Sri Lanka Brief
NewsUS Embassy Cables – Colombo – 2010 – 06 to 10

US Embassy Cables – Colombo – 2010 – 06 to 10

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06 Sri Lanka Proposal for biotechnology outreach strategy and department resources“We plan to spur discussion on how the technology can move from trials and tests to commercial production. We believe that if biotechnology were introduced locally, regulators would not be able to prevent imports of GM products.”
07 Fateful Step: Main Tamil party announces support for Fonseka“We saw Sampanthan several times in the period leading up to and following his announcement of support for Fonseka and know that the decision weighed greatly upon him.”
08 Journalist Tissainayagam released on bail.“Granting a pardon would not likely sway large numbers of Tamil voters, but in a race as potentially close as this one, even a few votes could be important.”
09 Sri Lanka – Elections Update No. 6“former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga may announce her support for Fonseka, with her son Vimukthi Kumaratunga at her side.This then would serve as Vimukthi’s entrance into the political world, and a passing of the torch to the next generation of the Bandaranaike family”
10 Sri Lanka – Elections Update No 7“One UNP insider told PolOff that Fonseka had asked UNP Wickremesinghe to answer the majority of the questions at this event since Fonseka did not consider himself an expert on this subject.”

Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO15
2010-01-08 15:36
UNCLASSIFIED
10COLOMBO17
2010-01-11 04:54
CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO20
2010-01-11 12:30
SECRET
10COLOMBO21
2010-01-11 12:34
CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO27
2010-01-13
CONFIDENTIAL
Outreach Proposal for Sri Lanka
Issues and Objectives
Program of Immediate relief measures for war affected persons and areas for peace by the common presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka.
I. Restoration of Civil Administration and Normalcy
II. Prohibition of ‘para-military cadres’ and armed groups (self-styled ‘War Lords’)
III. Re-settlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons
IV. Land and Agriculture
V. Fisheries
VI. Trade and Commerce
VII. Transport
VIII. Special Relief Packages
IX. Persons in Detention
X. State of Emergency
Addendum
Fonseka’s manifesto
Key promises
Fonseka the economist?
Cost of Corruption (Thanks to USAID)
How will he pay for it?
What issues will drive the voters?
Rajapaksa in Jaffna: “End to High Security Zones”
Rajapaksa promises release of some detainees
Comment: Who will win?
Comment: If Fonseka, what next?
Fonseka supporter killed
Elections Commissioner losing steam?
Fonseka addresses business leaders
Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO15
2010-01-08 15:36
UNCLASSIFIED
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA PROPOSAL FOR FY10 BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH STRATEGY AND DEPARTMENT RESOURCES


REF: STATE 122732
1. Post appreciates the opportunity to request support for biotechnology outreach programs for Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has put forward regulations which require prior approval and mandatory labeling of GM food imports, which hinder U.S food exports to Sri Lanka. The country’s domestic agriculture sector is largely inefficient, and biotechnology could be an important tool to increase farmer productivity. Post requests funds to sponsor a conference on biotechnology to pave the way to facilitate biotechnology in Sri Lanka.

2. Biotechnology is discussed at many forums and its importance to domestic agriculture is acknowledged by local scientists.  However, there is no significant progress towards application of the technology in local farming with biotechnology being confined to research activities. There is a lack of expertise and capacity locally for transfer of the technology from research to field applications.

Outreach Proposal for Sri Lanka

3. Post requests funding to organize a biotechnology conference in association with a private sector biotechnology research company. Post aims to engage local biotechnology regulators and scientists to discuss the practical applications of biotechnology. The conference will also seek to address the subject of ‘Genetic Modification of Plants’ to educate the research community in Sri Lanka on the underlying technologies pertaining to plant biotechnology and on their many beneficial applications for the alleviation of a variety of contemporary problems. The focus will also stress the need for transparent, science-based regulations that do not hinder trade.
4. Through the conference, Post also plans to emphasize to agriculture scientists, university professors, and officials of the Department of Agriculture the immense potential the technology offers to increase food security, alleviate poverty, and protect the environment. The conference will also demonstrate in a laboratory environment, the technical aspects and finer points of genetic modification of plants to participants. Cost and Target Audience

5. The Cost of the proposed program will be approximately $12,000. These costs will include renting the hall for 5 days, speaker fees, chemical and demonstration materials, stationery, utility costs, and incidentals.
6. Target Audiences include: Government officials responsible for GM food regulation; Private sector agricultural associations and industry leaders; Agriculture scientists involved in biotechnology research and officials responsible for development of domestic agriculture; Agriculture University officials; and the National Science Foundation.
Issues and Objectives
7. Specific agbiotech issues to be addressed include: regulations relating to prior approval and mandatory labeling of GM food (this regulation is being gradually implemented and is affecting U.S. GM food exports); and biotech in domestic agriculture. (NOTE: Biotech is identified as an important tool to develop local agriculture in Sri Lanka. However, there are no commercial biotech crops in production. We plan to spur discussion on how the technology can move from trials and tests to commercial production. We believe that if biotechnology were introduced locally, regulators would not be able to prevent imports of GM products. END NOTE.)
8. This project meets USG policy objectives because the conference would help local scientists grasp technical aspects of plant gene modification which would hopefully act as an impetus to apply biotechnology in local agriculture. The expansion and advancement of commercial biotechnology being a USG policy objective, this conference would focus on converting research into applied biotechnology.

9. Furthermore, the conference will focus on the potential of biotechnology to develop domestic agriculture and instill serious thinking among policymakers to adopt biotechnology in local farming.  This also meets the USG policy objective to help the country achieve important food security needs. The arbitrary use of insecticide is a major issue that biotechnology could effectively resolve. 

10. Post responsible officer: Ken Kero-Mentz, Economic Officer.  Email: KeroKA@state.gov, Tel: 94-11-249-8500.
Comment
11. Sri Lanka is in an important position with respect to biotechnology. The country has in place regulations to label, regulate and control the import of GM foods and utilization of biotechnology in domestic agriculture. USDA has expressed concern about the contents of some of the regulations in various meetings and forums with local counterparts, noting that the regulations are not consistent with a scientific approach to the technology and lacks transparency. As a result, the regulations are affecting US food exports to the country. Local agricultural scientists have identified biotechnology as a tool to improve the domestic agriculture sector by increasing productivity and farmer incomes, reducing insecticide usage, increasing yields and contributing to overall food security objectives of the country. This conference, coming at this point as post-war Sri Lanka opens up vast areas to agriculture, is a vital part in our attempts to change the conversation about biotech issues in the country. End comment.
BUTENIS
Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO17
2010-01-11 04:54
CONFIDENTIAL


SUBJECT: FATEFUL STEP: MAIN TAMIL PARTY ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR FONSEKA  COLOMBO

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) On January 6, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan formally announced the TNA’s support for common opposition candidate General Fonseka. Addressing a packed news conference at parliament, Sampanthan said the TNA had consulted both candidates over the last several weeks and had found that Fonseka responded to their concerns better than President Rajapaksa. Sampanthan said that Rajapaksa holding office for another term would be in the interests of neither the country as a whole nor the Tamil-speaking people in the north and east and enumerated a list of concerns. These included the government’s failure to promote reconciliation or to find an acceptable political solution to the national question, delays, Sampanthan argued, undertaken purposefully to enable the Rajapaksa government to implement a “hidden agenda” to marginalize Tamils. He also called Rajapaksa’s performance on human rights and humanitarian issues “dismal,” noting that extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances had been common, mandatory constitutional provisions had been violated, and the enforcement of law and order had “collapsed.”  Thus, “the rule of law and good governance have reached the nadir.”
2. (C) Sampanthan said little about General Fonseka and the opposition in his public statement other than to confirm that the TNA had found their positions on issues related to the Tamil community much better than Rajapaksa’s and that the TNA would support the general.  The government-controlled press the next day was scathing in criticizing the TNA announcement as “another sell-out” and in accusing the TNA of having arrived at a secret deal with Fonseka and the “LTTE diaspora” that would undermine the gains of the war victory.  Sampanthan denied any secret deal was made, but Fonseka did formulate a “Programme of Immediate Relief Measures for War Affected Persons and Areas or Peace,” outlining his plans for the north and east, which undoubtedly helped solidify the TNA’s backing. (NOTE: Sampanthan provided a copy of the program signed by Fonseka to Ambassador, noting that we were one of a few foreign missions to receive a copy.  The full text of the program is provided below in paragraph 5.  END NOTE.)  The program includes such measures as de-militarization, decentralization of political authority, re-settlement and rehabilitation of all IDPs, demining, restoration of private land holdings, payment of compensation to those who lost property, restoration of transport services, relief packages, general amnesty and rehabilitation of former fighters, and termination of the state of emergency.  There was no mention in the program of accountability for war crimes.
3. (C) Attached to the program was also an addendum dealing with broader constitutional questions and the political devolution of power (see paragraph 6 below for full text.).  The addendum was signed by General Fonseka and leader of the United National Front Ranil Wickremesinghe but not Sampanthan. The addendum promised genuine power-sharing on a basis acceptable to the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and Burgher communities and noted that power-sharing would take place both at the center and in the periphery.  It noted that in the “North-East” — a term chosen to highlight the unification of the two regions, which have been de-linked under the Rajapaksas — local executive, legislative, and judicial bodies would share responsibilities with the center except in certain key areas, such as national defense, monetary policy, immigration, etc. 

COMMENT
4. (C) We saw Sampanthan several times in the period leading up to and following his announcement of support for Fonseka and know that the decision weighed greatly upon him.  The stakes are very high for the Tamil community, which has gained new-found clout in the split in the Sinhala vote between Rajapaksa and Fonseka but also has much to lose. Sampanthan told Ambassador he agonized over the decision but ultimately had to face squarely the fact that Rajapaksa had done nothing for Tamils beyond releasing the IDPs. When we asked him whether he feared retaliation by the Rajapaksas, Sampanthan mentioned concerns for his personal safety but said the Tamil community so far had gotten nothing from the Rajapaksas and did not believe the president’s statements that he would take positive steps on reconciliation and a political solution after elections. Sampanthan also told us he hoped his announcement would not only galvanize Tamils to vote for Fonseka but also would convince others that Fonseka had a real chance of winning. While we will not know until election day whether these hopes will be realized, indications are that a Fonseka victory appears more possible each day. END COMMENT.
5. (C) The following is the full text of the Fonseka program for the north and east provided to Ambassador by Sampanthan.  Grammatical irregularities are preserved from the original.  BEGIN

TEXT OF PROGRAM  PROGRAMME OF IMMEDIATE RELIEF MEASURES FOR WAR AFFECTED PERSONS AND AREAS FOR PEACE BY THE COMMON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, SARATH FONSEKA

I. Restoration of Civil Administration and Normalcy

1. Full restoration of all institutions of Civil Administration from the Office of Grama Sevaka upwards — free from Military, Police and Political interference.

2. Committees for each District headed by the respective District Secretary (GA) and comprising: -Nominee of the President -Divisional Secretaries -Other Officials (Representatives of such Officials) -Members of Parliament/Their Representatives -Representatives of Local Authorities -Judicial Officers -Security Forces/Commanders/Officers North/East -DIG — Police /Officers -Civil Society Representatives  To prepare Plan of Action for immediate implementation within one month Monthly Reports on progress to be submitted to the President, Cabinet and Parliament.  A dedicated Secretariat to be established under the President to monitor progress and ensure implementation.

3. The immediate measures stated herein to be implemented through Presidential Orders, including appointing Presidential Task Forces therefor.
4. Security Forces to be stationed at strategic locations only, taking into consideration national security. High Security Zones to be dismantled in keeping with the re-location of the Security Forces.
5. Free movement of all persons to be guaranteed without being impeded by Security  and Police personnel.
6. Police to be manned, as far as practicable, by Officers who are conversant in Tamil.

II. Prohibition of ‘para-military cadres’ and armed groups (self-styled ‘War Lords’)

1. All ‘para-military cadres’ and armed groups to be disarmed forthwith.
2. Areas of civilian activity to be free of weapons.
3. Except the Security Forces and Police, only persons with permits under the Firearms Ordinance would be entitled to possess firearms.

III. Re-settlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons
1. De-mining of areas to be speedily concluded through De-Mining Units.
2. Displaced persons to be returned to their original homes, and where homes have been destroyed alternative accommodation to be provided, with financial support to establish themselves and develop livelihoods.
3. Social infrastructure requirements, such as provision of essential Foods, Medical Centers, Hospitals, Schools, Transport etc to be provided.
IV. Land and Agriculture
1. Restoration of possession of private land and buildings, now occupied by Security Forces/Police/ Government Agencies, to those lawfully entitled to such land and buildings.
2. Committees referred to in 1.2 above to arrange for such restoration.
3. Committees to submit a Scheme to the Government for payment of compensation for damage caused to buildings.
4.         a. Eviction of persons legitimately entitled to State Land from such Lands;
b. Other instances of deprivation of legitimate title holders of State Lands; and
c. Unlawful occupation of State Lands to be reviewed and the position regularized on lawful and just basis.
5. Indiscriminate alienation of State Lands to be terminated. Allocations thus far made to be reviewed and cancelled, where such allocation  -has not been transparent, or -lacked equal opportunity to all concerned, or -lacked proper consultation with the elected Representatives of the areas concerned, or -are unwarranted, or -has been on a corrupt basis.
6. Relief packages for full cultivation of lands.
7. A special law to be enacted to decide on disputes, as to ownership and succession of lands.
V. Fisheries
1. Full restoration of fishing rights.
2. Joint Committees to be set up of Representatives of those engaged in the fishing industry and the Navy to ensure security. 
VI. Trade and Commerce
1. All barriers in respect of transport of passengers, goods, agricultural and fisheries produce to be eliminated forthwith.
2. No payments (‘Kappang’) to be levied by anyone. Stringent action to be taken against those who do so.
VII. Transport

1. Trains service to be restored, without delay, within the Jaffna peninsula, i.e. Elephant Pass to Point Pedro.
2. All impediments for shipping and air transport to be removed, with effective facilities which would ensure a reduction of costs and shipping and air transport.
3. Establishment of a new rail line, with private sector participation, from Point Pedro to Trincomalee.
VIII. Special Relief Packages
1. For dependents of all persons who have lost their lives during the war, including military and police personnel, and civilians.
2. For persons disabled as a result of the war.
IX. Persons in Detention
1. Release of all persons in detention, within a period of one month against whom there is no evidence, and on the basis that such detention would not be a stigma or setback for their future.
2. Rehabilitation of those persons, who had been engaged in war activities, on the basis of a general amnesty.
X. State of Emergency
As an overall measure affecting all Sri Lankans, the State of Emergency presently in force and the Regulations made thereunder to be terminated, since it affects the liberties and fundamental rights of all People, in accordance with my Pledges.
END TEXT OF PROGRAM
6. (C) The following is the text of the addendum to the program dealing with devolution of political power. Grammatical irregularities are preserved from the original.
BEGIN TEXT OF ADDENDUM
Sri Lanka is an indivisible state committed both to protecting its territorial integrity and to genuine power sharing on a basis acceptable to Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher communities. Each unit of government will be supreme in its areas of competence.
Power sharing will take place both at the Center and the periphery. In the North-East genuine power sharing of powers of governance with executive, legislative and judicial powers over a wide array of subjects, not including national defense, foreign affairs, monetary policy, national budget, elections to the Office of President and Parliament, immigration and emigration, major ports and harbours, and acceptable to the Tamil speaking peoples with adequate financial and fiscal powers is necessary.
The North East should have Council/Councils acceptable to the Tamil speaking peoples namely Tamils and Muslims and the Sinhalese living in the East shall be established in accordance with the law. All provinces will have competence over land, law and order and its other areas exclusive of those areas reserved only for the Center. Appropriate institutions should be in place to secure and advance meaningful sharing of power and the pluralistic character of the State.
It is accepted that the experience of the country over the last few decades in respect of initiatives embarked upon to delineate the basic aspirations and principles in the matter of power sharing shall be drawn upon in the formulation of detailed provisions.
The demarcation between the central and regional powers will be worked out in detail between the parties on the basis of the fundamental principles stated above.
END TEXT OF ADDENDUM
BUTENIS


Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO20
2010-01-11 12:30
SECRET
A. 09 COLOMBO 1176
B. 09 COLOMBO 993
C. 09 COLOMBO 855
D. 09 COLOMBO 848
E. 09 COLOMBO 333
F. 09 COLOMBO 332
G. 09 COLOMBO 281
H. 09 COLOMBO 218
I. 09 COLOMBO 171
J. 09 COLOMBO 81
K. 09 COLOMBO 54
L. 09 COLOMBO 32 
M. 09 COLOMBO 25
N. 09 COLOMBO 18
O. AND PREVIOUS 
Classified By: CHARGE D’AFFAIRES VALERIE C. FOWLER.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D )
1. (C) On January 11, Sri Lankan journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam — who last August was convicted by a Sri Lankan high court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for publishing critical of the Sri Lankan Government’s (GSL) war effort, conspiring with others to publish the , and accepting funding to support the publishing operation (“terrorist finance”) — was granted bail of 50,000 rupees (about 450 USD) and the surrendering of his passport.  The bail hearing was held on the morning of January 11 but release could not take place until the proper paperwork was received at the Wellikada Prison. The Prison Commissioner told us he would do what he could to expedite the process but needed to receive the official court order via courier from the courthouse. At COB on January 11, the paperwork had not yet made its way to the prison. We expect Tissainayagam’s release on January 12, and Embassy will seek a meeting with him as soon as possible.
2. (C) A deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Attorney General told us that despite surrendering the passport, Tissainayagam could make a “soft” application to go abroad at the advice of his physicians to consult a specialist. (NOTE: Tissainayagam suffers from an eye condition that could lead to detached retinas. This condition figured prominently in Tissainayagam’s bail application. END NOTE) Although released on bail, Tissainayagam remains subject to his 20-year prison sentence, which is on appeal.  If the appeal were unsuccessful, Tissainayagam would have to begin serving the full length of the sentence minus the few weeks he served before the appeal was submitted.
3. (S) On another track, defense lawyers have submitted a letter from Tissainayagam to President Rajapaksa requesting a pardon.  We understand that the president is considering the request. 
COMMENT
4. (S) Release of Tissainayagam on bail is an important step in addressing this grave injustice and stain on Sri Lankan democracy. The charges against him were politically motivated and probably designed to scare other Sri Lankan journalists — particularly Tamils — into line.  (He was the first Sri Lankan journalist tried and convicted under the draconian press provisions of the PTA.)  Whether the president will take the next step and grant Tissainayagam a pardon is a decision probably heavily influenced by election calculations. Word on the street is that Tamils are all talking about the bail release but know Tissainayagam remains subject to the charges. Granting a pardon would not likely  sway large numbers of Tamil voters, but in a race as potentially close as this one, even a few votes could be important. Embassy actively has encouraged the president to pardon Tissainayagam as an important step in national reconciliation and to re-build relations with the international community. We are guardedly optimistic that he may do so before the election on January 26.
FOWLER


Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO21
2010-01-11 12:34
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA – ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 6

REF:
A. 10 COLOMBO 11
B. 10 COLOMBO 7
C. 10 COLOMBO 2
D. 09 COLOMBO 1152
E. 09 COLOMBO 1145
F. 09 COLOMBO 1139 
Classified By: CHARGE VALERIE C. FOWLER.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Fonseka’s Manifesto
1. (C) Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka released his campaign “manifesto” on January 7, a full-color 22-page brochure, which contained a strong condemnation of President Rajapaksa, largely on grounds of corruption and family patronage. Post contacts have said the manifesto would be published in all three local languages and widely distributed. The manifesto talks about “believable change” and contains promises on economic reform, government reform and social welfare improvements. As detailed below, Fonseka’s publication is rather thin on explanations of how he intends to pay for many of the economic and social-welfare initiatives he promises. There are a number of other governmental reforms, however, which could be implemented with little or no financial burden on the government. Whether or not a victorious President Fonseka would have the political capital needed to achieve these reforms remains to be seen and would be dependent on a compliant parliament. With parliamentary elections due within several months, the exact shape of any future Fonseka-era parliament is far from clear at present.

Key Promises
2. (C) The Fonseka manifesto promises a number of governmental reforms, which if carried out would appear to at least begin addressing many of the major concerns held by the international community and human rights groups. Specifically Fonseka promises to (a) abolish the Executive Presidency, (b) reactivate the 17th amendment to the constitution, (c) end the culture of “white van” disappearances and extra-judicial killings, (d) eliminate the press council and establish an environment of free media, (e) return all remaining IDPs and double the resettlement allowance they receive to 100,000 rupees ) about USD$880 ) per family, (f) amend the emergency regulations, and (g) deal with all war-related detainees by either prosecuting them, releasing them or placing them in rehabilitation programs.
Fonseka the Economist?
3. (C) The economic portion of Fonseka’s manifesto contains positive points on corruption and GSP plus, but more populist positions on salaries, product prices and taxes.  Fonseka promises to appoint a powerful agency to combat fraud and corruption, create an independent commission to audit public finances, and pass a new Parliamentary ethics code.  Fonseka also promises to ensure that the European Union would not revoke their GSP plus trade benefits, but without disclosing how he would achieve this.  Fonseka makes populist appeals by promising to increase government salaries by 10,000 Rs ($88 USD) per month.  Rajapaksa countered with a promise of a 2,500 Rs ($22 USD) raise.  Fonseka promises to provide pensions for agriculture and fishery workers.   Fonseka plans to reduce the fixed prices of certain items and to bring down the price of food, diesel and kerosene and other essentials by reducing taxes.
Cost of Corruption – Thanks to USAID
4. (C) One portion of Fonseka’s argument on corruption cites statistics from a study partially funded by a USAID grant, entitled “Impact of Corruption on Poverty and Economic Growth, 2007”.  The manifesto does not mention the role of USAID in that study, and it is unknown whether Fonseka himself is aware of that connection.  The report states that loss to corruption in 2006 amounted to about 9 percent of the 2006 GDP of Sri Lanka.
How Will He Pay For It?
5. (C )  Candidate Fonseka’s economic manifesto coincides with the economic strategy described in reftel C.  Fonseka does not mention any real reforms except on corruption and transparency.  His promises to increase salaries, lower the cost of living and cut taxes sound good, but he does not provide any credible plan to accomplish these goals. In such a heated campaign environment, it is not surprising that Fonseka’s economic manifesto reveals more of his campaign strategy than an economic program following the election.
What Issues Will Drive the Voters?
6. (C) It is unclear how many votes this manifesto will garner.  The language used in it is very professional and nuanced, and  the arguments on corruption appear convincing, especially when coupled with other documents floating around Sri Lanka’s e-mail network which detail the corrupt financial dealings of the Rajapaksa family. Post is sending local staff into the field to get a sense of the political mood outside of Colombo and will draw from that reporting in upcoming elections-related cables.  So far voters seem largely interested in economic matters and care much less about security-related issues than they may have some six months ago when the war was still fresh on everyone’s minds. While Fonseka may be short on specific s for his economic plan, it nonetheless is more detailed than the Rajapaksa plan thus far, and his attacks on the cost of the Rajapaksas’ corruption may well resonate.
Rajapaksa in jaffna “end to high-security zones”
7. (C) President Rajapaksa visited Jaffna on January 10, his first visit there following the end of the war.  While there he made several announcements, including that the high-security zones in the Jaffna peninsula would be dismantled, leaving only what was described as a “defence front line”.  Approximately 42 square kilometers in the Jaffna peninsula have been closed off as high security zones for a number of years, with some 80,000 persons displaced as a result from their homes and agricultural lands. It was unclear when this would take effect, and one media outlet had reported some IDPs had already attempted to enter one zone, only to be turned back because the formal authorization removing the high-security zones had not yet been received. Sarath Fonseka had promised he would eliminate all high-security zones if elected when he was in Jaffna campaigning on January 2.

Rajapaksa promises release of some detainees

8. (C) While in Jaffna, Rajapaksa told the local Catholic Bishop that all LTTE suspects held on minor charges would be released, pending a review of their case by the Attorney General’s office. Local media had been reporting over the weekend that some 700 of the ex-LTTE combatants held in Vavuniya since the end of the war had been released.  Post contacts said by January 11 they were still waiting for a formal court order allowing their release.  RAJAPAKSA MANIFESTO ———-
9. (C) President Rajapaksa released his own manifesto document on January 11.  Post will report in more detail in the next elections update cable once a full english translation is obtained, but early reports are that the document is less specific in its promises when compared with Fonseka’s manifesto.
Comment:  Who will win?
10. (C) This election is still very much up in the air. Polls here are very scattered and likely to be statistically unreliable, but anecdotal evidence shows a growth in support for Fonseka.  Rajapaksa still has an enormous advantage in his illegal use of state resources, but the idea of “change” is becoming the issue of the day, even if Fonseka has not yet provided specifics on how to achieve all his promises of change. Initial contact with voters in rural areas shows a focus on economic issues rather than security.

Comment: If Fonseka, what next?

11. (C) Some local political analysts have begun to entertain scenarios of what might happen in the Sri Lankan government if Fonseka did win. Early opinions say that the wide-spread UNF coalition he has assembled had no intention of staying together for parliamentary elections.  Indeed Post local political staff are finding that local political organizers, in particular those from the JVP, are squirreling away presidential campaign funds to use for their own parliamentary campaigns. The JVP is showing its organizational strength on the ground and is likely to benefit in general elections.  Some are saying that if Rajapaksa loses, his family’s fortunes in the SLFP will end, and it will revert back to its more historic form. Rumors have cropped up in the past week that former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga may announce her support for Fonseka, with her son Vimukthi Kumaratunga at her side.This then would serve as Vimukthi’s entrance into the political world, and a passing of the torch to the next generation of the Bandaranaike family, which has  been deeply involved in Sri Lankan politics for some 300 years. Interestingly, Mangala Samaraweera, seen by many as the brains behind Fonseka’s campaign strategy, also ran Chandrika’s presidential campaign and was known as one of her close confidantes.  He is thought by some to be a possible candidate for Prime Minister in a Fonseka administration. End Comment.
FOWLER



Reference ID
Created
Classification
10COLOMBO27
2010-01-13
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO 7

REF:
A. COLOMBO 21     
B. COLOMBO 11     
C. COLOMBO 7
D. COLOMBO 2
E. 09 COLOMBO 1152     
F. 09 COLOMBO 1145     
G. 09 COLOMBO 1139 
Classified By: CHARGE VALERIE C. FOWLER.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Fonseka supporter killed
1. (C)(Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Local media and the elections monitoring group CMEV reported that a bus carrying supporters of presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka in Tangalle, in the southern Hambantota District, was attacked by two gunmen on a motorcycle on January 12.  A 58-year-old woman was reported killed and at least ten other persons injured.  Fonseka was not in the vicinity at the time, and reports were that the group was on its way to a campaign rally organized in support of Fonseka by Sajith Premadasa, a member of parliament from the UNP. CMEV had reported to Post last week that the majority of violent incidents in the campaign so far had occurred in the Hambantota District. While President Rajapaksa comes from that district originally, it is also known as a hotbed of JVP activity. This is the first fatal incident during this election campaign.  Unfortunately, fatalities have been a regular occurrence in past Sri Lankan elections.  Post released a short statement later on January 12, expressing deep concern over the killing and calling on the government to investigate the incident.  The release received wide coverage in local press, and President Rajapaksa also released his own statement condemning the killing.  Police stated they had identified a suspect in the killing and expected to apprehend him quickly. 
Elections Commissioner losing steam?
2. (C)(Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Following a week of fairly strong and outspoken actions, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake appeared to weaken in his efforts to try to ensure a free and fair election.  Media reported on January 13 that he had in facQthreatened to quit because government officials were not carrying out his orders.  While he appears to have backed away from that threat, Post counterparts at several other missions are concerned that he may be reluctant to press authorities on elections law violations.  The Commissioner has no real enforcement power of his own, and must rely on the police and civil servants to carry out his instructions, and a sort of bully pulpit of public announcements.
Fonseka addresses business leaders
3. (C)(Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) General Fonseka held a political meeting with 1,000-plus prominent Sri Lankan business community members on January 12 in Colombo.  Fonseka stood in front of a full-color banner which read “Change We Can All Trust,” but appeared awkward and unsure of himself in front of the business community.  Fonseka gave a 15-minute speech that was designed to address business issues, but did not appear very confident when speaking on more specific economic concerns. During his short speech, Fonseka repeated the word “change” multiple times, with loud applause from the audience.  After Fonseka’s speech, questions from attendees were answered primarily by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who answered confidently and displayed an ease with humor and savvy that Fonseka had lacked.  One UNP insider told PolOff that Fonseka had asked UNP Wickremesinghe to answer the majority of the questions at this event since Fonseka did not consider himself an expert on this subject.  A copy of Fonseka’s manifesto in English was passed out to all those attending.  Apart from Ranil, other high-level members of the alliance present at the event were Mangala Samraweera (SLFP-M), Mano Ganesan (DPF), Rauff Hakeem (SLMC) and Somawansa Amarasinghe (JVP).  TNA leader Sampanthan was not present.
4. (C)(Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Although his speech was thin on specific economic policy details, the large crowd of business community leaders gave Fonseka a standing ovation. They praised him as “a simple man” who was “grounded” and believed like him that the country needed change. Interestingly, in his first appearance with the business community, JVP leader Amarasinghe not only sat on stage at the event with Fonseka and Wickremesinghe but also fielded some of the audience questions. Amarasinghe concluded the meeting by giving a well received speech in Sinhala. (NOTE: The JVP, founded on Marxist ideology, has never been historically close to the business community. END NOTE) The crowd appeared to enjoy watching the dynamics between the UNP and JVP leaders, and Amarasinghe joked with the audience about his unlikely presence.
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