US embassy cable - 02COLOMBO1491

PM ON COHABITATION: "NOT LOOKING GOOD"

Identifier: 02COLOMBO1491
Wikileaks: View 02COLOMBO1491 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2002-08-14 09:05:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PTER PINR PREL PARM CE NO 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 02 COLOMBO 001491 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL; NSC FOR 
E. MILLARD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2012 
TAGS: PGOV, PTER, PINR, PREL, PARM, CE, NO, Political Parties 
SUBJECT: PM ON COHABITATION:  "NOT LOOKING GOOD" 
 
 
Classified By: CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR E. ASHLEY WILLS.  REASONS 1.5 B 
, D. 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  PM WICKREMISINGHE TOLD ME LAST NIGHT 
(AUGUST 13) THAT COHABITATION TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH AND THAT 
PROSPECTS FOR IMPROVEMENT ARE "NOT LOOKING GOOD".  HE 
PROFESSED TO BE SERIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE PRESIDENT'S 
MENTAL BALANCE.  WHEN TOLD THAT SHE WILL BE COMING TO 
JEFFERSON HOUSE TONIGHT FOR DINNER, HE ASKED ME TO CALL HIM 
AFTERWARDS TO GIVE HIM MY OPINION OF HER FRAME OF MIND.  I 
SAID I WOULD DO SO.  IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, SEVERAL VIP'S IN 
GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS HAVE SUGGESTED THAT ONLY WE CAN 
BROKER A DEAL BETWEEN THE PM AND PRESIDENT, AN IDEA I HAVE 
RESOLUTELY DISMISSED.  END SUMMARY. 
 
COHABITATION 
------------ 
 
2.  (C) AT MINISTER GL PEIRIS'S 56TH BIRTHDAY PARTY LAST 
NIGHT (AUGUST 13), I HAD A FIVE-MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH PM 
WICKREMISINGHE. IN RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION, HE SAID 
COHABITATION WAS NOT GOING WELL AND THAT THE PROSPECTS ARE 
"NOT LOOKING GOOD".  HE STRESSED TWICE THAT HE IS READY TO 
TRY TO MAKE IT WORK BUT DOUBTS CBK FEELS RECIPROCALLY.  HE 
CONFIRMED THAT FORMER FM KADIRGAMAR HAS BEEN TRYING TO BROKER 
A DEAL BETWEEN HIM AND THE PRESIDENT BUT WITHOUT SUCCESS. 
KADIRGAMAR TOLD HIM FRIDAY THAT HE WOULD ARRANGE A 
FACE-TO-FACE MEETING BETWEEN THE TWO PRINCIPALS BUT HAD SO 
FAR FAILED TO DO SO.  HE HAD CHECKED WITH KADIRGAMAR TWICE 
OVER THE WEEKEND AND AGAIN YESTERDAY AND LEARNED THAT HE 
(KADIRGAMAR) HAD NOT EVEN BEEN ABLE TO TALK TO HER YET.  SHE 
HAS NOT RETURNED EVEN HER FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER'S CALLS. 
 
3.  (C) THE PM PROFESSED TO BE SERIOUSLY WORRIED ABOUT HER 
MENTAL BALANCE.  AMONG OTHER REASONS FOR HIS WORRY IN THIS 
REGARD, HE ASSESSED THAT HER FLIRTING WITH THE MAOIST JVP, 
WIDELY REPORTED IN THE LOCAL MEDIA IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, NOT 
ONLY WENT AGAINST THE NATION'S INTEREST BUT HER OWN PARTY'S 
AS WELL.  (WE AGREE).  GL PEIRIS, WHO WAS STANDING WITH US, 
THEN MENTIONED THAT THE PRESIDENT WILL BE COMING TO DINNER 
TONIGHT AT JEFFERSON HOUSE.  THE PM BRIGHTENED.  HE ASKED 
WHOM ELSE I HAD INVITED (I TOLD HIM CBK HAD INFORMED ME THAT 
I SHOULD INVITE HER BROTHER, HER SISTER AND HER SON, A 
20-YEAR OLD VET STUDENT IN THE UK; MY WIFE AND 20-YEAR OLD 
DAUGHTER, WHO WRONGLY SUSPECTS A MATCHMAKING ATTEMPT ON HER 
FATHER'S OR THE PRESIDENT'S PART, AND EMMA -- MY NON-GOLDEN, 
NON-RETRIEVER -- WILL JOIN ME ON THE US SIDE, AGAIN A 
PRESIDENTIAL STIPULATION).  HE THEN ASKED WHETHER I WOULD 
CALL HIM AFTER THE DINNER OR TOMORROW WITH MY ASSESSMENT OF 
HER MOOD.  I SAID I WOULD. 
 
4.  (C) AS THE CONVERSATION ENDED, THE PM AND PEIRIS 
EXPRESSED CONFIDENCE THAT WHETHER OR NOT THE PRESIDENT GOES 
ALONG, THE GOVERNMENT NOW BELIEVES IT HAS ENOUGH VOTES TO 
PASS A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT LIMITING HER POWERS TO 
DISMISS PARLIAMENT.  THIS HAS BEEN THE KEY ISSUE IN 
COHABITATION FOR THE UNF BECAUSE IT FEARS CBK WILL PROROGUE 
PARLIAMENT AT HER EARLIEST CONVENIENCE SOMETIME AFTER 
DECEMBER 6.  THAT DATE CONSTITUTES THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY 
OF THE SITTING OF THIS PARLIAMENT;  ACCORDING TO THE SRI 
LANKAN CONSTITUTION, THE PRESIDENT CAN DISMISS PARLIAMENT 
AFTER IT HAS SAT ONE YEAR REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE PM, HIS 
CABINET OR A MAJORITY OF MP'S WOULD AGREE.  FOR THE SAKE OF 
HIS GOVERNMENT'S STABILITY AND LONGEVITY, RANIL WANTS EITHER 
TO GET HER WRITTEN, SIGNED COMMITMENT NOT TO EXERCISE THIS 
POWER FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OR TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO 
ELIMINATE HER ABILITY IN THIS AREA EXCEPT IN VERY SPECIAL 
CIRCUMSTANCES.  OR BOTH.  THE MEDIA THIS MORNING ALSO REPORT 
THAT THE GOVERNMENT FEELS THAT IT HAS THE VOTES TO PASS THE 
AMENDMENT (A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY WOULD BE NEEDED TO PASS IT 
SO THERE WILL HAVE TO BE ROUGHLY 20 DEFECTIONS FROM CBK'S PA 
TO REACH THE MAGIC FIGURE OF 150 
VOTES). 
 
US ROLE?  NO WAY 
---------------- 
 
5.  (C) OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS, WE HAVE HEARD FROM SEVERAL 
IMPORTANT FIGURES IN GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS THAT A US ROLE 
WILL IN THE END BE NECESSARY TO BROKER A DEAL BETWEEN RANIL 
AND CHANDRIKA.  SUCH IS THE EXASPERATION PEOPLE FEEL WITH 
COHABITATION TENSIONS WHEN THE NATION'S FUTURE IS AT STAKE, 
SUCH IS A CERTAIN CULTURAL INCLINATION TO LOOK TO OTHERS TO 
SOLVE SRI LANKA'S PROBLEMS, AND SUCH IS THE CONFIDENCE IN THE 
US THAT THIS IDEA HAS ACQUIRED TOO MUCH CURRENCY.  TWO UNF 
MINISTERS, AN EDITOR AND SEVERAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVES 
APPROACHED ME LAST NIGHT ALONG THESE LINES.  I RESOLUTELY 
DISMISSED THE IDEA.  MY LINE IS THAT THIS MAY CONSTITUTE A 
"DAMNED IF WE DO, DAMNED IF WE DON'T" SITUATION, AND IF SO WE 
PREFER TO BE DAMNED FOR NOT BUTTING IN TO THAT EXTENT.  IT 
WOULD  BE INTERVENTIONIST, I SAY, AND IT WOULD LEAD 
INEVITABLY TO OUR BROKERING EVERY TIME DISAGREEMENTS ERUPT. 
BESIDES, I POINT OUT, A DEAL, IF ONE IS TO BE DONE, MUST 
ARISE ORGANICALLY FROM THE PRINCIPALS IF IT IS TO LAST.  I 
NEVERTHELESS REPORT THE FOREGOING BECAUSE IT SHOWS THE 
FRUSTRATION AND EVEN DESPERATION MANY PEOPLE FEEL. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
6.  (C) I WILL CALL KADIRGAMAR TODAY TO GET HIS VIEW.  I MUST 
SAY I FACE TONIGHT'S DINNER WITH TREPIDATION.  THE PRESIDENT 
COULD WELL BE IN A BAD MOOD.  AND HER BRAT BROTHER ANURA HAS 
BEEN MAKING VERY IRRESPONSIBLE STATEMENTS LATELY, INCLUDING 
ONE IN WHICH HE ACCUSED PRESIDENT BUSH OF HAVING "STOLEN" 
2000'S ELECTION.  I PREDICT MY SELF-CONTROL WILL BE TESTED. 
SO WILL EMMA'S.  SHE SNIFFS OUT INSINCERITY IN A JIFFY.  (CAN 
DOGS BE NOMINATED FOR STATE DEPARTMENT AWARDS?) 
Wills 

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