|Wikileaks:||View 04COLOMBO109 at Wikileaks.org|
|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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