US embassy cable - 04COLOMBO109

President's party signs pact with radical JVP; Key JVP leader based in UK on rare visit to Sri Lanka

Identifier: 04COLOMBO109
Wikileaks: View 04COLOMBO109 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2004-01-21 11:18:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINS PINR PHUM CE NO 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 000109 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, INR/NESA;  NSC FOR E. MILLARD 
 
PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC 
 
E.O. 12958:        DECL:  01/21/14 
TAGS: PGOV, PINS, PINR, PHUM, CE, NO, Political Parties, Elections 
SUBJECT:  President's party signs pact with radical JVP; 
Key JVP leader based in UK on rare visit to Sri Lanka 
 
Refs:  (A) Colombo-SA/INS 01/20/04 fax 
 
-      (B) Colombo 103, and previous 
 
(U) Classified by James F. Entwistle, Deputy Chief of 
Mission.  Reasons 1.5 (b,d). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Amid fanfare, President Kumaratunga's 
SLFP party and the radical JVP formally entered into a 
political alliance on January 20.  The alliance is 
basically an electoral pact, but an MOU attacking the 
GSL's handling of the peace track was also agreed to. 
In a related development, Somawansa Amarasinghe, a key 
JVP leader and noted hard-liner based in the UK (see 
bio-data in Para 10), is making a rare visit to Sri 
Lanka.  While some observers believe the pact is 
inherently shaky, there is renewed speculation that 
parliamentary elections may be in the offing.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (SBU) PACT SIGNED:  As flagged in Ref B, President 
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's Sri Lanka Freedom 
Party (SLFP) and the radical Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna 
(JVP) party formally entered into a political alliance 
called the "United People's Freedom Alliance" on 
January 20.  (The SLFP is the core constituent element 
in the President's People's Alliance, "PA," grouping.) 
The pact was signed amid considerable fanfare and at "an 
auspicious hour" at a ceremony in a conference hall in 
Colombo.  The ceremony was televised live on state-owned 
television and was broadcast on radio.  The high point 
of the ceremony was the signing of the SLFP/JVP 
"Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) which is reviewed 
below.  Maithripala Sirisena, chief of the SLFP, and 
Tilvin Silva, General Secretary of the JVP, signed the 
document on behalf of their respective parties.  (For 
reasons that are unclear, President Kumaratunga did not 
attend the ceremony.)  In his speech, Sirisena said the 
SLFP supported peace with the Tamil Tigers, but opposed 
how the GSL was handling the peace process.  Silva, 
meanwhile, condemned the GSL on various fronts in much 
harsher terms and also paid homage to Rohana Wijeweera, 
the JVP founder who was killed during the JVP's 1987-89 
insurrection. 
 
3.  (SBU) None of the speeches at the ceremony mentioned 
the Norwegian government's peace facilitation role, 
which has been on hold pending resolution of the 
cohabitation impasse between the President and the Prime 
Minister.  The MOU also did not mention Norway.  At a 
January 21 joint SLFP/JVP news conference, however, 
Mangala Samaraweera, a senior PA MP, stated that 
"Norway's role has been questioned by many.  We will 
reconsider the role of Norway."  Tilvin Silva of the JVP 
also piped in to say that he did not think Norway had 
any role in the peace process. 
 
4.  (SBU) (Note:  Although Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim 
prelates attended the ceremony, Christian clergy did 
not, though they seem to have been invited.  The fact 
that Christian clergy did not attend could be a 
reflection of their concerns about recent attacks on 
churches, but Catholic and Protestant leaders made no 
public announcement to that effect.) 
 
5.  (SBU) BASICALLY AN ELECTORAL PACT:  At its root, the 
SLFP/JVP political alliance is an electoral pact.  As 
envisaged by its sponsors in the SLFP and JVP, the pact 
will allow the two left-leaning parties to run a joint 
slate of candidates in parliamentary elections. 
(Parliamentary elections are due by December 2006, but 
there is renewed speculation that the signing of the 
pact indicates that the President may call them much 
sooner than that  -- see Para 9.)  By running on a joint 
slate, the two parties hope to combine their vote vis-a- 
vis the governing United National Party (UNP) coalition 
and thus take those seats allocated on a "district" 
basis.  (In Sri Lanka, most parliamentary seats are 
allocated on a proportional representation basis, but 
"bonus seats" are awarded to the party that wins each of 
Sri Lanka's 25 districts and there are also "national 
list" seats.  The UNP coalition won most of these 
"district" seats in the December 2001 election and was 
able to form the government, although its vote total 
nationally was only roughly equal to that won by the PA 
plus the JVP.)  Per the signing of the pact, the two 
parties could also run joint slates during the 
Provincial Council elections slated to take place in 
April, but it is not known whether they plan to do so. 
 
6.  (SBU) MOU BLASTS PEACE TRACK:  The MOU signed by the 
two parties (see Ref A for text) blasted the 
government's handling of the peace process in no 
uncertain terms, stating: 
 
"The ethnic question of Sri Lanka has taken an 
undesirable turn since the formation of the UNP 
government.  In the name of the aspirations of all our 
peoples for an honorable and durable peace, the UNP has 
set out on a path toward a separatist `Eelamist' state." 
 
That said, the MOU supports trying to achieve a 
negotiated settlement with the Tamil Tigers.  In a stark 
commentary on the historical difference between the two 
parties' positioning on the matter, however, the MOU 
also explicitly noted that the SLFP supports the concept 
of "devolution" as a means of settling the dispute, 
while the JVP only supports "administrative 
decentralization...within a unitary state." 
 
7.  (SBU) The MOU also contained the following 
highlights: 
 
-- Economy:  The MOU criticized the GSL's handling of 
the economy, stating, in part:  "The economic policies 
of the UNP are determined by the lending agencies with 
scant regard for local priorities and the aspirations of 
the people...The poor are called upon to bear the brunt 
of these policies." 
 
-- Human Rights:  The MOU asserts that the UNP 
government has systematically murdered 60 SLFP activists 
and done harm to 3,000 others.  (Note:  These figures 
are wildly inflated.) 
 
-- Foreign Policy:  In a glancing blow aimed at the U.S. 
and the UNP government's generally pro-U.S. policies, 
the MOU states:  "Our foreign policy which was based on 
regional cooperation and mutual respect has been 
replaced by one of servitude and the absence of national 
dignity." 
 
-- "Five Noble Objectives":  The MOU also contains a 
hortatory statement reviewing "Five Noble Objectives" 
involving:  (1) the Economy; (2) "Ethnic Harmony;" (3) 
"Strengthening Democracy;" (4) Cultural Policy; and (5) 
Foreign Policy.  (In a clear nod to Sinhalese Buddhism, 
the "Cultural Policy" segment includes a call "to halt 
the rapid erosion of social values and direct society 
toward cultural rejuvenation.") 
 
8.  (C) KEY JVP LEADER MAKES VISIT:  In a related 
development, Somawansa Amarasinghe, a key JVP leader 
based in the UK and a hard-liner, arrived in Sri Lanka 
on January 20 for a visit (see bio-data in Para 10). 
The exact nature of Amarasinghe's rare visit is not 
clear (his last visit was in late 2001) and he did not 
attend the SLFP/JVP signing ceremony on January 20. 
Since his arrival, however, he has been involved in 
meetings with other JVP officials and has been giving 
some media interviews. 
9.  (C) COMMENT:  The pact signed on January 20 took 
almost a year to conclude, with the President mulling 
over the matter for months before giving it her 
blessing.  This is in fact the second time that the two 
parties have signed a pact:  in September 2001, the JVP 
agreed to support the then-PA government in Parliament. 
That pact collapsed about a month later when the PA 
government fell and elections were called.  The 
September 2001 deal was shaky and this latest pact may 
be shaky, too.  Minister Milinda Moragoda told the 
Ambassador today that he thought the two parties would 
get into serious arguments about seat allotments in 
Parliament down the line.  He added that he did not see 
how a party "run by a family" (the SLFP) could 
realistically align for long with an ideologically 
driven party like the Marxist JVP.  That said, the 
signing of the pact has led to renewed speculation that 
parliamentary elections may be in the offing.  Moragoda 
did not appear too concerned about that possibility. 
Other observers, however, believe the President may 
think that the pact provides her party its best chance 
to defeat the UNP in elections, while also giving her 
leverage over the PM during the ongoing cohabitation 
dispute.  END COMMENT. 
 
10.  (C) Bio-Data on Somawansa Amarasinghe: 
Amarasinghe, 59, had been in exile in Europe for 12 
years until he was allowed to return to Sri Lanka in 
late 2001.  Now living in the UK, he is the last 
surviving member of the JVP "Politburo" involved in 
launching the failed 1987-89 insurrection against the 
Sri Lankan government.  In that role, he was a close 
associate of Rohana Wijeweera, the slain JVP leader, who 
led the 1987-89 revolt and an earlier revolt in 1971. 
Amarasinghe's current role in the JVP is not precisely 
clear, but he is treated as a major leader of the party. 
He is known to be a hard-liner, who spouts Marxist 
rhetoric.  Earning a reputation as a Sinhalese 
extremist, he also has regularly condemned the GSL's 
peace process policies.  When he returned to Sri Lanka 
in 2001, he gave a number of speeches for the JVP during 
that year's parliamentary election campaign.  His 
speeches were long and verbose, and were not well- 
received.  He is a Sinhalese Buddhist and hails from the 
town of Wadduwa, located about 35 kilometers south of 
Colombo.  He is thought to be related to Wimal 
Wimalwansa and Nandana Goonetillake, two JVP MPs.  End 
Bio-Data.  He is thought to be a widower. 
 
11.  (U) Minimize considered. 
 
LUNSTEAD 

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