CO-CHAIR AMBASSADORS RE-AFFIRM IMPORTANCE OF A POLITICAL SOLUTION; AKASHI AND MENON PLAN SEPARATE VISITS TO SRI LANKA

Identifier: 
09COLOMBO34

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000034

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS, USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2019
TAGS: PREL, PTER, PGOV, CE
SUBJECT: CO-CHAIR AMBASSADORS RE-AFFIRM IMPORTANCE OF A
POLITICAL SOLUTION; AKASHI AND MENON PLAN SEPARATE VISITS
TO SRI LANKA

REF: A. A) COLOMBO 3
B. (B) COLOMBO 25
C. (C) COLOMBO 16
D. (D) COLOMBO 26

COLOMBO 00000034 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr. for reasons
1.4 (a) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: In a meeting convened by Ambassador on
January 8, Co-Chair Ambassadors and the Indian High
Commissioner agreed that recent Sri Lankan military successes
have given new impetus to Sinhalese extremists and other
hard-liners to expand their extreme agenda to include efforts
to stop the APRC process, reintroduce a bill on religious
conversion, and restrict the work of international NGOs in
Sri Lanka. Ambassadors agreed Co-Chair countries should
continue individually to press the Government to come forward
with a political solution now and distance the Government
from this extreme agenda. The Japanese Ambassador disclosed
that Japanese Special Envoy Akashi has requested GSL approval
to visit Sri Lanka January 22-25. The Indian High
Commissioner said Foreign Secretary Menon also plans a visit
in late January. In a subsequent Co-Chair meeting with the
Foreign Minister, the Minister affirmed GSL support for
continued dialogue by UN, Norwegian, Japanese and other
officials with the LTTE on humanitarian issues. He also
disclosed tentative Foreign Ministry plans to host a
conference with Tamil diaspora representatives sometime in
April. End Summary.

An Expanding Extreme Agenda
---------------------------

2. (C) Ambassador convened a meeting of Co-Chair Ambassadors
(including the Swedish Ambassador representing the Czech
Republic) along with the Indian High Commissioner to review
recent developments in Sri Lanka and coordinate our message
to the Government of Sri Lanka. Ambassador remarked that
recent significant progress by the Sri Lankan military in the
north (ref a) has led to efforts by Sinhalese nationalists
and other hard-liners within the Government to expand their
extreme agenda beyond simply defeating the LTTE militarily.
That agenda apparently includes efforts to curb nationalism
among the wider Tamil population; abolish the All Parties
Representative Committee process; reintroduce religious
conversion legislation; institute a crackdown on dissent as
evident in the recent attacks on the Sirasa/MTV television
station and assassination of the Leader editor (ref b); along
with efforts to restrict and hinder the work of international
NGOs (ref c). This agenda, if successful, would impact
negatively Sri Lanka's multicultural, democratic society and
U.S. relations with the Government. Ambassador reviewed the
Embassy's efforts to push back on all of these fronts and
particularly to urge the President to come forward with a
political solution to reassure Tamils that they have a future
of hope and dignity in Sri Lanka.

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Norway
-------

3. (C) Norwegian Ambassador Hattrem agreed that extremists
have expanded their agenda beyond a military solution to the
conflict. He indicated Norway has urged the Government to
publicly counter the efforts outlined by the Ambassador and
give hope to the Tamil community. He expressed concern that
the GSL's ban on the LTTE (ref d) would make it easier for
the Government to arrest and harass Tamils and thereby
further weaken prospects for political reconciliation. He
said the Norwegian Government would continue to talk to the
LTTE, but the Norwegian Embassy's Tamil employees would most
likely be obliged to stop contacts they had maintained with
the LTTE in the North.

COLOMBO 00000034 002 OF 002

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Japan
------

4. (C) JapaneseAmbassador Araki expressed confidence that
Presient Rajapaksa remains serious about a political
solution. In response to some skepticism by other Co-Chair
Ambassadors about the President's commitment to the APRC,
Araki defended the President but admitted the APRC process
may take longer to play out. To reinforce Japan's strong
support for a political solution, Araki said Japanese Special
Envoy Akashi tentatively plans to visit Sri Lanka January
22-25, provided the Government agrees to these dates.

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India
-------

5. (C) Indian High Commissioner Prasad expressed similar
concerns about the widening agenda of hard-liners within the
Government. He too said that India is arranging a series of
visits to keep pressure on for a political solution. Foreign
Secretary Menon plans to visit later in January at dates
still to be determined, while Foreign Minister Mukerjee will
visit in February for an as yet unscheduled SAARC Ministerial.

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Sweden
-------

6. (C) Swedish Charge Mattson, who is representing the Czech
Republic EU Presidency in Colombo, agreed with the general
analysis of the situation and disclosed that the EU
Presidency in Colombo would issue a statement in the next day
calling for a political solution and condemning recent
attacks on the media.

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Foreign Minister OKs UN, Norwegian Contact with LTTE
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (C) Foreign Minister Bogollagama convoked the Co-Chair
Ambassadors on January 10 to inform them that the GSL
supports a continued role for the Co-Chairs and hopes to
maintain a fruitful dialogue with them. Ambassador asked the
Minister if the GSL supports continued dialogue by UN
officials in Colombo and elsewhere, Norway, Japan and
possibly others on humanitarian issues, including the need
for the LTTE to allow freedom of movement by IDPs, stop
conscription of child soldiers, and observe international
humanitarian law. The Minister affirmed the GSL does support
such contacts.

8. (C) Ambassador also urged the Minister to think about
engaging the Tamil diaspora in dialogue. Since the diaspora
continues to fund the LTTE, it would be very important to
engage them on the elements of a political solution that
would persuade them to stop funding the LTTE. The diaspora
could also be an important source of assistance and new
investment to the north once the GSL occupies all of the
north and begins the process of resettlement and
reconstruction. The Minister agreed and disclosed that the
Foreign Ministry has tentative plans to host a meeting with
Tamil diaspora leaders sometime in April.
Blake