|Wikileaks:||View 04COLOMBO51 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PGOV PREL PINS PINR CE Political Parties Elections|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000051 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR D, SA, SA/INS, INR/NESA; NSC FOR E. MILLARD PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC E.O. 12958: DECL: 01-12-14 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINS, PINR, CE, Political Parties, Elections SUBJECT: In meeting with Ambassador, Prime Minister ponders delay in resolution of Defence Ministry question Refs: Colombo 44, and previous (U) Classified by Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead. Reasons 1.5 (b,d). 1. (C) SUMMARY: Prime Minister told the Ambassador January 10 that it was up to the President to make a new offer on how to deal with the Defense portfolio. In the meantime, he is offering power-sharing at the Provincial level. It appears both sides are waiting to gauge their strength in the April 10 Provincial Elections. END SUMMARY. A New Proposal -------------- 2. (C) The Ambassador was called in to see Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on the afternoon of Saturday, January 10. Milinda Moragoda was also present. The meeting began with the participants exchanging thoughts on the books they had read over the Christmas/New Year's lull, with the PM noting in particular a biography of Franklin Roosevelt. The PM then turned to the purpose of the meeting, saying that he was at an impasse with the President. He had decided, therefore, to try to deal with the broader issue of cooperation, and leave Defense and the Peace Process for later. He would make a proposal to her that for the upcoming Provincial Elections (now proposed to be held simultaneously in all provinces on April 10), the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) agree that the losing party would be offered two provincial ministries, perhaps even including the Chief Ministership. Of course, the PM said, this meant that the SLFP would have to give up its plans for an electoral alliance with the Sinhalese-radical Janantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). If the two sides could work together like this in the Provinces, then they could do so in the Center also. Some SLFP politicians could become Central Ministers, but with at least 40 SLFP'ers remaining as the official Opposition, so that the JVP could not claim that role. If all of this worked, then they could find a way to handle Defense. 3. (C) The Ambassador said that he wanted to be sure the PM realized two things before going into a discussion of the current issue. First was that we believed that what he and his government had done in the past two years on peace and on bringing Sri Lanka into the modern economic world were unprecedented. Second, that we were clear that it was the President who had precipitated the current crisis. That being said, both the peace process and economic reform were at risk, and the challenge now was to find a way forward. 4. (C) The Ambassador then described his December 26 meeting with the President when he had handed over the letter from Secretary Powell. The Ambassador told the PM that he had pressed the President hard to come up with a bold political approach to resolve the crisis, and that she had resisted initially but finally conceded she might have some new ideas. What was the PM's thinking now on Defense? Was the Indian idea of constituting separate theater commands still in play? 5. (C) The PM said that he had made a proposal on how to handle Defense issues, which the President had rejected. Elaborating, the PM said that under his plan the President could remain as Secretary of Defense, he would be Minister of National Security and (former Defense Minister) Tilak Marapana would be named Minister Assisting Defense. The entire Defense establishment (Army, Navy, Air Force) would be put under the PM's control ("gazetted" to him). All operational matters would fall under Marapana. The President would chair the National Security Council. This would be similar to the French system, he said, where there is a "Minister of Armies." He did not think the Indian proposal for separate theater commands, which would be gazetted to him, would work. Nor could he accept her proposal to gazette to him specific Defense functions relating to the peace process. He had made his offer, it was now up to her to come up with something new. Since he could not administer the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) without full defense powers, he had asked her to sit down with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), amend the CFA, and take it over. 6. (C) The Ambassador repeated that he had urged the President to look at the matter as a political, not a legal issue, and that he had also urged her to think of a way to bridge the gap. The two sides had actually made some progress, he said, and now seemed stuck on what would be gazetted to the PM. The PM wanted the Armed Services in toto under his control; she wanted to gazette certain Armed Services functions. Perhaps there was an answer in there. 7. (C) The PM said that he thought that the President was really concerned about what happened to her when her present term ended. The Ambassador said he believed that was correct, but that there was an additional factor. From his conversations with the President, he said, he believed the underlying motivation for her actions was to send a message that she would not be treated in the last two years of her Presidency as she was in the preceding two years. PM accepted this, but said that if she wanted Ministers to treat her with respect, she also had to treat them properly. Akashi Visit and High-level Co-chairs Meeting --------------------------------------------- 8. (C) The conversation then shifted to the upcoming (January 19-25) visit of Japanese Special Envoy Akashi and the proposed early-February High-level Co-chairs meeting in Washington. Discussion in Septel. It's the PM's Call ------------------ 9. (C) As the meeting concluded, Milinda said that the PM was glad to hear our views, that he heard a lot of views, including Milinda's own, as well as those of other Ministers. In the end, however, only the PM could make the decision. It was his government and his political future. The Ambassador replied that we understood completely that it was his country, his issue, and needed his solution. Moragoda asked that the Ambassador convey to Assistant Secretary Rocca that her comments to Ambassador Subasinghe had been heard. COMMENT ------- 10. (C) Unless there is some sudden and unexpected breakthrough on the Defense side, it appears almost certain that we are set for a period of drift at least until the provincial elections are concluded. The PM's proposal for power-sharing at the provincial level is quite vague. It also has a poison pill attached in the requirement that the SLFP give up its proposed alliance with the JVP. All that said, we remain convinced that the two sides could bridge the gap on defense and come to an earlier understanding -- if they can summon the will to do so. Indian High Commissioner Sen, whom the Ambassador saw the evening previous, was quite pessimistic, although that may be because he is wedded to his theater concept. Just Do Nothing? ---------------- 11. (C) As the Ambassador left, the PM commented again on his vacation reading. He said that one thing he had learned from the Franklin Roosevelt biography was that for a lot of the time "Roosevelt just did nothing." That might be the wrong inspiration to take from that book. END COMMENT 12. (U) Minimize considered. LUNSTEAD
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