|Wikileaks:||View 02COLOMBO1989 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PGOV PINS PHUM PINR CE 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 001989 SIPDIS NOFORN DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS; NSC FOR E. MILLARD LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL E.O. 12958: DECL: 10-24-12 TAGS: PGOV, PINS, PHUM, PINR, CE, Political Parties, Elections SUBJECT: In conversation with Ambassador, key ministers review possible next steps after adverse court ruling Refs: Colombo 1982, and previous (U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills. Reasons 1.5 (b, d). 1. (C) SUMMARY: In separate conversations with the Ambassador, key ministers Peiris and Moragoda reviewed GSL thinking in the wake of the Supreme Court's rejection of the government's effort to rein in executive powers. In terms of next steps for the GSL, Peiris outlined five options, which included impeaching the president or going for an election. Taking a softer tack, Moragoda indicated that the two sides should try to make cohabitation work. Neither minister knew what the PM planned to do. Based on these soundings, there is little doubt that the government is confused on how to react and in a bit of a funk. END SUMMARY. ----------------------------------------- A Defensive G.L. Peiris Attacks the Court ----------------------------------------- 2. (C) In separate conversations with the Ambassador, key ministers G.L. Peiris and Milinda Moragoda discussed GSL thinking in the wake of the Supreme Court's rejection of its effort to rein in executive powers. (Note: In its complicated decision, the court held that the GSL's proposed "19th" amendment to the constitution voiding the power of the president to call an election one-year after the last election required a national referendum. The court also ruled against another proposal allowing crossover voting in Parliament -- see Reftels for more details. End Note.) At lunch with the Ambassador on October 23, Peiris, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs (among other portfolios), was dismissive of the court's ruling, asserting that the decision was clearly political in nature. The Chief Justice (Sarath Silva), Peiris related, had packed the bench with seven supporters, edging out four justices who had more neutral views. This made a mockery of President Kumaratunga's and her allies' claims that the court's decision was close to unanimous, when, in fact, it was not, Peiris alleged. 3. (C/NF) Weaving a strange tale, Peiris had more opprobrium to spill on Chief Justice Silva. He said Silva had sent a message to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe three weeks ago to the effect that the GSL "has nothing to worry about" regarding the proposed amendment. Clearly, based on the court's decision, Silva had broken his word. Peiris commented that he had information that indicated that President Kumaratunga had met with Silva and reviewed with him how she wanted the case to be decided. In any case, the government knew that Silva was probably not its friend. Silva was known to be close to Kumaratunga and he knew that some in the government had long wanted to impeach him on various charges, Peiris added. ------------ Five Options ------------ 4. (C) Queried by the Ambassador about the government's next steps, Peiris set out the following five options: -- (1) The government takes no action. -- (2) The government works with the president and her People's Alliance (PA) party with the objective of agreeing on a proposed amendment allowing the president to call a new election three years after the last election (versus the current one-year). (Note: Per Reftel, the Supreme Court indicated in its decision that such a proposal would pass constitutional review.) Peiris was not sure the president would agree to this idea. If she did not, the proposal would not get through Parliament (where two-thirds support was needed). -- (3) The government could try to impeach the president on long-standing abuse of power charges. -- (4) The government could dissolve Parliament and ask the president to call a parliamentary election. If Kumaratunga refused to do this, the GSL could take steps to cut her budget. -- (5) After obtaining President Kumaratunga's agreement, the government could dissolve Parliament and call an election. 5. (C) Peiris said the PM had not yet decided which path to take. For his part, Peiris indicated that he wanted to take a hard-line position toward Kumaratunga. He averred that it was impossible for anyone to trust anything she said, as everything she did was politically expedient. Given this, Peiris indicated that the best course of action probably involved pressing for an election, per options 4-5 above. ---------------------------- Moragoda Takes a Softer Tack ---------------------------- 6. (C) In his October 24 conversation with Ambassador Wills, Milinda Moragoda, the Minister of Economic Reform, took a softer tack than Peiris did. Moragoda related that he had met on October 23 with former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, a key aide to the president. Based on Kadirgamar's comments, Moragoda felt that the president might be in a cooperative mood and perhaps it might be possible to work with her. Agreeing with Peiris, Moragoda said he was not sure of where the prime minister would come down on the situation. The PM was still mulling over the options. 7. (C) (((Note: Both Moragoda and Peiris also expressed concerns about the ongoing tensions in the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress "SLMC" -- see Reftels. Moragoda said he had heard that the leader of the rebel SLMC faction had given the government a letter signed by nine MPs outlining deep concerns about the peace process. While the SLMC's apparent fracturing threatened the government's majority in Parliament, Moragoda did not think the government would fall because it could rely on the support of the Tamil National Alliance. Peiris said he thought Kumaratunga was using the SLMC rebels in a bid to destabilize the government. End Note.))) 8. (C) (((Note: For her part, President Kumaratunga is scheduled to give an address to the nation on TV tonight. While expressing her support for the court's decision, Kumaratunga is said to be planning to use the speech to set a cooperative tone re cohabitation, according to sources. It is not clear whether she plans to make any remarks regarding the peace process.))) ------- COMMENT ------- 9. (C) We had heard that the government was confused about how to respond to the court's ruling and these conversations confirmed it. Peiris, who was the primary author of the proposed amendment shot down by the court, was defensive, indicating that he thought the government had to take the fight to Kumaratunga. (Note: Peiris defected from the Kumaratunga's PA party last year and has a deep grudge against her.) Moragoda -- clearly resentful of Peiris, feeling that his animus toward the president was getting in the way of sounder judgement -- wanted a renewed effort to make cohabitation work. In the meantime, the PM seems to have fallen back into his Hamlet-like ways, after months of appearing decisive on such matters as the peace process. The winner in all this confusion is clearly Kumaratunga, who has given the government a real black eye. The peace process itself does not appear to have been effected as of yet. That might not last, however: If the GSL becomes focused on mere survival, its peace initiative could well take a back seat. END COMMENT. 10. (U) Minimize considered. WILLS
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