wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04COLOMBO2027
2004-12-22 07:01:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

SRI LANKA: TAMIL INTERLOCUTORS SEE CEASEFIRE AS

Tags:   PTER  PGOV  CE  LTTE 
pdf how-to read a cable
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 04 COLOMBO 002027 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SA/INS
USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2014
TAGS: PTER PGOV CE LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: TAMIL INTERLOCUTORS SEE CEASEFIRE AS
INCREASINGLY FRAGILE

REF: A. COLOMBO 2018


B. COLOMBO 1944

C. COLOMBO 1920

Classified By: AMB. JEFFREY J. LUNSTEAD. REASON: 1.4 (B,D).

-------
SUMMARY
--------



1. (C) Separate discussions with pro- and anti-Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) contacts reveal a rare
consensus: that the ceasefire is increasingly fragile and
that Tiger leader Prabhakaran's threat to "advance the
freedom struggle" if the Government rejects his bid for an
interim administration should be taken seriously.
Predictably, however, the contacts offer starkly different
explanations for the purported change. Pro-LTTE sources
claim that Prabhakaran is under popular pressure to
demonstrate concrete gains from the ceasefire, while
anti-LTTE interlocutors assert that the Tiger leader has been
planning all along an eventual return to armed hostilities.
While the ideological agendas of both sides obviously color
the objectivity of their analysis, their atypically common
conclusion--that the ceasefire may have reached the end of
its useful life for Prabhakaran--underscores the urgency of a
speedy return to the negotiating table. End summary.



--------------------------


THE PEACE PROCESS ACCORDING TO THE TNA:
PRABHAKARAN FLEXIBLE; PRESIDENT AMBITIOUS


--------------------------





2. (C) In a December 13 meeting, Tamil National Alliance
(TNA) MPs G.G. Ponnambalam and Joseph Pararajasingham faulted
President Chandrika Kumaratunga for allowing her personal
political ambitions (Ref B) to distract her focus on pursuing
a negotiated settlement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE). (Note: TNA MPs, who hold a total of 22 seats
in Parliament, are described in the local media as Tiger
proxies. A leading anti-Tiger Tamil politician derisively
defines the acronym of their party as "Tiger-nominated
Agents," a reference to the Tigers' manipulation of
Parliamentary polling to ensure that only MPs sympathetic to
their cause won in areas under their influence in the April
2004 elections. End note.) The MPs pointed to the
Government's nomination of Peace Secretariat head Jayantha
Dhanapala as a candidate for UN Secretary General as evidence
of its lack of seriousness in advancing the peace process.
The President's purported plans to transform Parliament into
a constituent assembly to abolish the executive presidency
and change the electoral system (Ref B) "would be disastrous
for minority parties," Ponnambalam charged, and would mean
the "end of the rule of law in this country." Kumaratunga
has already rejected suggestions for a constituent assembly
to address the grievances of the Tamil people; pushing for
one purely in order to ensure her own political longevity
instead denigrates the Tamils' legitimate aspirations, he
indicated. The President cannot expect the LTTE to sit
patiently by while she tinkers with the Constitution to

safeguard her political future, he continued; instead, she
should recognize "it is time to put personal interests aside."



3. (C) Tiger leader Prabhakaran has showed "remarkable"
restraint in maintaining the ceasefire despite the lack of
progress toward negotiations, Ponnambalam claimed. Public
statements from the U.S and others criticizing the LTTE for a
lack of flexibility are unfair, he complained, blaming the
Government for a rigid stance that left the LTTE with
"nothing to show" after participating in several previous
negotiations with the Government (1990, 1995 and 2002-2003).
Poloff suggested that the Tigers' insistence that the
President publicly accept their controversial proposal for an
interim administration (known as the Interim Self-Governing
Authority or "ISGA") as the sole basis of resumed
negotiations was not a convincing display of
flexibility--especially since the LTTE knows the Government's
main coalition partner, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)
is dead set against it. Why not give the President a little
political space by stepping back from that position? "We can
show flexibility once talks begin," Ponnambalam replied, but
not in framing the agenda. "Otherwise we'll never get off
the ground." Without public acceptance of the ISGA as a
starting point, the Tigers can offer their Tamil constituents
no evidence of progress in the peace talks, he asserted.
"Any issues can be sorted out (later) at the negotiating
table." JVP concerns that the ISGA is a stepping stone
toward a permanent separate state for the Tamils are
unfounded, he added, since the ISGA specifically mentions the
Government of Sri Lanka. "This should put to rest arguments
that the ISGA refers to a final solution" for a separate
state, he said confidently. (Comment: We were not wholly
convinced by this argument and do not believe that the JVP
and other skeptics would find it persuasive. End comment.)



--------------------------


TNA'S BLUEPRINT FOR PEACE:
JETTISON THE JVP; UNITE WITH UNP


--------------------------






4. (C) Besides the President's preoccupation with her
political future, the two TNA MPs cited coalition partner JVP
as the greatest stumbling block to resuming negotiations. As
long as the JVP remains in the government, Ponnambalam
asserted, there will be no negotiations. The President
should get rid of the extremist JVP and make common cause
with the opposition United National Party (UNP), which is
ideologically closer to the President's Sri Lanka Freedom
Party, in the national interest, the MPs suggested. When
asked why Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would help
Kumaratunga, his long-time political nemesis, ensure her
place in history as the leader who brought peace to Sri
Lanka, Ponnambalam replied that he believed the UNP would
support the government in exchange for a guarantee that the
President will not seek to abolish the executive presidency.
Both MPs urged the U.S. and other members of the
international community to exert greater pressure on
Kumaratunga to accept LTTE leader Prabhakaran's terms for
resuming negotiations, dump the JVP and come to an
understanding with the UNP in the national interest.




--------------------------


WARNINGS OF A POSSIBLE "STEP BACK"
FROM THE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT


--------------------------





5. (C) When asked if the local media had misinterpreted
Prabhakaran's Heroes' Day reference to having no choice but
"to advance the freedom struggle of our people" if the
Government fails to resume negotiations based on the ISGA
(Ref C), both MPs replied that the press had highlighted "the
correct paragraph" in the Tiger leader's speech. Both MPs
stressed that the then-pending visit by Norwegian Special
Envoy Erik Solheim (Ref A) was "crucial" to the peace process
because it marked the first visit from Oslo since
Prabhakaran's Heroes' Day Address. If no substantive steps
toward resuming talks materialize from the visit, the LTTE
may have to take a "step back" from the Ceasefire Agreement
(CFA), they warned. Otherwise, the Government of Sri Lanka
(GSL) might misinterpret Tiger passivity as weakness. The
GSL is content with the status quo and views the relative
peace of the CFA--without the inconvenience of pursuing an
actual settlement--as a sufficient end in itself, Ponnambalam
indicated, but the status quo cannot last forever. For the
LTTE, which he described as "essentially a military
organization," the current no peace/no war limbo of the
ceasefire is especially difficult.



--------------------------


PLOTE PERSPECTIVE


--------------------------





6. (C) In a separate meeting on December 14, D. Sidharthan,
leader of the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam
(PLOTE), a largely defunct former Tamil paramilitary
organization opposed to the LTTE, agreed that the ceasefire
is under increasing pressure. Like his TNA adversaries, he
zeroed in on Prabhakaran's statement that the no war/no peace
situation is "weakening the Tamil struggle." Since for the
Tigers, the LTTE is synonymous with "the Tamil struggle,"
Prabhakaran is essentially admitting that maintaining the
ceasefire is chipping away at the strength and discipline of
his guerrilla force, Sidharthan explained, adding, "As a
(former) militant, I know this is true." Prabhakaran's
commitment to achieving a separate state is "absolute,"
Sidharthan declared; he will never accept anything less.
Prabhakaran is doggedly insisting on the ISGA as the basis
for negotiations, in Sidharthan's view, because the Tiger
leader has calculated that once he secures agreement to that
proposal, he will have secured effective acceptance of a "de
facto separate state" and, no matter what he says now, will
never come back for talks on a final settlement. Instead,
according to Sidharthan, Prabhakaran is banking on the
international community, its attention to Sri Lanka flagging
once an interim settlement is achieved, eventually coming to
accept the temporary arrangement as a permanent one.



7. (C) Single-minded and impervious to influence,
Prabhakaran will not waver from this position, Sidharthan
predicted. Even international pressure is ineffective in
prodding him to change, Sidharthan warned, adding that the
Tiger leader knows the U.S. and others will do no more than
issue statements and that India will not intervene directly
again. Moreover, Prabhakaran is now confident that Karuna,
the dissident military commander from the East, no longer
poses a threat to his authority, Sidharthan said. For
example, he noted, the LTTE has recently evicted 300 to 400
families of Karuna supporters from LTTE-controlled areas in
the East. (Note: Even Douglas Devananda, the blustery head
of the anti-LTTE Eelam People's Democratic Party who
initially vowed to launch Karuna's political career, has all
but admitted that his would-be protege no longer poses a
challenge to the LTTE. In a separate conversation on
December 14, the EPDP leader acknowledged that Karuna was not
yet "ready" to return to Sri Lanka from an undisclosed
location abroad--let alone enter politics--the closest we
have heard the usually bombastic Devananda come to
acknowledging defeat in this misadventure.)



8. (C) If Prabhakaran is single-mindedly intent on
obtaining the ISGA, the Sinhalese south is just as focused on
denying it to him, Sidharthan said, adding the "Sinhalese
polity is not ready for the ISGA." This fundamental clash of
objectives makes the ceasefire especially tenuous, he
indicated. In a rare moment of agreement with his TNA
rivals, Sidharthan charged that Sinhalese politicians,
despite what they say, are not really interested in achieving
a long-term settlement beyond the ceasefire. "Absence of war
is peace for them," he said, "but that's not enough for us
Tamils." He concluded, "The Sinhalese still don't understand
what we are asking for."



--------------------------


NORWEGIANS NERVOUS


--------------------------





9. (C) In a separate conversation on December 13, even
Norwegian diplomats, who are typically upbeat about progress
toward negotiations, sounded relatively subdued and cautious.
Second Secretary Kjersti Tromsdal said that while she does
not believe that either party wants to return to war, there
is a growing danger that they "might stumble into war"
because of the increasing fragility of the ceasefire. Given
the lack of trust between the two parties and the "muddy"
domestic politics in the Sinhalese south, it will take some
time before there will be an agreement to come back to the
table for talks, she predicted. Political instability in the
south is making the LTTE particularly reluctant to return to
direct negotiations, she said, absent some greater clarity
from the mainstream Sinhalese parties. She expressed
particular concern about government coalition partner JVP,
whose rabble-rousing in Trincomalee after Prabhakaran's
Heroes' Day speech and whose anti-Norwegian propagandizing
send conflicting and confusing signals. The absence of
negotiations leaves only the CFA for the parties to fall back
on, she commented; under these conditions, tense situations
"can quickly escalate." With no other device to defuse
tensions, the CFA is under constant pressure, making it all
the more important that the Agreement be strengthened, she
said.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





10. (C) It is a rare moment when the TNA and PLOTE can agree
on something. It is unfortunate that that something is a
shared perception that the ceasefire--and Prabhakaran's
patience with the status quo--are wearing thin. It seems
plausible that the guerrilla leader is growing increasingly
restive under the constraints of a protracted ceasefire--and
increasingly suspicious that Kumaratunga has no intention of
altering a status quo she finds favorable to her long-term
political ambitions. For Kumaratunga, maintaining the
ceasefire can be interpreted as a sign of success; for
Prabhakaran, the head of a militant organization committed to
an ethnic homeland, an indefinite ceasefire can be
logistically and ideologically more costly. Although
discerning the reclusive Tiger leader's current thinking is
never easy, the TNA is our best source for learning the
latest LTTE fare for diplomatic consumption. Based on this
most recent TNA tirade, it seems that Prabhakaran--much like
the President herself--has decided to place all the blame for
stalled negotiations on the JVP. The TNA's proposal to
overcome this obstacle--that the President commit political
suicide by dumping the JVP in the (almost certainly)
unfounded hope that the UNP will rush to her rescue--is so
impracticable as to raise very serious doubts about the
LTTE's sincerity in pursuing negotiations at all. With the
LTTE adamant on the ISGA as the basis for negotiations, and
the GSL just as adamant in rejecting it, prospects for an
expeditious return to the table seem bleak.

LUNSTEAD