wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04COLOMBO702 2004-04-26 23:08:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

UPFA government wins Provincial Council

Tags:   PGOV PREL PINR CE 
pdf how-to read a cable


1. (C) SUMMARY: The UPFA government easily won the
April 24 Provincial Council election in Wayamba, an area
north of Colombo. In other political news, the JVP's
ministerial nominees are scheduled to take their oath of
office on April 28 after a compromise was reached in the
JVP's dispute with President Kumaratunga's SLFP. In the
meantime, tensions between the UPFA and the JHU, an all
Buddhist monk party, continue to grow. Despite the win
in Wayamba and the SLFP's modus vivendi with the JVP,
the UPFA remains a minority government and full control
of Parliament appears out of its grasp for the moment.
END SUMMARY.



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


Government wins provincial election


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





2. (U) On April 24, President Kumaratunga's United
People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government won a
decisive victory over the opposition United National
Party (UNP) in the election for the Provincial Council
of Wayamba ("Northwest") Province. (Wayamba consists of
Kurunegala and Puttalam Districts, which are located
north of Colombo.) The UPFA won 31 of the 52 seats on
the Council, taking 59 percent of the vote. The Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party, a major UPFA coalition
partner, also did extremely well in the election winning
all nine of the seats it contested. The UNP won 19
seats, taking only 38 percent of the vote. (The
balloting in Wayamba was Sri Lanka's first election
since the April 2 Parliamentary election, which was won
by the UPFA. Sri Lanka has seven other provinces and
six of these -- all save the north/east -- are slated to
have provincial council elections later this year.)



3. (U) Turnout in the election was low. Only about 56
percent of voters turned out versus the roughly 75
percent that did so in the April 2 parliamentary
election. The Colombo-based Center for Monitoring
Election Violence, a local NGO, said the election was
basically peaceful and "largely incident free."



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


Breakthrough in SLFP talks with the JVP


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





4. (SBU) In more good news for the UPFA, a compromise
has reportedly been reached between the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP), the major constituent element in
the UPFA, and the JVP which ends their rift over
ministerial portfolios. The major sticking point
dividing the two parties had been the allocation of the
Mahaweli Development (river basin) sector to a ministry
headed by a SFLP MP, instead of a JVP-managed ministry.
The JVP had claimed that Mahaweli issues should fall
under its control, as its nominee was slated to take
over the Agriculture Ministry (which in the past
controlled such issues). Under the terms of the
compromise, which was reached late April 26 after long
days and nights of bargaining, the JVP will take
responsibility for agricultural development in the
Mahaweli region (the north-central area of Sri Lanka),
while the Mahaweli river basin development program will
remain within the SLFP-managed River Basin Development
ministry.



5. (SBU) The compromise will allow four JVP ministers
to be sworn in right before the regular "Wednesday"
Cabinet meeting on April 28. (Due to the disagreement
over the ministerial portfolios, the JVP's ministerial
nominees had boycotted the main April 10 swearing in
ceremony -- see Ref B.) The following JVP MPs are
slated to serve as ministers (pending the April 28
swearing in ceremony):

-- Anura Dissanayake, Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and
Irrigation
-- Vijitha Herath, Ministry of Cultural Affairs and
National Heritage
-- K.D. Lal Kantha, Ministry of Rural Economy and Rural
Industries
-- Chandradasa Wijesinghe, Ministry of Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources



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


Tensions spike between UPFA and JHU


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





6. (SBU) In other political news, two Buddhist monk MPs
from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party have been
harassed for their April 22 parliamentary votes in
support of the UNP's candidate for parliamentary
speaker. (In an all-day session marked by bickering,
the UNP's candidate, W.J.M. Lokubandara, won the Speaker
post by a one-vote margin over the UPFA's candidate --
see Reftels.) In two April 24 incidents, supporters of
the UPFA have been implicated in threatening the two
monks and attacking their temples. Police have arrested
one suspect who was said to have been involved in one of
the incidents. During a Buddhist convention sponsored
by the JHU held in a town south of Colombo on April 26,
JHU monks again complained that their supporters were
harassed, reportedly by JVP members. Separately, a
televised April 26 interview with a UPFA deputy minister
turned contentious when a JHU monk called in, warning
that the JHU MPs would withdraw even conditional support
for the government if the harassment continued.
(FYI. Basically, seven of the JHU MPs are taking an
anti-UPFA stand at this point. The other two JHU monks
are considered to be pro-UPFA.)



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


COMMENT


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





7. (C) Despite the win in Wayamba and the SLFP's modus
vivendi with the JVP, the UPFA remains a minority
government and full control of Parliament appears out of
its grasp for the moment. The bitter tenor of the
UPFA's dispute with the JHU monks certainly will
compound its effort to gain the 113 seats or more needed
to form a majority in Parliament (the UPFA can currently
rely only on about 106 seats). The fact that two JHU
MPs voted with the UNP in the race for Speaker, allowing
the UNP candidate to win and thus giving the government
a black eye, has deeply angered the UPFA, and they seem
unable to let it drop. At the same time, there is
little doubt that any recrudescence of the SLFP-JVP
infighting down the line will further hamper the UPFA's
ability to govern. The good news for the UPFA is that
some of the small parties that currently support the
UNP, such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Tamil
tea estate party, the Ceylon Worker's Congress, may
still be willing to link up with the government if they
are given the right assurances (ministerial positions,
etc.). If that happens, the UPFA would be close to
attaining majority status. That said, it appears more
than likely that Sri Lanka will have an unstable
situation in Parliament for some time to come. END
COMMENT.



8. (U) Minimize considered.
LUNSTEAD