US embassy cable - 02COLOMBO1790

Peace process update: Report of tensions in military; Tiger cadre movement; Cricket's healing powers

Identifier: 02COLOMBO1790
Wikileaks: View 02COLOMBO1790 at
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2002-09-26 11:01:00
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 001790 
E.O. 12958:  DECL:  09-26-12 
SUBJECT:  Peace process update: Report of tensions in 
military; Tiger cadre movement; Cricket's healing powers 
Refs:  Colombo 1787, and previous 
(U) Classified by W. Lewis Amselem, Charge d'Affaires. 
Reasons 1.5 (b, d). 
1.  (C/NF) This update of Sri Lanka's peace process 
reviews the following: 
-- Reported tensions in military toward government's 
peace initiative 
-- President muted in public re peace process 
-- Largest Tamil Tiger cadre movement to date goes 
smoothly, according to monitors 
-- The flavor of the peace process:  Sri Lankans of all 
stripes embrace major international cricket tournament 
now taking place in Colombo 
Report of Tensions in Military 
2.  (C/NF) Mission has picked up its first indication of 
possible tensions within the military toward the peace 
process.  In a September 25 meeting with RSO, Nimal 
Goonetilleke, the head of the Police Special Task Force 
(STF) (please protect), related that he had heard that 
five or six high-ranking military officers (NFI) were 
actively speaking out against the peace process within 
their respective commands.  Goonetilleke speculated that 
some of these officers might be angry because the peace 
process was beginning to undermine illicit activities 
they were engaged in.  The GSL had heard of these 
murmurs, he continued, which was the genesis of public 
remarks the Prime Minister made September 21 to the 
effect that he would not tolerate "divided loyalties" 
within government ranks.  When asked, Goonetilleke 
replied that he had no information that anyone in the 
military was planning to take any sort of action against 
the GSL. 
3.  (C/NF) Comment:  Goonetilleke is usually a solid 
source, though we have not picked up collaborating 
information re his report.  Given how fast the peace 
process has moved, it is not surprising that some in the 
military may be disillusioned, perhaps feeling that they 
are being abandoned after a valiant effort defending the 
country (or -- more cynically -- that they are losing 
out on their illicit perks gained by wartime 
exigencies).  For its part, the government has tried to 
do its best to ensure that the military remains on board 
by keeping it fully briefed on the peace process and by 
maintaining benefits to the extent the GSL's difficult 
financial circumstances allow.  End Comment. 
President Muted re Peace Process 
4.  (C) President Kumaratunga has taken a muffled public 
approach re the peace process in the aftermath of the 
successful conclusion of the recent talks in Thailand. 
In general, her relatively few public comments re the 
talks have basically struck positive tones.  According 
to contacts, however, one matter that appears to have 
gotten under the President's skin is that no one in the 
government has offered to personally brief her on the 
results of the talks.  (Note: Harim Peiris, a 
presidential spokesman, told us late September 26 that 
he had heard that the government might be trying to 
arrange some sort of briefing, but he had no 
5.  (SBU) (((Note:  Kumaratunga's general lack of public 
comment on the peace process contrasts with a series of 
recent speeches she has given re domestic issues.  In 
these speeches, usually given before cheering party 
members, she has harshly lashed out at the GSL re its 
plans to move forward with a bill that would amend the 
executive's powers to call new elections.  In one widely 
reported speech on this issue, Kumaratunga was quoted as 
stating, "They are trying to clip the wings of the 
president.  I will use my powers.  I will not die like a 
6.  (C) Comment:  Kumaratunga has been alternately hot- 
and-cold re this iteration of the peace process since 
its inception.  At times, she has vociferously 
criticized the government's handling of the issue.  At 
other times, she has assumed an almost proprietary air 
by underscoring the fact that the current process has 
roots in moves she took when she first came to power in 
1994-95.  The fact that she is relatively muted on the 
subject now may indicate that she just does not see 
making much political mileage by commenting on the peace 
process at this point.  Reports that she has not yet 
been offered a briefing re the Thai talks are 
disturbing, as it is the sort of slight that only 
increases "cohabitation" tensions.  End Comment. 
Large LTTE Cadre Movement goes smoothly 
7.  (SBU) Under the auspices of the February ceasefire 
accord, the LTTE has made a major troop movement. 
Pierre Elderson, a Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) 
official, has confirmed that 265 LTTE cadre went by 
vehicle from Batticaloa in the east to Omanthai, a LTTE- 
controlled border town in the north-central part of the 
country on September 23.  The movement was monitored by 
SLMM observers and tracked by the Sri Lankan military. 
Elderson reported that the movement went smoothly with 
no problems reported.  He added that 210 of the cadre 
were female and 55 male.  Originally slated to be a sea 
movement, bad weather offshore necessitated that it be 
by land. 
8.  (SBU) Comment:  There have been a number of cadre 
movements so far, but this is the largest to date.  The 
fact that it went so smoothly is a testament to how well 
the ceasefire accord and related GSL-LTTE understandings 
are being implemented.  The SLMM showed great skill in 
arranging the movement, which we understand took hours 
of laborious mediation.  End Comment. 
Cricket's Healing Powers 
9.  (U) Sri Lankans are avidly embracing a major 
international cricket tourney now taking place in 
Colombo.  The three-week tournament sponsored by the 
International Cricket Council is the second most 
important in cricket, ranking just after the World Cup. 
All of the best international cricket teams have been 
participating, including Australia, India, Pakistan, and 
the popular local team.  Large crowds have flocked to 
the matches and the TV audience, including in the war- 
ravaged north and east, is said to be huge.  The fact 
that the Sri Lankan team has done quite well has also 
helped ratings, no doubt.  The country is expected to 
come to a standstill when Sri Lanka plays defending 
world champion Australia on September 27. 
10.  (SBU) Comment:  The fact that a major cricket 
tournament is taking place in Sri Lanka at all is a 
pleasant surprise to many here.  Sri Lankans had grown 
used to their cricket-mad country being overlooked as a 
host for major events because of the conflict and the 
danger of terrorism.  Big events can now take place in 
Sri Lanka due to the peace process, however, and Sri 
Lankans of all ethnic stripes appreciate that.  Indeed, 
for Sri Lankans the news only gets better:  a major test 
match between the Australian and Pakistani teams had to 
be moved from Pakistan because of tensions there.  The 
new site:  Sri Lanka.  End Comment. 
11.  (U) Minimize considered. 

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