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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Seven Civilians Injured in Violent

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) SUMMARY: Seven civilians were injured when Sri Lanka
Army (SLA) soldiers fired on a violent protest led by
students affiliated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) in the northern district of Jaffna on December 19. In
Colombo on December 17-18 security forces arrested and
released over 100 suspects in neighborhood sweeps for
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suspects. The Sri
Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) declared the LTTE guilty of
gross violations of the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) after the
December 14 shooting at a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter in
the eastern district of Ampara (Ref B). The CFA continues to
hold--but under obvious and increasing pressure. End

2. (SBU) A series of clashes between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA)
and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-affiliated
student groups have continued to ratchet up tensions in the
Jaffna peninsula, culminating in a December 19 incident in
which the SLA fired into a crowd of several hundred
protesters trying to march on the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM) compound in Jaffna. Seven persons were
reported shot and others injured after security forces
reportedly beat members of the crowd. The SLMM district head
in Jaffna reported the SLA was attempting to block this march
because on December 15 a group of 25-30 pro-LTTE protesters
had climbed the wall of the SLMM compound and entered its
offices, demanding a meeting with the representative. In the
wake of this incident, the SLMM is gauging the tension in
Jaffna and reviewing its protective posture.

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3. (U) In addition to the disturbances December 19, angry
protests shook the normally quiet island of Kayts in Jaffna
on December 18 following the discovery of the body of a local
woman, who had been missing for two days, in an area under
the control of the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) and the anti-LTTE
Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP). According to the
Divisional Secretary, a crowd of approximately 1000
protesters, organized by the LTTE, threw stones and burned
tires in front of the naval base, accusing the SLN of
involvement in her death.

4. (U) On December 16 President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced
that he would ask Parliament to approve another one-month
extension of the Emergency Regulations, which give the Armed
Forces expanded powers of search, seizure and arrest. (The
Emergency Regulations, enacted after the August 12
assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, have
already been extended by Parliament four times.) During the
night and early morning hours of December 17 and 18 the
security forces conducted traffic stops and house-to-house
searches in four predominantly Tamil neighborhoods in
Colombo, questioning (and ultimately releasing) 107 suspects
and detaining another five with forged documents. (The
detainees may be held for up to 12 months under the Emergency
Regulations.) A senior journalist for the largest Tamil
newspaper reported being fingerprinted, photographed and held
for twelve hours after police ignored his government press

5. (SBU) On December 17, the SLMM ruled the December 14
shooting of a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter (Ref B) in
Ampara District as a "gross violation" of the CFA by the
LTTE. According to press reports, Air Force Commander Donald
Perera called on the SLMM and the Norwegian Embassy to take
prompt action to ensure similar incidents do not happen
again. (Comment: How exactly the Norwegian Embassy and SLMM
are to do this the Air Force Commander did not say.)

6. (SBU) Comment: Although the SLA has shown great
restraint in the face of months of increasing provocation,
the first signs of strain may be beginning to show. These
tensions can only continue to grow as stepped-up search
operations for LTTE cadres in predominantly Tamil
neighborhoods in Colombo increase the sense of vulnerability
within the minority community. The LTTE can be expected to
try to paint this latest flurry of incidents as further proof
of a Sinhalese hard line in the new government.

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