Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Tsunami Anniversary

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
SUBJECT: Special Media Reaction: Tsunami Anniversary

1. (U) Summary: All three English dailies carried Ambassador
Lunstead's tsunami memorial message titled "America Joins
Sri Lanka in Remembrance" on Friday, December 23. Sinhala
and Tamil newspapers carried the op-ed in the vernacular on
Saturday, December 24 and Monday, December 26.
Complementing the Ambassador's message, print and television
media widely covered the opening of the first USAID-
sponsored playground for tsunami affected communities in
Galle on the anniversary of the disaster. Several
television news programs also carried the Department's
tsunami message. End Summary.


2. (U) The Ambassador's approximately 650-word tsunami
message appeared in all three English dailies, including
government-owned Daily News, and independent Daily Mirror
and Island on December 23. PAS sought a Friday placement so
that Christmas stories and other tsunami anniversary pieces
would not bury our message. Vernacular papers, including
Sinhala Lankadeepa, Lakbima, Divaina and Dinamina, as well
as government-owned Tamil Thinakaran and independent Tamil
dailies Virakesari and Thinakkural carried Ambassador
Lunstead's message on December 24 and 26, along with very
few other statements from foreign missions.

3. (U) The USAID playground opening also garnered a
surprising amount of media attention, despite other high-
level commemorations on December 26. The independent Island
ran a large cover photo of Ambassador Lunstead and Governor
of the Southern Province Kingsley Wickramaratna descending
down two parallel slides on the new playscape. Sinhala print
press, more prominently represented in the southern district
of Galle, provided coverage of the playground opening in
newspapers of December 28.

4. (U) State-owned Rupavahini and independent Swarnavahini
television stations carried footage of the playground
opening, including Ambassador Lunstead's remarks and tsunami-
survivor children enjoying the new equipment. Associated
Press Television News also recorded the event in Galle, and
Sri Lankan NGO and USAID implementing partner Sarvodaya
interviewed Ambassador Lunstead for a short documentary on
US-led tsunami reconstruction efforts. The American
Broadcast Corporation (ABC) carried footage provided by AP
in its December 27 national evening news broadcast.
Rupavahini news and independent MTV also carried portions of
the State Department's tsunami statement.

5. (U) Comment: We anticipated a flurry of memorial
activities in Sri Lanka surrounding the first anniversary of
the Boxing Day tsunami. Given the abundance of other events
and messages, local media and international wire services
especially highlighted the continuing efforts of the U.S.
Government in tsunami relief and reconstruction, and brought
home the message to the citizens of Sri Lanka that the U.S.
recognizes much work is still to be done, by our hands and
others, to help Sri Lanka "build back better." End Comment.


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