Cablegate: Sri Lankan Presidential Elections Scheduled For

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





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) On September 19 Election Commissioner Dayananda
Dissanayake announced that presidential elections will be
held on November 17. Nominations are to be filed on October
7. So far, only the two largest parties, the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP) of incumbent President Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and the United National Party (UNP)
have announced their candidates: Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe,

2. (U) The SLFP will hold its first official election rally
in Colombo on September 20. Joining Rajapakse on the podium,
according to SLFP sources, will be representatives from the
Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). The
Buddhist nationalist Jathika Hela Urumayu (JHU), which, like
the JVP, has pledged to support Rajapakse's candidacy in
exchange for commitments to uphold the "unitary" nature of
the Sri Lankan state, is not planning to appear on stage with
Rajapakse at the rally. UNP candidate Wickremesinghe held
his own rally in Colombo on September 18. Members of the
pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Tamil National
Alliance, which is widely expected to back the UNP, traveled
to Kilinochchi last week to huddle with the LTTE leadership
before formally announcing its support for either candidate.

3. (SBU) The rally takes place against a backdrop of
continued controversy within the SLFP regarding Rajapakse's
decision to ally himself with the jingoist JVP and
JHU--effectively turning his back on Kumaratunga's approach
to the peace process. The battle lines may already be
forming: Kumaratunga allies Finance Minister Sarath
Amunugama and Buddhist Affairs Minister Ratnasiri
Wickremenayake have turned down invitations to speak in
support of Rajapakse's nomination at the September 20 rally,
according to SLFP sources. Kumaratunga, who is not expected
to return from overseas until later this week, jumped head
first into the intra-party fray with remarks before the Asia
Society in New York on September 15, reported in the local
press, that negotiating a peaceful resolution to the conflict
"will involve transforming the State from a unitary one to
one that is plural and federal in nature"--a direct
refutation of Rajapakse's commitment to his nationalist
allies. The ongoing long-distance spitting match between the
President and her anointed successor continues to fuel
speculation that a more direct confrontation between the two
SLFP leaders--with the President possibly angling to dump
Rajapakse as the party's standard bearer--is brewing.

© Scoop Media

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