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Cablegate: Investigations Continue Under State of Emergency

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 001448

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER CE LTTE
SUBJECT: INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE UNDER STATE OF EMERGENCY

REF: A. COLOMBO 1419
B. COLOMBO 1374

1. (U) SUMMARY: While security forces continue to investigate
the murder of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, human
rights groups urge restraint under the State of Emergency
(SOE). Meanwhile, Tamil leaders complain the SOE and
checkpoint inspections are an undue trauma on the Tamil
people as the leaders try to shift blame for the murder
elsewhere. In the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
controlled North, LTTE supporters flexed their muscles by
storming a UN compound to cut down flags flown at half mast
out of respect for the slain Foreign Minister, while in the
east Tigers shot at Sri Lankan Army (SLA) soldiers at two
checkpoints, killing one. END SUMMARY

2.(U) According to Army spokesman BGEN Ratnayake, police have
detained and questioned 51 persons since the August 12
shooting of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. Of the 51
questioned, 17 were released on bail after appearing before a
magistrate, 18 others were released without bail, 8 have been
ordered held by a magistrate, and the remaining 8 are being
held for further questions. Police recovered a 40mm grenade
launcher, Chinese design type 82 hand grenade, rifle
ammunition, water bottles and food consumed at the sniper's
perch. These items have been sent to the government analyst
for forensic examination.

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3.(U) Although the Public Security Ordinance (PSO) gives the
President wide ranging powers in an SOE, President
Kumaratunga is required to have an itemized list of those new
powers "gazetted" and approved before Parliament within ten
days. Parliament will begin this emergency debate August 18.
Under the PSO, once approved by Parliament, the SOE may
remain in effect for one month, and can be extended month by
month by Parliament. For the most part, however, the current
SOE does not seem to have a visible impact on the lives of
most Colombo residents. For example, there does not appear
to be an appreciable increase of security forces on the
street; there is little restriction on movement, and no
suspension of public gatherings. Most importantly, other
civil liberties remain unaffected.

4.(SBU) The scenario is predictably somewhat different in the
North and East. Following the shooting of Kadirgamar, on
August 13 the SLA closed the crossings between LTTE and
government controlled areas in the Northeastern province. In
the north this caused a back up of traffic for several miles
along the A-9 highway. The pro-LTTE TamilNet reported that
Tamils in Ampara and Trincomalee districts were being
harassed and refused passage to the local hospital, which a
phone conversation with the USAID field office dispelled as
propaganda. The USAID office further indicated that local
Tamil employees thought the search procedure were more
professional and less invasive that during the conflict
period. All crossings have since re-opened. In a August 15
conversation with POLOFF, the Vavuniya Government Agent
described the SLA as beefing up its bunkers and fence lines.
The government agent went on to say the mood in the north is
violent, explaining that civilians could be incited by the
LTTE as they were in Jaffna on August 5 (Reftel B).

5. (U) This hostility was manifested when LTTE supporters on
August 15 bullied their way on to UN compounds in the LTTE
capital Kilinochchi to cut down UN flags that had been flying
at half mast for the national day of mourning. This incident
was followed on August 16 by LTTE cadres firing at two guard
posts in Trincomalee, killing one SLA soldier. It is
reported by an SLA spokesperson that the gunman was hiding
behind a group of civilians crossing the road, in effect
using them as human shields.

6. (U) On August 13 LTTE political head Thamilchelvan denied
LTTE involvement in the Kadirgamar assassination and blamed
"Sri Lankan armed forces with a hidden agenda." In a
televised address to the nation on August 14, President
Kumaratunga held the LTTE responsible for Kadirgamar murder
and dismissed their denials. While she justified several
security measures, the President affirmed her commitment to
peace stating that "we need an enlightened vision and policy
that will seek out the true causes of ethnic conflict in our
land and address it objectively and effectively." Most
significantly she indirectly criticized the Sinhala
chauvinists in the JVP and JHU parties as "Those extremist
forces who oppose even minimal concessions towards peace ..."
calling them "responsible for the perpetuation of the
terrorist cause , in as much as the LTTE is for responsible
for generating it." She closed her speech by urging Sri
Lankans not to be provoked to violence and to act with the
"utmost restraint".

7. (U) Late August 17 the LTTE regained their footing when
Thamilchelvan released a statement declaring "war is not an
option" but still claiming a Southern inside job in the
killing of Kadirgamar.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: To date the actions of the Sri Lanakan
government and security forces appear to have been
professional and proportional. It is very encouraging that
at every opportunity the GSL has reiterated a commitment to
the peace process. In stark contrast, the LTTE wasted four
days denying their involvement and making no mention of the
cease fire agreement or the peace process. END COMMENT.

ENTWISTLE

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