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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Jvp Jingoism Elicits Clarification On

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

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000472

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER CE LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: JVP JINGOISM ELICITS CLARIFICATION ON
NEGOTIATIONS; PROVOKES PROTESTS IN TRINCOMALEE

REF: COLOMBO 426

1. (U) Coalition partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)
opposition to an official statement issued by the Government
(GSL) on February 22 declaring its readiness to discuss "an
interim arrangement" with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) prompted an official clarification of the GSL
stance from the Government Information Department. The JVP
had branded the GSL position as anti-nationalist and
threatened to resign from the coalition unless it were
withdrawn (Reftel). The clarification, issued on March 3,
stresses that the GSL never agreed--as the JVP charged--to
accepting the LTTE's controversial Interim Self-Governing
Authority (ISGA) proposal as the sole basis of negotiations.
Instead, "the Government has agreed to the concept of setting
up an Interim Authority within the context of negotiating a
permanent settlement to the ethnic conflict . . .(which) is
very different from opening negotiation solely on the basis
of the LTTE demand of the Interim Self-Governing Authority,
which prevents the re-opening of direct negotiations." The
March 3 statement then quotes extracts from previous GSL
statements, including one made by President Kumaratunga in
October, to demonstrate the GSL position has not changed.

2. (U) The same day trouble broke out in the eastern coastal
town of Trincomalee when JVP MP Jayantha Wijesekera, along
with volunteers from the party's local "Red Star Disaster
Assistance Program," attempted to build houses for tsunami
victims on property owned by the Trincomalee Urban Council.
According to one local resident, a group of Tamils, backed
(or incited) by the LTTE, protested the move, complaining
that the houses were being built only for Sinhalese victims
and noting that the land was public property. The
confrontation turned violent, as rocks were thrown, road
barriers thrown up and a JVP van set on fire. Two people
were injured. The Sri Lanka Army and police were mobilized
to regain order, and local residents, under the mistaken
belief that a curfew had been imposed, returned home.
According to local residents, the Sri Lanka Army Spokesman
and DIG of Police Neville Wijesinghe, all was quiet by about
5:00 p.m. local time.

3. (SBU) JVP MP Wijesekera, who has earned a justifiable
reputation as a firebrand and rabble-rouser, blamed the
incident on the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance
(TNA)--especially Trinco MP and local rival R.
Sampanthan--when we talked to him on March 4. Wijesekera
claimed that he had obtained prior approval from local
authorities and, while acknowledging that most of his
program's beneficiaries are indeed members of the majority
Sinhalese, alleged that representatives from all three
communities were included in the project. Sampanthan, on the
other hand, denied any personal involvement to us, asserting
instead that the protests were utterly spontaneous.

4. (SBU) Comment: The JVP continues to play an
extraordinarily unhelpful role in just about every sphere of
GSL activity, whether it be the budget, agricultural policy,
the peace process or tsunami reconstruction. (In another
example, on March 2 the JVP organized the first-ever
"Anti-colonialism Day"--a move, in the view of many
observers, intended to embarrass the government as it
welcomes aid organizations from many former colonial powers
to help rebuild.) The President apparently took her
coalition partner's latest threat to leave the government
seriously enough to issue a clarification--a clarification
that, unfortunately, reinserts certain conditions on resumed
negotiations omitted in the February 22 statement. We
predict this apparent concession will be unlikely to satisfy
the ever-contentious JVP for long, however. With nearly
equal percentages of Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil residents,
Trincomalee is a particularly volatile area, and Wijesekera's
provocative activism is a constant irritant. We have no
indication that he plans to adopt a lower profile anytime
soon. The GSL may have weathered this latest fracas, but we
expect more trouble from its fractious partner soon.

LUNSTEAD

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