. We offer our heartfelt condolences to those who have
lost their loved ones in this outrage, which has caused considerable
concern and anxiety among the public.... For, Devananda has not only
said 'no' to and vehemently and steadfastly opposed tyranny and anti-
democratic forces in the North-East but has also been a rallying-poin
of anti-authoritarian forces in the region. He is a battle-hardened,
anti-LTTE campaigner who has proved his mettle in the violent politic
of the North and East and the body politic owes it to him to give him
all the support that could be legitimately provided to him. It is
obvious that it is only those forces, which are repressive of the
people's democratic aspirations, who would be eager to see an end to
Douglas Devananda, who is now working alongside the Government in its
efforts to serve the people."

6. (U) The DAILY NEWS followed up on 07/09 under the header: "Persis
with peace effort": President Kumaratunga's brief but cogent stateme
on the aborted attempt on the life of Minister Douglas Devananda, hel
to dispel the gloom and fears the incident has generated in some
quarters on the future of the peace process. The peace process would
no way be affected by this development, the President clarified,
raising hopes thereby, that the search for peace would continue
uninterrupted.... this incident was in a category which was entirely
different from that in which the peace process could be placed.
Accordingly, the peace process wouldn't be derailed by the bomb attac
which was aimed at ending an individual life.... Nevertheless, kick
starting the peace process should be now considered of the first
importance. It is only a just and negotiated peace, which could rende
bombs and bullets superfluous and needless. The Colpetty blast shoul
also alert the SLMM to the need to ensure scrupulous adherence to the
letter and spirit of the Ceasefire Agreement. Ambivalence on the par
of anyone on the terms of the ceasefire could prove perilous. Althou
individual killings cannot put the brakes on the peace effort, they
could sour the atmosphere in which talks are held."

7. (U) Under the header "Hear no LTTE, see no LTTE and speak no
LTTE?," the independent English daily ISLAND commented on 07/09: The
LTTE bomber who blew herself up on Wednesday together with four
policemen has exploded a powerful myth: the LTTE is for a peaceful
settlement of the conflict. The bomber missed her target, Minister
Douglas Devananda, but she accomplished her mission by conveying
Prabhakaran's message wrapped in plastic explosives: The LTTE doesn'
care a damn about world opinion. The blast came as no surprise. It
has been clear from the beginning that Prabhakaran is no respecter of
the fragile truce, which he has violated with gay abandon over 2,000
times.... If anyone believes that Prabhakaran has blundered be sendin
a 'child of fire' to Colombo as he will have to face the opprobrium o
the world for that he or she is sadly mistaken.... In a few days the
blast will be forgotten and foreign diplomats will queue up at the
entrance to Prabhakaran's bunker in the Wanni to pay "pooja" to him..
Human rights groups.... are mum when Prabhakaran brainwashes girls an
makes them blow themselves up so as to boost his ego and increase his
bargaining power.... it is doubtful that the LTTE may want to torpedo
the peace process at this juncture, as it has hitherto been a milch c
for the outfit.

8. (U) Under the header "Avoid destabilization of the country",
independent daily ISLAND commented on 07/08: "The suicide bomb blast
in the Colpetty police station on Wednesday, among other things,
confirms the fears and suspicions that tormented the people from the
time the peace process started wobbling as a result of the contentiou
political manipulations in the south. This incident confirms the
presence in Colombo City of dreaded suicide bombers ready to carry ou
destructive operations. It is clear now that the dismantling of
security measures with the coming into force of the ceasefire, though
beneficial measure has provided unhindered mobility to agents of
destruction. Of course, doubts and suspicions have not ceased to
circulate.... Most government spokespersons have glibly announced tha
the present incident will not, in any way, hinder the peace process.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga was particularly emphatic about her
intention to conduct the peace process to a conclusion, whatever the
obstacles that stand in her way. Her determination is indeed
commendable.... What is disconcerting, however, is that these concern
leaders lack the required courage, wisdom or magnanimity to sink thei
narrow party differences and unite to save the country from possible
disaster.... These politicians have now to decide whether they will
stay mired in these parochial squabbles or take swift action to resol
the national issue through a common approach, without driving the
country to total destabilization."

9. (U) Under the header "Peace bomb (let's identify Prabhakaran)"
independent Sinhala daily DIVAINA (07/09) commented: "The recent
suicide bomb tarnishes the image of Solheim, SLMM, peace delegates...
Prabhakaran has done a serious crime to all of those who tried hard t
show the world that he is a noble citizen. This bombing occurred jus
three days after a Tiger leader claimed on Black Tiger Day that the
LTTE hated war. This bomb explosion has shattered the peace process.
Although there were several violations like killings of military
intelligence operatives, smuggling of arms.... this was the very firs
bomb that exploded during the truce. Devananda -- a long time target
of the LTTE, has shunned bloody politics and is now hand in hand with
Karuna. The LTTE is aware of the massive change he can make happen
with Karuna in the East in future elections. That is why the young
woman was sent to Colombo with a bomb to finish him off. She should
one of the several young men and women who made use of the peace aven
to come with arms to Colombo during the truce! The bottom line is th
the time has come to identify Prabhakaran, who plants bombs along the
peace avenue. His message is only of war. The cunning politicians a
this end should bear that in mind."

10. (U) Under the header "Is the door to peace closing down?" pro-LT
Tamil daily SUDAR OLI (07/08) commented: "After two and half years a
bomb explosion has taken place in Colombo. We have been continuously
writing in this column about the danger that is nearing.... This
suicidal bomb blast cannot be set aside as just another incident....
Though the peace talks that started during the UNF government had
setbacks in the midway the understanding and trust that remained gave
hopes that the peace talks could move forward.... The understanding
between the government and the LTTE started to wane with the presiden
taking over the defense ministry and is now at the lowest level. The
president joining with the JVP, a party that has always opposed peace
talks, in forming a government and the way she handled the Karuna
affair, trying to divide the Tamil community, are leading the country
to a war.... Who can change the fate of the country and its people if
the people rally around the leadership that is preparing for a war?
People and the country are to decide whether they are for war or
peace."

11. (U) Under the headline "Echo of the bomb blast," independent Tam
daily VIRAKESARI (07/09) commented: " After a long interval, a suicid
bomber has gone to pieces in Colombo killing four police personnel an
wounding another 14. It is said that the target was minister Douglas
Devananda.... This bomb blast, the first after October 2001, has sent
shock waves among people.... We cannot deny that the delay in the
resumption of the peace talks has paved way for this bomb blast....
Whatever the motives behind this bomb blast, such an act should be
condemned.... We have to point out that this incident is warning to a
those obstruct the peace efforts.... All should realize when the peac
process gets delayed the environment for such violence is automatical
created.... Condemnation has come from all walks of life including th
LTTE, which has denied any involvement.... The LTTE has also said tha
such incidents could further obstruct the peace efforts.... While
condemning the bomb blast the president has assured that the peace
talks would resume soon."
12. (U) Under the header "Clear diversion, " independent Tamil daily
THINAKKURAL (07/09) commented: "For the first time, after the
ceasefire agreement was signed in February 2002, a suicide bomb attac
took place in Colombo on Wednesday.... It is said that the suicide
bomber's target was minister Douglas Devananda.... While the UPFA
condemned the attempt on minister Devananda's life, the president in
interview with the ITN said that the incident would not affect the
peace process as it is on a better footing.... They clearly show tha
there is a threat to the ceasefire agreement.... It is important that
the peace talks are resumed soon if to stop the acceleration of
violence.... The Kumaratunga government should look for new avenues a
commence the peace talks with the LTTE as soon as possible.... As pea
loving people we anticipate that both parties would realize that the
misunderstandings between the two parties is a barrier to the
commencement of talks and that action should be taken from both sides
to bridge this gap."

Lunstead

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