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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Predictable Coverage Of

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 001127

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR S/ES, INR/MR, PA
SA/INS (CAMP, DEAN) SA/PD (SCENSNY, ROGERS, STRYKER);
SSA/PAS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PHUM KPAO PTER EAID OIIP PREL CE LTTE
SUBJECT: Special Media Reaction: Predictable Coverage of
Signing of the Joint Mechanism for Tsunami Relief and
Reconstruction

1. (U) Summary: Sri Lankan media provided widespread
prominent editorial coverage of the June 24 signing of the
Joint Mechanism (Post-Tsunami Management Structure, P-TOMS)
between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in high circulation Sunday
edition newspapers on June 26, 2005. Front-page coverage in
independent newspapers was somewhat less prominent than
might have been expected, but editorialists devoted
significant commentary exclusively to the event. Headline
writers and editorialists took predictable stances in their
commentary on the signing; Government owned media praised
the agreement, while opposition-friendly independent
newspapers questioned details and implementation of the
accord, and Marxist/Sinhala nationalist newspapers took a
decidedly pessimistic tone. End summary.

2. (U) Government owned English and vernacular print press
ran front-page banner headlines celebrating the June 24
conclusion of the Joint Mechanism agreement after President
Kumaratunga's long struggle to win support, while
independent papers focused front page stories on political
disputes arising from the Joint Mechanism and commented on
the accord extensively in editorial sections. Government
owned Sunday Observer (circulation 100,000) led with, "World
commends President," and "Mass support for P-TOMS."
Editorials also predictably commended the signing of the
Joint Mechanism. The mainstream independent Sunday Times
(circulation 150,000) was less celebratory; editorialists
bannered, "P-TOMS: Treachery on Treasury," "The pitfalls of
P-TOMS," and "A political tsunami," in which the editor
contended through the Joint Mechanism the government "has
yielded to the very propaganda of the LTTE that the GOSL
[Government of Sri Lanka] represents the Sinhalese, and
therefore the GOSL is a Sinhalese Government!" Pro-JVP
(former junior alliance partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna)
Sunday Island's (circulation 85,000) editorialists bannered,
"Home and dry?" and "Joint Mechanism - all fiction and
misplaced facts?" One editorial expressed outrage the
President had gone against the JVP, "who not so long ago was
the President's lifesaver, bestowing government power on her
party and cohorts."

3. (U) The Sunday Leader's World Affairs editorialist,
Gamini Weerakoon, in an op-ed titled "American ambiguity
towards the LTTE," wrote, "the fact that this [joint]
mechanism... appears to be... for granting international
recognition to the LTTE is being completely ignored by these
nations committed to fight[ing] terrorism."

4. (U) The Tamil and Sinhala language press also afforded
the signing of the Joint Mechanism broad coverage, often
mirroring the stories of their English-language
counterparts. Government owned papers reported the
agreement with the most prominence, and virtually all Tamil
papers lauded the accord. Government owned Tamil Sunday
Thinakaran led with, "UNP [United National Party] lends hand
for majoritarian chauvinist propaganda," criticizing Ranil
Wickremesinghe's party's alleged statements of concern that
the Sinhalese would be underrepresented by the Joint
Mechanism. Thinakaran's editorialist expressed similar
sentiments in an editorial titled, "UNP repeats history."


5. (U) Television and radio broadcasts reported the signing
of the Joint Mechanism in a relatively straightforward
manner, with state-run stations expressing praise for the
President's perseverance in signing the accord.


6. (SBU) Comment: Government owned media, which generally
act as the President's mouthpiece, celebrated the signing of
the Joint Mechanism or P-TOMS in front page headlines as
well as editorials. Predictably, the mainstream independent
press expressed reservations and exploited the political
fallout of the President's decision while the Sinhala
nationalist press emphasized allegations of treachery and
suspicion against the LTTE and the international community
who allegedly "coerced" the President to sign the accord.
End Comment.


Lunstead

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