US embassy cable - 03COLOMBO696

GSL continues to mull over response to LTTE's withdrawal from talks, but leans toward restraint

Identifier: 03COLOMBO696
Wikileaks: View 03COLOMBO696 at
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2003-04-23 08:33:00
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 02 COLOMBO 000696 
E.O. 12958:  DECL:  04-23-13 
SUBJECT:  GSL continues to mull over response to LTTE's 
withdrawal from talks, but leans toward restraint 
Refs:  (A) Ops Center-Colombo 04/23/03 telecon 
-      (B) Colombo 688, and previous 
(U) Classified BY Lewis Amselem, Deputy Chief of 
Mission.  Reasons:  1.5 (B, D). 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Key Ministers Moragoda and Peiris told 
the Ambassador that the GSL continues to mull over its 
response to the Tigers' decision to withdraw from the 
peace talks.  The government seems to be leaning toward 
a restrained, but firm approach at this time.  Taking 
another tack, the president has urged an increase in 
anti-LTTE security measures.  Overall, we think it is 
positive that there has been no panic, but rather a 
level-headed feeling that efforts should be made to try 
to get the process back on track.  END SUMMARY. 
Ambassador held separate conversations today (April 23) 
with Milinda Moragoda and G.L. Peiris, two key ministers 
working on peace process issues.  Moragoda told the 
Ambassador that the government continued to review how 
it should react to the April 21 announcement by the 
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that it was 
withdrawing from the peace talks (see Ref B).  Moragoda 
noted that the view of most of the Cabinet was that the 
GSL should be restrained in its response, but firm. 
Current thinking was to have Prime Minister Ranil 
Wickremesinghe send a letter to the LTTE at some point 
in the next several days.  (Note:  Per Ref B, the PM 
sent a brief letter to the LTTE on April 22, but it was 
only a placeholder.)  This proposed letter would respond 
to the positive points raised in the LTTE's 
announcement, Moragoda said.  In the meantime, the 
government -- including key negotiators Moragoda and 
Peiris -- would continue to engage the Tigers on 
"technical" issues in an effort to build back trust. 
3.  (C) In a brief colloquy, Moragoda said the GSL 
wanted to proceed with planning for the Tokyo donors 
conference in June, which the LTTE has said it would not 
attend.  Ambassador Wills agreed that this was a 
sensible approach and something the U.S. supported 
fully.  The Ambassador noted, however, that if there was 
no change in the LTTE's position on not attending it was 
possible that some donors might wonder whether holding 
the conference was worthwhile.  Moragoda took this 
comment on board, but seemed a bit unsettled by the 
4.  (C) In his comments to the Ambassador, G.L. Peiris 
took a somewhat softer line than Moragoda, emphasizing 
that the government needed to review its response to the 
LTTE's April 21 statement very carefully.  The GSL, for 
example, should consider the LTTE's points that steps 
need to be taken re the Jaffna "high security zones," 
the resettlement of the displaced, improving assistance 
delivery, etc.  The Ambassador asked Peiris whether he 
was being just a bit lenient on the LTTE given its hard- 
line behavior.  Peiris admitted that it was difficult 
dealing with the group. 
5.  (C) In line with the views of most observers, if a 
tad more optimistic, Peiris also underlined what he saw 
as silver linings in the LTTE statement, including: 
-- The peace process has not broken down and the search 
for a political settlement goes on; 
-- The ceasefire still holds; 
-- The (joint GSL-LTTE) Sub-Committee on Immediate 
Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and 
the East (SIHRN) is still in operation; and, 
-- The LTTE continues to support and recognize the 
authority of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). 
6.  (C) KUMARATUNGA'S TACK:  In contrast to the cool, 
calculated response of the government (thus far), 
President Kumaratunga has seemingly sought to create a 
crisis atmosphere in the aftermath of the LTTE's 
announcement.  In a blitz, the president's office has 
announced that she was summoning this-or-that meeting 
with the military and police chiefs, and convoking the 
GSL National Security Council to deal with the "any 
eventuality."  The president's Peoples' Alliance (PA) 
party has also taken the lead in calling for an 
"emergency" meeting of Parliament to discuss the 
7.  (C/NF) In one April 22 announcement, which received 
significant local and wire-service coverage, the 
president's office stated that she had "directed" the 
military and the police "to reintroduce immediately the 
security measures that were set up in 1995 to ensure the 
security and safety of the people."  (Note:  These 
security measures have to do with the widespread use of 
checkpoints and road blocks, as well as other efforts to 
prevent LTTE infiltration.  Many of these measures were 
lifted in the early days of the peace process.)  Re this 
announcement, Interior Secretary M.N. Junaid told A/RSO 
that he had sat in on the late April 21 meeting 
Kumaratunga had had with service chiefs and police 
officials.  He said Kumaratunga had spoke interminably 
throughout the four-hour meeting on the need to increase 
security measures.  Those present heard her out, but in 
the end only agreed to continue to monitor and assess 
the situation, i.e., there was no reintroduction of the 
measures put in place in 1995.  In the meantime, based 
on what Mission is hearing, there has been no increase 
in the operational readiness of the Sri Lankan military 
or police. 
8.  (C) COMMENT:  In the aftermath of the LTTE's 
announcement, we think it is positive that there is no 
sense of crisis in Sri Lanka.  Instead, per Moragoda's 
and Peiris' remarks, there is a seemingly level-headed 
feeling that work needs to be done to try to get the 
process back on track.  The president's somewhat 
contrived response to the LTTE's withdrawal from the 
talks seems to be an effort to underscore her long- 
standing claim that the group simply cannot be trusted. 
Despite her best efforts, however, most Sri Lankans 
don't seem to want to up the tension, but to cool things 
down.  Whether the LTTE wants to cooperate in that 
effort remains unclear.  END COMMENT. 
9.  (U) Minimize considered. 

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