|07COLOMBO534||2007-04-05 12:30:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Colombo|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000534
1. (C) SUMMARY. In an April 3 meeting with Ambassador,
opposition party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R.
Sampanthan and three TNA members of Parliament pressed the
U.S. to be a more vocal critic of the Rajapaksa
administration. Speaking of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom
Party's (SLFP) anticipated devolution proposal, Sampanthan
expressed concern that it would be "watered down" by
President Rajapaksa into a proposal that the Tamil community
could not accept. TNA members spoke with concern about
worsening human rights abuses and stated unequivocally that
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would accept UN
human rights monitors based in LTTE-controlled territory. In
an April 4 meeting with poloff, TNA parliamentarian Selvan
Adaikalanathan from the LTTE-controlled Vanni district
repeated the assertion that the LTTE would accept UN human
rights monitors in Tiger-controlled areas, indicating that
the Ambassador's question of the previous day had made it "to
Kilinochchi and back." END SUMMARY.
TNA URGES U.S. TO GO PUBLIC WITH CRITICISM
2. (C) In an April 3 meeting at the Embassy, TNA leader R.
Sampanthan from Trincomalee and TNA members Suresh K.
Premachandran from Jaffna, Mavai S. Senathirajah from Jaffna,
and T. Kanagasabai from Batticaloa pressed Ambassador to give
the GSL a "few good knocks" and be a more vocal critic of the
Rajapaksa administration. Ambassador defended the Embassy
and USG's record of challenging all sides to focus on a
political solution to the conflict and our numerous efforts
on human rights, both of which Sampanthan acknowledged. In a
string of impassioned stories about the Tamil community's
suffering, Sampanthan pleaded with Ambassador to do "still
more" to show the GSL that the U.S. will not tolerate
continued human rights violations by the Sri Lanka Army and
paramilitary factions like the Karuna group. Ambassador
assured Sampanthan and the other TNA members that the U.S. is
concerned about the Tamil community and committed to pushing
all parties to seek a political solution.
"THIS ADMINISTRATION CANNOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM"
3. (C) When Ambassador asked Sampanthan whether he was
involved in discussions with the administration on the
long-awaited devolution proposal, Sampanthan said he has not
been able to get a draft of the proposal and that the TNA was
not asked to submit any input. TNA members scoffed at the
idea that Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff
Hakeem and other crossover MPs would be able to influence the
outcome significantly, saying that Hakeem was not even able
to protect his SLMC constituents. Sampanthan expressed
frustration that while the country waits for the devolution
proposal, resettlement of traditionally Tamil communities in
Sampanthan's home district of Trincomalee with Sinhalese
families was continuing unabated. Ambassador stated that he
has stressed to the administration many times that
resettlement must maintain the same ethnic balance that
existed before residents were driven out by fighting.
Sampanthan reiterated the need to show the administration
that the U.S. was serious about its criticisms of the GSL.
"Make it hurt," he urged, opining that the U.S. and India are
the only members of the international community with any
remaining influence over the government.
4. (C) Sampanthan did not believe President Rajapaksa could
COLOMBO 00000534 002 OF 003
present a genuine political solution to the conflict because
he was constrained by his constituency to safeguard the
"Sinhala Buddhist race." Sampanthan reiterated that
Rajapaksa was elected on this platform and that his political
base would balk at any genuine efforts at national
reconciliation. Ambassador reasoned that Rajapaksa's
credibility with hardline Sinhalese movements like the JVP
and JHU might actually provide Rajapaksa greater latitude to
seek a workable solution. Sampanthan rejected this
assessment, saying "he's not made of that stuff." Sampanthan
predicted that as a result of Rajapaksa's political
constraints, the GSL would have no choice but to press
forward with a military solution to eliminate the LTTE in the
East and contain them in the North. Sampanthan stated that
the LTTE would resist, especially in the North, and the
result will be that "the Tamil people will suffer."
AUTHORSHIP OF AMPARA BUS BOMBING MYSTERIOUS
5. (C) Ambassador expressed concern about the Ampara bus
bombing and asked whether the TNA believed that the LTTE was
responsible (reftel). Each TNA delegate stated that he did
not believe that the LTTE was responsible, proffering the
theory that it was done by the Karuna group to discredit the
LTTE during the SAARC summit. The TNA parliamentarians'
response tracked closely LTTE statements on its website,
Tamilnet. Ambassador told the TNA delegation that the
bombing was of grave concern to the international community
and that the Embassy was investigating the matter further.
Sampanthan expressed interest in learning of Embassy's
6. (C) Embassy sought clarification from the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission, which dispatched officers to the bombing
site within 24 hours. However, the monitors could not come
to any definite conclusion concerning the perpetrators. The
SLMM noted that the technique used in the Ampara bombing was
similar to the January 14 and 15 bus bombings in Hikkaduwa
and Nittambuwa, which most observers attribute to the LTTE.
LTTE SEEKS APPROVAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
7. (C) Ambassador asked the TNA delegation whether the LTTE
would object to a UN human rights monitoring mission in Sri
Lanka. Premachandran of Jaffna said that the LTTE would
welcome it. Ambassador clarified that the monitors would
have to be allowed to operate in Kilinochchi and the Vanni,
LTTE-controlled territory, not just visit those areas.
Sampanthan reiterated that the Tigers would accept this
8. (C) Vanni district TNA member Selvan Adaikalanathan told
poloff on April 4 that he had just returned from the Vanni
the previous night. He stressed that he could definitely
confirm that the LTTE would accept UN human rights monitors
stationed in Sri Lanka, including LTTE-controlled areas.
Adaikalanathan made it clear that he had first-hand knowledge
that the LTTE would not object to UN human rights monitors.
He expressed his appreciation for Ambassador's willingness to
publicly criticize the administration on human rights issues.
Although Adaikalanathan did not explicitly link the LTTE's
willingness to accept UN human rights monitors with
Ambassador's question to Sampanthan, it was evident from the
context of his statements that the LTTE had been informed of
Ambassador's questions on this topic the night before.
9. (C) COMMENT: Sampanthan and his colleagues' plea for
Ambassador to go public with more pointed criticism of the
COLOMBO 00000534 003 OF 003
government's human rights and humanitarian failings was
clearly heartfelt and born of frustration. It also tracks
closely with the LTTE objective of seeking to undermine the
government's credibility and reputation in the expectation
that this will translate into greater international sympathy
for the Tamil cause. The LTTE may well calculate that it can
afford to welcome international monitors, while counting on
the government to reject them, thereby scoring a cost-free
propaganda coup. The more intriguing question is whether
such overtures from groups close to the LTTE indicate a
renewed interest by the Tigers in settlement negotiations -
if only to buy a respite from the government's military