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06COLOMBO546 2006-04-05 12:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

SRI LANKA: JVP SOLDIERING ON AFTER DISAPPOINTING

Tags:   PGOV PINR CE 
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1. (C) In an April 3 meeting with poloff, Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva downplayed his
party's dismal showing in March 30 local elections (Ref B).
"We knew the SLFP (the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party) was
going to win," he insisted; "we're pleased with our results."
Unlike the JVP, the SLFP and the opposition United National
Party (UNP) have traditional bases of support; the Marxist
nationalist party, on the other hand, has had to build up its
own voter base from nothing, he contended. Vigorous
campaigning for the recent election helped the JVP expand its
existing base; "now we have to strengthen it and go forward."
Consulting a spread sheet, Silva reported that the JVP had
captured 12 percent of all votes cast islandwide, improving
(moderately) on the 9 percent it had won in the 2002 local
elections. He noted that even if the JVP had gained control
of no more than the one village council it had won in the
2002 election, the party had nonetheless increased the total
number of seats it holds on local bodies islandwide from 219
to 363. Although Silva conceded the party had fallen short
of its target of 400 seats, he claimed that the JVP still
stands a good chance of picking up additional numbers in some
of the 22 electorates in which polling has been postponed
(Ref B). (Note: One of these races is in the traditional
SLFP stronghold of Gampaha, where a JVP challenge to the SLFP
nomination list has effectively knocked the lead contender
out of the running. End note.)


2. (C) Local election results should not be misonstrued as
an endorsement of President Mahinda ajapaksa's policies
(known as the "Mahinda Chintaa," or "vision"), Silva
asserted. There was no "chintana" (vision) in this election,
he argued; instead, voters were most concerned with issues
like garbage collection and electricity. He predicted that
the President would not attempt to translate his party's
victory at local polls into a reason to go for snap
Parliamentary elections. "The Government is not hoping to go
for (general) elections," he observed, although the JVP
"don't mind going for elections."



3. (C) Poloff observed that the pro-LTTE Tamil National
Alliance (TNA) had done surprisingly well, capturing control
of five local bodies in the eastern districts of Trincomalee
and Ampara. Elections in areas where the TNA won do not
count as truly democratic elections, Silva scoffed; other
political parties "can't do any politics" in areas under
TNA--and by association, LTTE--influence. The UNP's
relatively strong showing (35 local councils or 13
percent--respectable for the opposition party in local
elections) he also dismissed. If the SLFP and JVP had
contested together instead of separately, the opposition UNP
would have won only one local council, he claimed.



4. (SBU) On April 5 local press reports quoted
rabble-rousing JVP MP Wimal Weerawansa demanding that
President Rajapaksa honor his pledge to the JVP, made in
exchange for the reds' support of his presidential bid last
November, to amend the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and to oust Norway as peace
process facilitator. If the President failed to honor these
commitments, press accounts suggested, the JVP would threaten
to withdraw its support from the government. Members of the
JVP leadership reportedly were to seek a meeting soon with
the President to press these demands.



5. (C) Comment: The people have spoken--and the JVP still
refuses to shut up. Weerawansa's bluster may grab headlines,
but the truth is that the President (unlike a Prime Minister)
does not need JVP support to retain his position. Although
the JVP leadership is trying to put on a brave face, these
former Marxist insurgents have to be disappointed with their
party's limp performance at the local level (where, according
to the JVP's own hype, it is supposed to be strongest). But
if the President thought his obstreperous partners would be
chastened by their dismal showing, he must be disappointed as
well. The JVP's lackluster results at the popular level are

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not deterring the irrepressible reds from trying to press
their hardline views on the peace process. We expect the
President will ignore the JVP's threats and continue efforts
to re-engage with the Tigers (Ref A).
LUNSTEAD