|Wikileaks:||View 04COLOMBO226 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PREL PGOV EAID CE JA NO EU Elections Political Parties|
|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 000226 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR D, SA, SA/INS NSC FOR E. MILLARD E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/14 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, EAID, CE, JA, NO, EU, Elections, Political Parties SUBJECT: Sri Lanka: PM appears relaxed about elections; Mission's revised draft of February 17 joint statement Refs: (A) SA/INS - Colombo 02/09/04 unclass e-mail - (B) Colombo 217 - (C) Colombo 154 (U) Classified by Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead. Reasons 1.5 (b,d). 1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador Lunstead met with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe late February 9. The PM appeared relaxed regarding the just announced parliamentary elections scheduled to take place April 2. He said he had always expected President Kumaratunga to go for elections and he predicted that his party would do well in them. He said he hoped the peace process was not harmed by what would probably be a rough campaign. He did not provide any indication on how cohabitation ties might be improved after the elections if his party wins. 2. (C) The PM also said he definitely thought that the Tokyo co-chairs meeting on February 17 in Washington should go forward. Despite the collapse of the cohabitation talks and the calling of elections, Mission strongly agrees with that assessment. A revised draft of a suggested joint statement to be issued after the February 17 meeting is for Department's review in Para 8. END SUMMARY. --------------- Meeting with PM --------------- 3. (C) Ambassador Lunstead met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe late February 9. The PM appeared relaxed regarding the parliamentary elections called by President Kumaratunga on February 7 and scheduled to take place April 2 (see Ref B). Wickremesinghe related that he found Kumaratunga "more and more erratic," but said he had always thought that she would call elections. In the final analysis, a cohabitation deal simply did not seem possible. He had offered to drop his demand that all Defense Ministry powers be returned to his government and had said he was willing to share them with her. She had demanded, however, that he also agree to postpone Provincial Council (PC) elections. (Note: PC elections seem set to take place after the April 2 parliamentary elections.) He could not agree to that. 4. (C) Regarding reports that the President wants wholesale cutbacks in the PM's 60-plus ministerial cohort, the Prime Minister confirmed that she could fire ministers during the pre-election timeframe. The PM noted that she could fire him, for example. At this point, she could not add new ministers, however. Asked about prospects for the elections, Wickremesinghe said he was confident that his United National Party (UNP) would do well. The UNP had done very well in the March 2002 Local Council elections, for example. He also thought that the UNP would do well with Sri Lanka's estimated 400,000 new voters. Wickremesinghe said he thought that the calling of early elections was not popular with the public. Kumaratunga and her party would take the blame for that, as they were the ones that wanted elections. The UNP would make the peace process and the economy key issues in the campaign. It would be "between him and her," the PM said referring to Kumaratunga. He did not provide any indication on how cohabitation ties might be improved after the elections if the UNP wins. 5. (C) Regarding the peace process, he said he hoped the upcoming campaign did not damage the progress that has been made. He expected a tough, divisive campaign, however. The President's recent appointment of former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar as Minister of Information and Media was bound to upset the Tamil Tigers, he said. (Note: Kadirgamar is a Tamil fiercely and vocally opposed to the Tigers. To protect him, his residence in Colombo is fortified and bristling with many armed guards.) The Prime Minister noted that he had spoken with Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar and asked him to pass a message to the group to the effect that he (the PM) had not been the one who called for elections and did not want them. (Note: In a February 8 posting on the pro-Tiger website "TamilNet, the group called the elections "a grave setback" for the peace process, but underscored their adherence to the ceasefire and peace in general -- see Ref B.) ----------------------------- COMMENT: FEBRUARY 17 MEETING ----------------------------- 6. (C) The PM also said he definitely thought that the Tokyo co-chairs meeting on February 17 in Washington should go ahead. He thought the meeting was an important opportunity for the international community to underscore its support for the peace process, and to underline that Sri Lanka should expand on the gains that have been achieved and not go backward. 7. (C) We have spoken to numerous contacts who agree with that view, and, as flagged in Ref B, our assessment is that the meeting should go forward. Mission has provided Department a revised draft of a suggested joint co-chairs statement to be issued after the meeting, which is contained in Para 8. (Note: Ref C contained Mission's initial draft, in addition to an in-depth analysis of Sri Lanka's political and economic situation, as well as options in the assistance arena.) Compared to the initial draft, this revised draft has only a few changes, noting, for example, the international community's disappointment at the failure of the cohabitation talks. It also calls for free, fair and peaceful parliamentary elections that would be followed in a timely way by a resumption of the peace talks. As with the initial draft, the revised draft also underscores the need to increase the pace of delivery of assistance, while noting that the full release of assistance funds will not be possible without progress at the peace table. END COMMENT. ----------------------------------------- Revised Draft of Proposed Joint Statement ----------------------------------------- 8. (SBU) Revised draft of proposed Tokyo co-chairs statement to be issued after the February 17 meeting in Washington follows: Begin text: (Opening pleasantries, etc.)...and we are pleased to note that the ceasefire in Sri Lanka has held for two years. With each passing month of peace, more displaced Sri Lankans continue to return to their homes, more humanitarian demining occurs, and daily life in previously contested areas becomes progressively more settled and bearable. The co-chairs applaud these indicators of peace, while at the same item calling for the earliest possible resumption of the peace talks which have been suspended since April 2003. Progress at the peace table is essential if the encouraging progress in the peace process is to be sustained. In the same vein, the co-chairs note their disappointment that the "cohabitation" talks in the South between the President and the Prime Minister did not result in an agreement. The tense situation in the South remains a serious impediment to an early return to the peace table, and is also harming prospects for economic investment and growth. The co-chairs call on all political figures in Sri Lanka to work to ensure that the upcoming parliamentary elections are free, fair, and peaceful, and that the campaign is not used in ways that undermine the important gains that have been made in the peace process. After the elections conclude, we urge that the parties in the South work expeditiously to find a method to establish clarity of responsibilities, so that the peace negotiations -- and the entire process of governance -- can resume regardless of which party or parties form the majority in Parliament. The co-chairs also note that in the absence of peace negotiations support for the peace process throughout the country becomes even more important. They call on all donors to find appropriate mechanisms through which adequate amounts of humanitarian relief and assistance to improve the quality of life at the community level can continue to be delivered to all needy areas of the country. At the same time, the co-chairs wish to draw attention to the specific language in the Tokyo accords which makes clear that full release of aid funds pledged at the Tokyo conference cannot go forward in the absence of substantive progress at the peace table. (Closing pleasantries, etc.)... End text. 9. (U) Minimize considered. LUNSTEAD
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