Author Topic: Cablegate:Co-chairs Meet With Foreign Minister To On Humanitarian Issues And...  (Read 1013 times)

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Co-chairs Meet With Foreign Minister To On Humanitarian Issues And Political Solution
Origin   Embassy Colombo (Sri Lanka)
Cable time   Thu, 30 Oct 2008 08:29 UTC
Classification   CONFIDENTIAL
References   08COLOMBO976
Referenced by   08COLOMBO1163


C O N F I D E N T I A L COLOMBO 000985
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2018

Classified By: Classified by: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr.
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary: At the request of Co-Chair Ambassadors,
Foreign Minister Bogollagama met with the Co-Chair
Ambassadors on October 29 to discuss the humanitarian
situation in the north and progress towards a political
solution to Sri Lanka's conflict. The Co-Chairs urged
continued humanitarian access, protection of civilians from
the fighting, and a political solution now to the conflict.
Commissioner General for Essential Services Divaratne
responded that supplies of food and medicine for IDPs in the
north is adequate, and that the fourth of the weekly UN/GSL
food convoys will leave on October 31. The Norwegian
Ambassador urged the GSL not to target LTTE peace secretariat
members or others involved in humanitarian operations.
Foreign Secretary Kohona reported that the Sri Lankan
military had dropped leaflets the previous week inviting IDPs
to come to Government-controlled areas where all facilities
would be made available to help them.  Divaratne  reported
there are already indications that IDPs are moving south to
Oddusuddan rather than east to Mullaitivu. Bogollagama
confirmed press reports that President Rajapaksa plans to
take a more direct role in the APRC process to address what
additional powers could be devolved under the 13th Amendment,
once the budget is passed in December.  End Summary
Ensure Humanitarian Access and Protect Civilians
--------------------------------------------- ---
¶2. (C) Ambassador opened by noting that he was speaking for
the Co-Chairs since the U.S. had hosted the last Co-Chair
meeting in New York.  On behalf of the Co-Chairs he commended
the Government of Sri Lanka for their efforts thus far to
work with the UN and ICRC to ensure that sufficient food and
other supplies are delivered to internally displaced persons
(IDPs) affected by fighting in northern Sri Lanka.  He urged
the GSL to continue to provide access so the UN and
Government Agents can deliver food and other humanitarian
supplies to the IDPs wherever they are.  The Ambassador also
urged the Government to take all necessary actions to protect
the civilian population in the conflict areas.  In that
regard, he welcomed the public assurances that Presidential
envoy Basil Rajapaksa had conveyed to the Government of India
on October 26.  Lastly, Ambassador urged the GSL to prepare a
credible proposal now for a lasting political solution to the
¶3. (C) Bogollagama welcomed the Co-Chair initiative to meet
and said Sri Lanka shares the Co-Chair concerns in all of the
areas mentioned by the Ambassador.  He noted that the
Co-Chair process predates the cease-fire agreement and
expressed appreciation for the Co-Chairs' engagement.  At the
Minister's request Commissioner General for Essential
Services Divaratne briefed on GSL humanitarian efforts.  He
indicated that the Government Agents of Kilinochchi and
Mullaitivu had briefed the Government on October 23 that
there was sufficient quantities of food in the north and that
the supply and distribution of the food is good.  He said
that the GSL and UN thus far had delivered 37,000 metric tons
of food to Kilinochchi and 35,000 MTs of food to Mullaitivu.
¶4. (C) Divaratne stated the Government aims to continue to
send weekly convoys of 50 trucks to the north with the fourth
convoy expected to leave on October 31.  The Government was
supplementing these convoys with its own deliveries.  He
assessed that the supply of medicine also is adequate, noting
that both districts in the north had received their fourth
quarter entitlements that all provinces are allocated.  He
also said a temporary shortage of anti-venom and anti-malaria
medicine had been resolved.  Ambassador asked about reports
that some portion of the food may have been diverted by the
LTTE.  Divaratne responded that the Government had no precise
estimates, but reasoned that at least some of the
Government-or UN-supplied food had to be going to the LTTE
since they had no other sources.
Don't Target Those Trying to Help
¶5. (C) Norwegian Ambassador Hattrem noted the importance of
the Government maintaining communications with the LTTE to
facilitate humanitarian operations and discuss other issues.
He explained that Norway tries to be of assistance in this
regard.  He urged that the Sri Lankan military not target
members of the LTTE peace secretariat and others involved in
coordinating humanitarian actions.  (Note:  the GSL recently
bombed the LTTE Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi, but no one
was apparently killed or injured.)  Hattrem also indicated he
had spoken to the LTTE earlier in the day to express concern
about their unwillingness to allow free movement of IDPs.  He
also urged the LTTE not to attack civilian convoys.
GSL Drops More Leaflets to Urge IDPs to Move South
--------------------------------------------- -----
¶6. (C) With respect to the safety and freedom of movement of
IDPs, Ambassador recalled that he had raised in a previous
meeting of the Coordinating Committee on Humanitarian Affairs
the need for the Government to find a way to reassure the
IDPs that if they moved south into Government-controlled
areas, they would receive shelter, food, and other
necessities and that they would not be mistreated or be
subjected to human rights abuses as many IDPs apparently
fear.  The Ambassador said the Defense Secretary had promised
to drop leaflets to reassure the IDPs.  Had this been done
yet?  Foreign Secretary Kohona responded that leaflets had
indeed been dropped the previous week inviting IDPs to come
to Government-controlled areas where all facilities would be
made available to help them.  Divaratne  reported there are
already indications that IDPs are moving south to Oddusuddan
rather than east to Mullaitivu.  Kohona added that the
Government hopes the bulk of the IDPs will move south along
the A9 into Government-controlled areas.
GSL Says Few Civilian Casualties
¶7. (C) On the question of civilian casualties Kohona stressed
that the Government is monitoring this closely on a daily
basis.  There had been no reports thus far of "excessive"
casualties since TamilNet certainly would have reported
these.  He categorically rejected reports of genocide adding
that one reason for the military's slow progress in the north
was precisely to avoid civilian casualties.
¶8. (C)  Ambassador welcomed the Government's assurances, but
also urged the Government not to target civilian
infrastructure such as roads and bridges being used by
humanitarian convoys and agricultural irrigation anicuts.  He
cited TamilNet reports, but acknowledged that may well be
unreliable.  Kohona confirmed there was no basis for such
reports and suggested there might be some confusion with the
large earthen bund that the LTTE had constructed across the
Vanni to impede the progress of Sri Lankan armored vehicles.
He clarified that the GSL had targeted the bund, but not
civilian infrastructure.
President to Become More Active on Political Solution
--------------------------------------------- --------
¶9. (C) Turning to the political issues raised by the
Co-Chairs, Bogollagama said such issues have been under
discussion since 1987.  He argued that the current Government
has taken the most significant political steps of any
government since 1987 by creating an Eastern Provincial
Council and operationalizing it and by taking steps to
implement the 13th Amendment.  He stated that the Government
did not have the 2/3 Parliamentary majority needed to amend
the Constitution and thus was focusing on devolution within
the existing Constitutional authority of the 13th Amendment.
Ambassador recalled that President Rajapaksa in his interview
with the Hindu newspaper published earlier in the day had
indicated that he would set up a committee to "benchmark" the
devolution process in the east.  Bogollagama confirmed that
the President intended to ensure that the eastern province
would have devolved to it all the powers that the western and
other provinces have.  He said the President also plans to
take a more direct role in the APRC process to address what
additional powers could be devolved under the 13th Amendment,
once the budget is passed in December.  Japanese Ambassador
Araki welcomed the President's more personal involvement.  He
said Co-Chairs agree that implementing the 13th Amendment is
a good start.  However, winning the hearts and minds of
Tamils is increasingly necessary.  He therefore urged the GSL
to expedite the APRC process.  Bogollagama responded that the
GSL knows that if it does not treat Tamils well now, it can
not gain their confidence.  He said he had conveyed that
message in a dialogue with Tamils during his recent trip to
¶10. (C) This was a refreshingly useful exchange that helped
underline Co-Chair consensus on key humanitarian and
political issues.  Indian pressure has been helpful in
energizing promised movement on the APRC.  But the Minister
was careful to explain that the APRC would only explore what
more could be done to devolve power under the 13th amendment,
rather than take on more comprehensive constitutional reforms
that the GSL does not have the majority in Parliament to
pass.  We should be wary of GSL promises of progress on a
political solution.  As explained reftel, with Parliamentary
elections coming in 2010 or earlier, and the hardline JHU and
JVP steadfastly opposed to any political solution, it is
unlikely the President will be willing to endorse any
solution that could diminish the ruling party's electoral

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