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2005-05-11 12:52:00
Embassy Colombo
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000870 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2015


Classified By: DCM JAMES F. ENTWISTLE. REASON: 1.4 (B,D).

1. (SBU) Summary: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) called a one-day strike that closed businesses and
halted transportation in many areas of the north and east May

10. The strike was called ostensibly to protest the fatal
shooting of a civilian protester at a Batticaloa checkpoint
the previous day. In separate incidents elsewhere in the
district May 9, suspected Tigers fired at a Sri Lanka Army
post, injuring one soldier, and were accused of murdering a
Sinhalese fisherman. Sri Lanka Army Spokesman Brigadier Daya
Ratnayake sees the flurry of events as part of an LTTE
campaign to provoke the security forces to overreact. End

2. (U) One person was killed on May 9 after police and Sri
Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers fired on rock-throwing
demonstrators in Sandivel in the eastern district of
Batticaloa. Three policemen and five soldiers were also
injured in the melee, according to SLA Spokesman Brigadier
Daya Ratnayake. The demonstration, which had been
orchestrated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
drew between 400-500 participants, inlcuding four Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) MPs, to protest against a newly
established security checkpoint.

3. (U) To protest the civilian's killing, the Tigers called
a one-day strike, or "hartal," in predominantly Tamil areas
under their control or influence in the north and east on May

10. Embassy staff (who happened to be in Batticaloa at the
time) reported nearly complete observance of the strike in
Batticaloa town, with shops and businesses closed and
burning-tire barricades set up on roads to prevent vehicular
traffic. (The checkpoint in question had been removed by the
morning of May 11, according to Embassy staff in the area.)
Similar shutdowns were reported in Tamil areas throughout the
north and east, with the exception of Mannar, on May 10. (In
Mannar a hartal was observed on May 11.) According to
Brigadier Ratnayake, the hartal in Jaffna was accompanied by
scattered violence, as suspected LTTE militants burned an SLA
bunker in one location, threw a petrol bomb at another, and
rallied demonstrators to throw stones at a third. The crowd
dispersed after police fired tear gas. Muslim areas in the
east generally did not observe the hartal, according to
police and local politicians. Mohamed Faizl, a Sri Lanka
Muslim Congress (SLMC) MP from the eastern district of
Ampara, reported that while shops were open in 100 percent
Muslim areas in the district, Muslim constituents living in
mixed Tamil/Muslim areas generally observed the strike out of
fear of retaliation by militants.

4. (SBU) In addition to the demonstration in Sandivel,

violent incidents were reported in other locations in
Batticaloa on May 9. According to Brigadier Ratnayake,
suspected LTTE cadres threw a hand grenade and fired gunshots
at an SLA bunker at Mavadivembu, injuring one soldier. After
the SLA returned fire, the area was cordoned off with police
assistance, Ratnayake said, and three suspects arrested. In
Kalkuda--one of the few areas in Batticaloa with some
Sinhalese residents--a Sinhalese fisherman was abducted from
his home and killed by suspected LTTE militants. A website
run by the Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
(JVP) claimed the victim as a party supporter and alleged an
LTTE campaign against "JVP activists and sympathizers in the
East." JVP headquarters in Colombo described the victim as a
"supporter"; Army and police sources, however, told us on May
11 that they were unable to verify a motive in the
fisherman's killing.

5. (SBU) When asked to explain the recent unrest in
Batticaloa, the SLA's Ratnayake said that the "LTTE wants to
create problems with law enforcement" to erode the newly
improved relations the security forces have been able to
build with the local population in the wake of the tsunami.
LTTE strategy is to provoke an incident that will discredit
the security forces and diminish growing public confidence in
their abilities, he opined. (Note: This is a common refrain
with the SLA, used often with Army briefers and spokesmen.)

6. (C) Comment: This is the second time in two months that
a Tamil civilian--in both cases, an elderly man--has been
killed after security forces fired on unruly demonstrators
(Reftel). Although the LTTE undoubtedly instigates the
confrontations, the security forces' overreaction,
unfortunately, only gives the Tigers more ammunition. The
Army has exhibited far greater restraint in the face of far
greater provocation in the past; firing on unarmed civilians
will do little to help the improved civil/military relations
Ratnayake claims are emerging. Murder and mayhem have become
part of the local landscape in Batticaloa, but the violence
generally occurs between the LTTE and the rival Karuna
faction, which is based in Batticaloa, or other anti-LTTE
Tamil groups. Direct attacks on the security forces are far
less common. The recent incident could indicate growing
Tiger resentment of the Government's role in tsunami aid
distribution and/or its alleged support to the Karuna
faction. It is too early to determine the veracity of the
JVP's claim that the LTTE is targeting its supporters.
Pressing that claim, however, regardless of its validity,
suits the JVP's political agenda just fine for now, and we
expect the JVP will use the killing as yet another reason to
oppose the joint mechanism on tsunami aid.