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Cablegate: Government Issues Public Statement in Support Of

VZCZCXRO6620
PP RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1689/01 3541200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201200Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7391
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4191
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1671
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 4201
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 1237
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3297
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8195
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 5769
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO 0490
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2511
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0719
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001689

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID
AID/W PLEASE PASS USAID/OFDA, USAID/ANE, USAID/CMM
KATHMANDU FOR OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR WILLIAM BERGER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AORC PREL CE
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT ISSUES PUBLIC STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF
UN AT REQUEST OF DONORS

REF: COLOMBO 1652

1. Summary: At the urging of the U.S., EU and UN in Sri
Lanka, the Government of Sri Lanka issued a public statement
on December 15 expressing its "support for, and confidence
in, United Nations operations in Sri Lanka" and "the efforts
of the international agencies in humanitarian assistance and
development work in the country, stating that their efforts
have greatly contributed to the welfare of the people of Sri
Lanka." Comment: This statement provides a clear message of
GSL support that the UN hopes will help reduce difficulties
its employees and its field operations are experiencing in
exercising their mandate. However, further criticism is
likely to be a continuing issue as nationalistic parties such
as the JVP and their supporters in Government are skeptical
of the motivation of the UN and INGOs who provide
humanitarian assistance to conflict victims and other needy
residents in LTTE-controlled areas. End Comment and Summary.


2. Reftel reported that relations between the United Nations
and the Government of Sri Lanka deteriorated further in the
last month as a result of groundless accusations by the JVP
that UNICEF had supported the LTTE through contributions of
money, food rations and vehicles. In a separate incident,
the GSL voiced strong objection to a statement by UNESCO
Director General Koichiro Matsuura condemning the Sri Lankan
military's attack on the Voice of Tigers (VOT) radio station.

3. At the monthly meeting on December 13 of the Consultative
Committee on Humanitarian Assistance chaired by Minister of
Disaster Management and Human Rights Samarasinghe and Defense
Secretary Rajapaksa, Ambassador urged that the GSL issue a

SIPDIS
public statement expressing its support for the work of the
UN in Sri Lanka. Ambassador noted that that the UNICEF
controversy had affected adversely not only UN operations,
but also those of international NGOs. He reported that in a
meeting on December 12, international NGO representatives had
told the Embassy that as a result of the tensions with the
UN, Tamil staff of INGOs were being stopped more frequently
at military checkpoints and felt increasingly vulnerable.
One NGO reported experiencing difficulties hiring new local
staff because of the danger potential recruits felt they
might be exposed to. The Ambassador urged that the GSL issue
a high-level public statement noting that it had investigated
the allegations against UNICEF, found no evidence of
wrong-doing, and express its strong support for the work of
UN agencies and INGOs in Sri Lanka. EU Head of Mission
Wilson and UN Resident Representative Buhne made similar
appeals.

4. Samarasinghe and Rajapaksa agreed to issue a statement
and asked the donors to provide a draft. After an exchange
of drafts and comments, the Government issued the following
statement on December 15:

Government and International Donors express support for UN
operations in Sri Lanka

At the monthly meeting of the Consultative Committee on
Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) chaired by Minister of
Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, on
Thursday (13 December), the CCHA reiterated its support for,
and confidence in, United Nations operations in Sri Lanka.
Associated with the Minister at the meeting were heads of UN
and multilateral agencies, heads of Diplomatic Missions
including US Ambassador Robert Blake representing the
Co-Chairs and EU Ambassador Julian Wilson, the Secretary to
the Ministry of Defense, Public Security and Law and Order
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and other key government stakeholders.

Minister Samarasinghe stated that the Government, and the
CCHA in particular, appreciates the efforts of the
international agencies in humanitarian assistance and
development work in the country, stating that their efforts

COLOMBO 00001689 002 OF 002


have greatly contributed to the welfare of the people of Sri
Lanka. He stressed, however, that the Government has the
right to fully investigate any allegations of misconduct.
The CCHA had agreed upon an approach based on the party
accused of such misconduct being given the opportunity to put
forward its case and that, until all investigations are
concluded, parties shall refrain from issuing any public
statements. Such an investigation is currently under way to
investigate allegations against one Agency and the Government
will wait for the outcome of the decision.

The International Donor Members of the CCHA including
Ambassadors Blake and Wilson welcomed this expression of
support and the government's position on the investigation of
allegations. The international donor members also reiterated
their full confidence in the UN, Red Cross and I/NGO
agencies, their mandates and committed staff members. They
pointed out that the programs implemented by the UN are
approved by and often implemented with the relevant
Government Ministries and district/divisional offices of the
Government.

In the collaborative spirit of the CCHA, the Chair on behalf
of Government stakeholders and international members decided
to place their position before the Sri Lankan public to
emphasize the positive and fruitful relationship that exists
between Sri Lanka and the UN.

5. Comment: This is a welcome statement. It provides a
clear message of GSL support that the UN hopes will help
reduce difficulties its employees are experiencing in
exercising their mandate. This is likely to be a continuing
issue, however, as nationalistic parties such as the JVP and
their supporters in Government are skeptical of the
motivations of the UN and INGOs who provide humanitarian
assistance to conflict victims and other needy residents in
LTTE-controlled areas. The GSL declined to mention UNICEF in
its statement as that investigation is ongoing. UNICEF and
the UN vigorously deny any wrong-doing and are confident the
GSL's investigation will conclude the same.
BLAKE

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