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06COLOMBO54 2006-01-09 11:30:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

Special Media Reaction: Sri Lankan Foreign

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1. (U) Summary: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala
Samaraweera's first official visit to Washington D.C.
January 5 - 8 elicited much attention from the government-
owned and mainstream independent press. State-run and
independent television news programs carried prominent
footage of the Minister's visit, including a clip of his
meeting with the Secretary. Most independent Tamil and pro-
LTTE media downplayed the story, though some criticized the
Foreign Minister's comments in Washington. End Summary.

2. (U) Government-owned newspapers praised the Foreign
Minister's visit to Washington as fruitful in Friday and
weekend papers. In a below-the-fold front page piece, the
Sunday Observer (1/8) headlined, "U.S. appreciates
Government restraint," noting Samaraweera's meetings with
the U.S. Congress, the Energy Secretary, and Customs and
Border Patrol. All government media highlighted the U.S.
Congress's expression of commitment to the Sri Lankan peace
process and an op-ed in the Daily News (1/9) reiterated the
Sri Lankan administration's concern about possible LTTE
fundraising in the U.S. The government-owned Daily News
(1/7) editorialized positively about the United States
following Samaraweera's meeting with Senator Richard Lugar.

3. (U) An excerpt of the Daily News editorial titled, "The
West must wake-up" follows:
"The Government's efforts to resolve our conflict by
political means have been substantially boosted by a
statement made by the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, that the peace
exercise has the full support of the US Congress.
This is indeed encouraging news and on this score alone
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's current visit to the
US could be said to be a success.
A 'yes' from the US Congress for the Government's peace
process should further energize the State's search for a
Southern consensus and we call on it to proceed towards this
basis for a negotiated solution with unflagging zeal, now
that a vital segment of democratic opinion in the West is
unambiguously siding with it.
After all, the US is considered as being synonymous with
democratic vibrancy and a 'yes' from this citadel of
representative governance in the West should be seen by the
Lankan State as a strong vote of confidence in it.
Of the Western states which are with Sri Lanka in these
challenging times, the US could be said to be one of the
most balanced in its approach to our conflict. To begin
with, it is continuing to keep the pressure on the LTTE by
keeping it on its list of prohibited terror organizations.
Unfortunately, the West is yet to speak in one, clear voice
on this question. Despite the LTTE proving that it is still
committed to terror, it is continuing to receive tacit and
not so tacit support from some sections of the West.
Perhaps, this duplicity is rooted in the fact that they are
yet to see and experience political terror in all its
Satanic destructiveness. The US, on the other hand, has seen
terror in all its heinousness and this accounts for its
unambiguity on LTTE terror." End excerpt.

4. (U) Independent media reported the Foreign Minister's
visit to the United States less prominently than government
owned media, but still afforded the visit some attention,
noting the GoSL's commitment to peace and raising a red flag
regarding possible LTTE fundraising in the U.S. The Daily
Mirror (1/7) led with an AFP story from Washington, "No war
with Tigers, says Mangala." On its front page, the Sunday
Times (1/7) bannered, "Government wants TRO (LTTE-linked
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization) banned in U.S." and
reprinted two wire stories on page three, one from Reuters
titled, "LTTE a brutal terror machine: Mangala. Condoleezza
lauds Lankan restraint." A second article excerpted
Samaraweera's interview on BBC's World Today with a
headline, "No promises, Mangala expects US to nudge Tigers
to peace talks," in which the Foreign Minister emphasized he
provided the State Department with evidence of LTTE fund
raising in the U.S. The anti-government Sunday Leader
(1/08), in a short page-six story with full color photos of
U.S. President George W. Bush and Foreign Minister
Samaraweera, headlined, "Mangala's move to woo Bush,"
followed by a critique of the Foreign Minister's alleged
hypocrisy for purportedly "following his buddies in the JVP
[Marxist/Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna]
headed protests against the United States within the SLFP
[ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party]," and "laughing at then
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for meeting with
American President George Bush."

5. (U) Sinhala nationalist media in both English and
Sinhala took less note of the Foreign Minister's visit to
Washington, relegating stories to short, below the fold
inside placement.

6. (U) Independent Tamil and pro-LTTE media considerably
downplayed the Foreign Minister's visit to the U.S. Tamil
Net, a mouthpiece for the LTTE, ignored the trip. Pro-LTTE
daily Sudar Oli (1/6), however, reported the U.S. had
offered full support to the peace process and blasted the
Minister's alleged statement to the Secretary naming the
LTTE "not a liberation organization but a terror machine
worse than al-Qaeda." Flagship Tamil daily Virakesari
(1/7), in a back-page article, reported Samaraweera
"informed Washington Rajapaksa is trying to get support from
the Southern parties to form a consensus on the peace

7. (U) The Tamil media also carried photographs of the
Foreign Minister's meeting with Secretary Rice. Government-
owned Tamil daily Thinakaran (1/07) reported, "President
Mahinda Rajapaksa firm on going ahead with the peace process
despite provocations. If the LTTE rejects all calls for
talks, international pressure is essential - Minister
Mangala tells in America." Independent Tamil daily
Thinakkural (1/07) reported, "Sri Lanka needs international
support immediately to avert the war - Mangala requested
Condoleezza Rice." Tamil media treated Samaraweera's more
direct comments about the LTTE with less emphasis. Pro-LTTE
Tamil daily Sudar Oli (1/07) bannered, "LTTE is not a
liberation organization but a killer machine even worse than
Al Qaeda - Mangala Samaraweera to the Washington Times," and
independent Tamil daily Virakesari (1/07) reported, "LTTE
worse than Al-Qaeda Mangala tells Washington Times."

8. (U) Both state-run and independent television stations
broadcast several seconds of footage of the Foreign Minister
meeting Secretary Rice, on different newscasts, and reported
the visit in a straightforward manner.

9. (SBU) Comment: Predictably, government-run media played
up the Foreign Minister's meetings in Washington as more
newsworthy than did independent and some vernacular media.
Mainstream independent media emphasized Samaraweera's
concern about possible LTTE fundraising in the U.S. amidst
government-owned media's more glorified accounts of the
visit. The media representing both the extreme Sinhala
nationalist and pro-LTTE points of view, however, preferred
-- for their own reasons -- not to give the Rajapakse
government much credit for the outcome of this visit. End