Sri Lanka Brief
NewsUS Embassy Cables – Colombo – 2010 – 21 to 30

US Embassy Cables – Colombo – 2010 – 21 to 30

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21 Embassy Colombo EAC meeting 01/20/2010
22 Sri Lanka: assessing progress on key issues
23 Subject: leftist JVP explains support for Fonseka
24 Ambassador summoned by Foreign Minister
25 Sri Lanka: Elections Update No. 11
26 Sri Lanka: Elections Update no. 12 – Morning generally peaceful, turnout high so far
27 Sri Lanka: Elections Update no. 13 – Polls closed
28 Subject: sri lanka: elections update no. 14 – announcement of returns slow
29 Subject: IPR protection in Sri Lanka: Bad, but improving
30 Sri Lanka: Elections Update No. 15



21 Embassy Colombo EAC meeting 01/20/2010
About embassy preparations for election day security. Largely uninteresting.

22 Sri Lanka: assessing progress on key issues
[On HR issues] “Indeed, while they wanted to keep the issue alive for possible future action, Tamil leaders with whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna, and elsewhere said now was not time and that pushing hard on the issue would make them “vulnerable“”

23 Subject: leftist JVP explains support for Fonseka
While few Sri Lankans think of the JVP when they think about political reconciliation, we believe they are sincere in wanting to move the country forward to a new era of national peace and inter-ethnic cooperation.

24 Ambassador summoned by Foreign Minister
It is unusual to have the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary cover the same ground, especially on the same day. Such attention may reflect the intensity of uncertainty regarding the results of tomorrow’s elections and be intended as a message for the international community to keep a low profile in the coming days.

25 Sri Lanka: Elections Update No. 11
While it is unknown how much this last-minute endorsement will sway any remaining undecided SLFP voters, symbolically it is a stinging rebuke of President Rajapaksa by the veritable grandmother of the party he now purports to lead.

26 Sri Lanka: Elections Update no. 12 – Morning generally peaceful, turnout high so far
Local observers, however, said they would not expect police officers, rumored to be heavily pro-Fonseka, to break up demonstrations if they were in support of the opposition candidate.

27 Sri Lanka: Elections Update no. 13 – Polls closed
It is unclear to us whether the government’s failure to provide bus transportation for 11,000 IDPs at Manik Farm to polling stations in time to vote was deliberate or a system breakdown. The number of votes — even if all cast for a single candidate — would not have impacted the final tallies. But ensuring IDP voting would have been a good way to signal national reconciliation

28 Subject: sri lanka: elections update no. 14 – announcement of returns slow
PolOff spoke to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at about 8:00 AM local time. Ranil said the government was telling them the soldiers outside the hotel were for Fonseka’s protection, but other Post contacts report being told by the government they are there to prevent Fonseka from staging a coup.

29 Subject: IPR protection in Sri Lanka: Bad, but improving
Primarily of interest to IT sector and IPR people.
“…end of the war gives an opportunity to refocus efforts on IPR enforcement.

30 Sri Lanka: Elections Update No. 15
Hilarious: “When PolOff reconnoitered Fonseka’s house, he saw three men with ski masks in fatigues hanging around


10COLOMBO49                     2010-01-22             UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
10COLOMBO50                     2010-01-22             SECRET
10COLOMBO53                     2010-01-25             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO55                     2010-01-25             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO56                     2010-01-26             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO59                     2010-01-26             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO61                     2010-01-26             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO62                     2010-01-27             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO63                     2010-01-28             CONFIDENTIAL
10COLOMBO65                     2010-01-28             CONFIDENTIAL
IDPs
Human rights
Political reconciliation
Accountability
JVP revamping image
Support for Fonseka
The JVP and Rajapaksa
War crimes
International “interference”
The Y2K election: peaceful or tumultuous?
Chandrika endorses Fonseka
Rumors of fraud attempts abound
“Preference” voting — what’s the deal?
Election morning largely peaceful
Limited violence in Jaffna, Batticaloa
High turnout so far
Police ban demonstrations for 7 days
Overall turnout high, Jaffna figures low
Low violence
Both sides confident
No buses for Vavuniya IDPs
Fonseka inability to vote stirs brouhaha
What happens next?
Post hosts other missions
All post teams safe
Ballot counting slow
Outcome still unclear
Fonseka holed up in hotel, military surrounding him
Monitors confirm limited election-day violence
Background
Software piracy
Other progress and programs
Elections commissioner confirms Rajapaksa’s victory
Results show remarkable win for Rajapaksa
Process in north better than in past but far from perfect
Opposition says it will mount legal challenge to results
Fonseka still focused on his security
Elections commissioner retires, complicates parliamentary polls
Next steps for Rajapaksa

10COLOMBO49
2010-01-22
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
SUBJECT: EMBASSY COLOMBO EAC MEETING 01/20/2010

1. (SBU) Summary: AmEmbassy Colombo convened an Emergency Action Committee (EAC) meeting on January 20, 2010. The EAC discussed post’s security posture in light of the upcoming Sri Lanka presidential elections on January 26. The EAC discussed elections violence, threat information, arrangements for Mission employees’ access to USG facilities if the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) declares a curfew, the Mission emergency notification (Cascade) system, and notifications to the expatriate American citizen (Amcit) community. End summary.
2. (SBU) On January 20, 2010, AmEmbassy Colombo convened an EAC meeting. Present for the meeting were the Deputy Chief of Mission, Regional Security Officer, Regional Affairs Officer, Political Officer, Economic Officer, Management Officer, Consular Officer, Public Affairs Officer, USAID Director, Defense Attache’, Office of Defense Cooperation Chief, Marine Security Guard Detachment Commander, International Broadcasting Bureau Station Chief, Community Liaison Officer, and Medical Officer. The agenda items for the meeting were: — The January 26 nationwide presidential election campaign and election-related violence; — Threats, if any, the violence poses for the official and expatriate Amcit communities; — Contingencies for maintaining Mission operations and transportation for Embassy personnel if the GSL declares a curfew after election day; — Testing the Embassy emergency notification (Cascade) system; and, — A Warden message for the expatriate Amcit community.
3. (SBU) The EAC discussed the upcoming election and the incidents of election-related violence. Some media sources have reported that the Sri Lanka Police Service (SLPS) received 728 complaints of election violence, including four deaths, from December 18, 2009 to January 19, 2010. However, to date post had received no reports that Amcits had been victims of any of the incidents. RSO, RAO, POL and DATT opined, and the EAC concurred, that the violence was unlikely to target Amcits or American interests directly. On the other hand, Amcits could blunder into a violent demonstration or into proximity with other election violence – i.e. be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
4. (SBU) The EAC discussed the possibility of the GSL declaring a curfew after the elections. Locally engaged staff members and EmbOffs’ various Sri Lankan contacts conjectured, based on past experience, that the GSL would declare a curfew, after polling concluded and in advance of the announcement of the outcome. RSO’s Foreign Service National Investigator (FSNI) contacted police sources, who also believed that a curfew, lasting 24 to 48 hours, would follow the election regardless of the result of the voting. FSNI believed that the SLPS would issue a limited amount of “curfew passes” to the Mission for embassy vehicles. However, the curfew was likely to affect Embassy operations by severely limiting the number of personnel who could report to work. In that regard, the EAC recommended that the MGT Officer and RSO develop contingency plans for maintaining limited operations during the curfew.
5. (SBU) The RSO noted that post would conduct a drill of the Embassy Emergency Notification system prior to the election day. Additionally, the CONS chief will draft a Warden notice to alert the non-official Amcit community of the possibility of a curfew and measures to take in the event of a curfew. (Note: After receipt of Washington clearance, post disseminated the message January 21 to the official and non-official Amcit communities.) The EAC agreed that these steps were prudent in light of unfolding events.
6. (U) Post will continue to monitor the security environment and report further developments, if any, septel. POC for this message is RSO Michael V. Perkins, who may be contacted at 94.11.249.8885, 94.11.249.8888 (MSG Post 1 after regular business hours), or via the classified and unclassified email systems.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO50
2010-01-22
SECRET
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ASSESSING PROGRESS ON KEY ISSUES

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
1.(S) According to Congressional mandates and Administration policy, U.S. assistance to Sri Lanka, particularly military assistance, is tied to progress by the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) on several key issues, including treatment of IDPs, human rights, political reconciliation, and accountability for alleged crimes perpetrated by GSL troops and officials during the war with the LTTE. The GSL has progressed more or less on each of these issues since the end of the conflict. Continued or increased U.S. assistance, however, hinges on the GSL broadening and deepening this progress.
2.(S) Outlined below are these key issue areas with discussion of what progress has been made so far and what further progress we would like to see. It is important to note that we are not offering this list as a set of “benchmarks,” which the GSL must meet to qualify for more robust engagement. Our experience with benchmarks in the Sri Lankan context (and elsewhere as well) is that the government often makes notable progress but in areas not anticipated, or in ways not foreseen, by our benchmarks. Thus, the following list of favored steps is not meant to be exhaustive but rather illustrative. Actual progress will have to be assessed as it happens.3.(S) It also is important to note that the upcoming presidential election — particularly if it were to result in an opposition victory — could radically alter the political context of our assessment of GSL progress on key issues. Opposition candidate General Fonseka has made many significant promises in each of these issue areas, and we could expect that his new government would be interested in moving forward more quickly than the Rajapaksa government. Nevertheless, the key issue areas of concern remain the same notwithstanding the election, and we would expect any Sri Lankan government to continue to make progress. Please note that our lists of “Next Steps” are not in any order of priority or importance.
IDPs
4.(S) There has been a dramatic improvement in the treatment of IDPs and their living conditions over the past several months. Whether because of international pressure or electoral politics, the result is that 106,007 displaced persons remain in GSL camps, according to UNHCR, down from a high of over 280,000. Large numbers who left the camps remain in transit camps or with host families and have not yet returned to their places of origin. Although humanitarian access to camps has been inconsistent since the end of the war, most organizations reported that access was now granted upon request. Protection monitoring and confidential interviews with IDPs are still prohibited, and the ICRC revised mandate has not been finalized. ICRC headquarters is assessing whether to accept the GSL offer of a general rather than a detailed MOU. Access to returnee areas for INGOs is still limited to those engaged in de-mining and one medical organization in the Vanni, although the government and local authorities were reportedly working to extend this to other groups. INGOs in Jaffna were recently authorized to work by the Governor of the North but await confirmation from the Presidential Task Force.
5.(S) Next steps:
Renew ICRC mandate. — Provide transparent criteria and regularized processes for INGO access to the north. — Provide transparent criteria and regularized processes for access to returnee areas for journalists. — Continue to release or prosecute LTTE and other Tamil detainees according to a judicial process. — Implement a national system for tracing separated family members. — Continue GSL reintegration of returnees.
Human Rights
6.(S) Numbers of disappearances have experienced a steady and significant decline across the island since the end of the war, and the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Relief, and other institutions have conducted investigations into some of the cases. For example, on December 21, Attorney General Peiris told Ambassador that there was an 11-person team working under Deputy Solicitor General De Livera to look into questions of disappearances and other potential violations under the Emergency Regulations (ref A). Peiris claimed that 100 (presumably innocent) people had been found in detention and released during the previous 45 days, and the team was continuing its investigations. He was going to Anuradhapura himself later that week to look at 33 cases and to decide whether the suspects could be released.
7.(S) Child soldiers affiliated with the TMVP have been significantly reduced over the past year, with just five reportedly remaining at the end of 2009, according to UNICEF; the government appears to be working actively to find the remaining child soldiers. On January 13, imprisoned journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was released on bail, and Post is not aware of any additional physical attacks on journalists since June, although there still have been threats.
8.(S) Next steps: — Disappearances continue to decline, and investigations continue to rise. The team under A.G. Peiris, in particular, should examine and process more cases. — All remaining child soldiers accounted for and discharged/rehabilitated. — Press freedom: threats to individual journalists must end, along with atmosphere of intimidation. — Press freedom: progress made in investigation of the killing a year ago of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. — Remaining ex-LTTE “new” detainees, held since the end of the war, are placed within a legal structure. All “older” LTTE and Tamil detainees, held since before the end of the war, are charged and prosecuted or released. — Lifting the Emergency Regulations. — Less harassment and intimidation of civil society organizations.
Political Reconciliation
9.(S) Although progress has been slow, the presidential elections — particularly the fact that the two main candidates are splitting the Sinhalese vote — has moved reconciliation issues higher on the political agenda. The A-9 road has been opened for nearly all travel by Sri Lankans (NOTE: Foreigners are still not permitted to drive into the North. END NOTE.), the curfew in Jaffna has ended, and fishing restrictions in the North have been largely eliminated. Of the 12,000 ex-LTTE combatants held in detainment camps since the end of the war, 712 were released the week after the New Year, and the government has announced it would release an additional 1,000 shortly. General Fonseka has made reconciliation a prominent issue in his campaign, signing a ten-point program for devolving power to the North-East. In addition, in his widely distributed campaign manifesto, Fonseka has promised he would: (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); (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.
10.(S) Next Steps:
Some sort of power-sharing or decentralization arrangement to accommodate minority rights. Should be locally developed (i.e. not necessarily the 13th Amendment) and satisfactory to minority populations in Sri Lanka. — Lifting of High Security Zones. — Unrestricted access permitted throughout the North for all Sri Lankans, diplomats, journalists, and NGOs. — Remaining no-threat or low-threat ex-LTTE combatants in “new detainee” camps are released or placed into rehabilitation programs. — Any low-risk “older” LTTE detainees convicted within the justice system are removed from prison and placed into rehabilitation programs.
Accountability
11.(S) Accountability for alleged crimes committed by GSL troops and officials during the war is the most difficult issue on our bilateral agenda, and the one we believe has the lowest prospect for forward movement. There are no examples of a sitting regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes. In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka. Moreover, the fact that the LTTE leadership has been destroyed and there is virtually no one to hold accountable for LTTE war crimes makes prosecutions of GSL troops or officials that much more difficult.
12.(S) Accountability also has not been a top priority for Tamils in Sri Lanka. While Tamils have told us they would like to see some form of accountability, they have been pragmatic in what they can expect and have focused instead on securing greater rights and freedoms, resolving the IDP question, and improving economic prospects in the war-ravaged and former LTTE-occupied areas. Indeed, while they wanted to keep the issue alive for possible future action, Tamil leaders with whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna, and elsewhere said now was not time and that pushing hard on the issue would make them “vulnerable” (ref. B).
13.(S) Despite these considerations, there have been some tentative steps on accountability. Soon after the appearance of the State Department Report to Congress on Incidents, President Rajapaksa announced the formation of an experts’ committee to examine the report and to provide him with recommendations on dealing with the allegations. At the end of the year, the president extended the deadline for the committee’s recommendations from December 31 until April. For his part, General Fonseka has spoken publicly of the need for a new deal with the Tamils and other minorities. Privately, his campaign manager told the Ambassador that Fonseka had ordered the opposition campaign to begin work planning a “truth and reconciliation” commission (ref. C).
14.(S) Rajapaksa Next Steps: — Presidential experts’ committee makes credible recommendations for dealing with the allegations in the State Department report. — A commission is formed to hear complaints and resolve individual cases of war disappearances. — GSL publicly acknowledges human cost of war and losses on both sides. — President institutes compensation program for families of civilians killed in the war.
15.(S) Fonseka Next Steps: — Begins national dialogue on the war and its human costs. — Creation of a serious and credible truth and reconciliation mechanism. — Considers compensation program.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO53
2010-01-25
CONFIDENTIAL

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a January 15 meeting with Ambassador, neo-Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party chief Somawansa Amarasinghe and JVP MP Sunil Hanunnetti discussed the JVP’s vision of a united, multiethnic, multi-lingual Sri Lanka; their support for Sarath Fonseka’s presidential bid; their support for a truth commission, instead of a war crimes trial; and their view of the involvement of the international community in Sri Lankan internal affairs. END SUMMARY.
JVP revamping image
2. (C) Amarasinghe described the JVP as a reformed Marxist Party, which stood for a united, multiethnic, multi-lingual Sri Lanka, with equality for all. He emphasized that they were not a nationalist party and believed strongly in multiparty democracy. The JVP was even in favor of a Tamil prime minister. The JVP also believed in devolving power as far as possible, including allowing villages to decide on the allocation of funds. On election violence, Amarasinghe claimed that although JVP members were forceful at demonstrations, they were very disciplined and avoided violence. He asserted that the JVP had never engaged in political violence during peacetime. (NOTE: The latter claim might only hold true if one accepted the JVP line that the 1971 and 1987-89 JVP insurrections, in which thousands lost their lives, could be considered “wartime.” END NOTE.)
Support for Fonseka
3. (C) Regarding JVP support for Sarath Fonseka’s presidential campaign, Amarasinghe cited several reasons: 1) He was the only person who could defeat President Rajapaksa; 2) the JVP had never supported the current government (NOTE: This strains credulity. The JVP supported Rajapaksa in 2005 then grew increasingly alienated as Rajapaksa favored his own party supporters over the JVP in government appointments. END NOTE.); 3) Fonseka was willing to eliminate the executive powers of the president; 4) his focus was on education and health issues, not the military; 5) he was well-respected by the people; 6) he was very direct; and, 7) he had a broad vision for the future of Sri Lanka. Amarasinghe went on to add that Fonseka was marginalized after the military defeat of the LTTE because he was in favor of reconciling with former LTTE members. This convinced the JVP that Fonseka truly was committed to uniting the nation.
The JVP and Rajapaksa
4. (C) Amarasinghe was very critical of President Rajapaksa, saying he had a very narrow vision and an inferiority complex, which stemmed from the fact that he was not from one of the traditional power families. As a result, he suspected everyone, especially “learned people.”
War crimes
5. (C) On the JVP’s position on the war-crimes issue, Amarasinghe said there were human-rights violations in every war. In the last year of the Sri Lankan war, however, there were, in fact, far fewer human-rights violations then ever before. In terms of moving forward, he favored the idea of a “truth and reconciliation commission,” not a war-crimes trial. He added that the JVP had issued a statement in favor of this approach, which was provided to the Ambassador.
International “interference”
6. (C) Amarasinghe expressed opposition to any outside “interference” seeking to impose solutions on Sri Lanka, such as the UK government’s drafting of a new constitution without consulting Sri Lankans. (NOTE: We assume Amarasinghe was referring to the joint British-Sri Lankan drafting of a constitution in 1948, which adopted many terms from British usage but also took into account local conditions. END NOTE.) Nevertheless, he went on to say that all countries had to surrender some of their sovereignty when they signed international agreements and that this gave other countries the right to interfere to some extent in other nations’ affairs. He also said that there was no international conspiracy against Sri Lanka, claiming instead that the president’s raising this issue was a sign of his election desperation.
Comment
7. (C) This presidential election has had many surprising developments, not the least of which is the alliance between the old arch-enemies of the right-liberal UNP and the neo-Marxist JVP. This represents, in part, opportunism on the part of both parties. But it also reflects the highly polarizing character of the Rajapaksas. The JVP supported Rajapaksa in 2005 but he alienated them by appointing cross-over (mostly UNP) MPs to ministerial positions coveted by the JVP, and the latter has been looking to settle the score ever since. At the same time, the JVP position appears to be more than opportunism and paybacks. While few Sri Lankans think of the JVP when they think about political reconciliation, we believe they are sincere in wanting to move the country forward to a new era of national peace and inter-ethnic cooperation.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO55
2010-01-25
CONFIDENTIAL

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary. The Foreign Minister called in the Ambassador this afternoon to express his concerns about her televised interview which aired on all three MTV news broadcasts the evening of January 14. Foreign Minister Bogollagama also raised the Ambassador’s weekend call to the Inspector General of Police regarding the removal of police protection at the Tamil-language daily “Sudar Oli” and its Jaffna-based sister paper “Udayan.” Foreign Secretary Jayasinghe had called the Ambassador earlier in the day to express the same points. End Summary.
2. (C) Foreign Minister Bogollagama summoned the Ambassador to the Ministry this afternoon to express his concerns regarding the timing of the Ambassador’s interview on MTV. While noting that the interview aired during the formal campaign period, the FM stated that the election platform is not only physical but also electronic, and urged the Ambassador not to become part of the process. The Ambassador responded that she receives lots of domestic and international media requests, and is judicious in those that she accepts. She added that she had done an earlier interview with state media channel Rupavahini, which had determined not to run the interview, citing her answer to a question on IDPs.
3. (C) During the Ambassador’s MTV interview, she was asked about the U.S. perspective toward the election, and responded that we were concerned about the escalation in violence and expressed our desire that the poll be free, fair and credible. She called on all candidates to appeal to their supporters to stop the violence. She said that the Election Commissioner’s decisions should be enforced and that citizens should be able to exercise their democratic right to vote without fear. In response to a question about U.S. support for the elections, the Ambassador noted the embassy had issued three statements related to the elections and mentioned that we had given funding to domestic organizations helping with voter registration. When asked about the bilateral relations after the election, the Ambassador said that we still have concerns about human rights, accountability and the importance of reconciliation. When asked, the Ambassador emphatically denied claims widely circulated in the media that we had given money to one side or the other, and repeated that the United States is neutral. FM Bogollagama affirmed that the Ambassador had the right to respond to such charges.
4. (C) The Foreign Minister also raised the Ambassador’s January 23 call to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to discuss the removal of police protection at the Tamil-language daily “Sudar Oli” and its Jaffna-based sister paper “Udayan.” Both papers have been frequent subjects of intimidation, and had appealed to the embassy to intervene to urge the police be reinstated. FM Bogollagama suggested that the Ambassador call the Foreign Ministry first for any assistance. The Ambassador noted that she knows the IGP personally, and added that she had learned the situation was resolved before she had reached the IGP, but knew he was waiting for her call and thus wanted to complete the call.
5. (C) Comment. FM Bogollagama told the Ambassador that Foreign Secretary Jayasinghe had briefed him on the Foreign Secretary’s earlier call to the Ambassador. Both the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary were pleasant and did not belabor the points. It is unusual to have the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary cover the same ground, especially on the same day. Such attention may reflect the intensity of uncertainty regarding the results of tomorrow’s elections and be intended as a message for the international community to keep a low profile in the coming days. End Comment.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO56
 2010-01-26
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 11

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
The Y2K election: Peaceful or tumultuous?
1. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) On the eve of an historic presidential election in Sri Lanka, the leading candidates appear to be neck-and-neck, with no one able to predict how events will unfold. Scenarios — often offered by the same observer — range from a peaceful handover of power to large-scale social unrest and violence. The government has declared Wednesday, January 27 a legal holiday, and many Sri Lankans anticipate a curfew will be imposed as well. The Embassy will close at 16:00 local time on January 26 and remain closed January 27, except for elections-essential personnel.
2. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) There is a potential for some post-election violence, and tensions in some locations appear to be very high. Violence is more likely to be between Sinhalese supporters of the two main candidates, rather than to involve Tamil voters. Additional scattered reports of violence continued to come in over the weekend from a number of different locations. How each side reacts to a close vote, and in particular a close vote where there are widespread allegations of fraud, is difficult to predict. One long-time JVP member of parliament told PolOff his JVP supporters would not be robbed of what they saw as certain victory and that they would be in the streets protesting if the win was stolen from them. Many opposition organizers and supporters in the southern Hambantota district admitted to PolOff they were nervous about what might happen to them if Rajapaksa prevailed. Other observers told us that Rajapaksa organizers and officials could see there was a very real chance he could lose and were fearful of retaliation by Fonseka supporters if that happened. See ref. B for Post reporting on how the security forces might handle significant post-election violence.
Chandrika endorses Fonseka
3. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) The last endorsement of a candidate occurred on the morning of January 24, when General Fonseka was received by former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the memorial to her late father, SLFP founder S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. While it is unknown how much this last-minute endorsement will sway any remaining undecided SLFP voters, symbolically it is a stinging rebuke of President Rajapaksa by the veritable grandmother of the party he now purports to lead.
Rumors of fraud attempts abound
4. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Unverifiable rumors of various fraud attempts swirled around Colombo and the text-messaging social network of Sri Lanka over the final pre-election weekend. There were reports that a military truck had been stopped in the town of Karunagala inappropriately carrying some 90 ballot boxes. Elections monitors reported to PolOff that they knew of some 25 stuffed ballot boxes being held at a secret location near the southern town of Tangalle. Unclaimed voter registration cards at post offices in areas in the north led to suspicions by some that these would be used to cast fraudulent ballots. Because voter lists have not been updated for many years in some of these locations, voter cards have been prepared for Tamil voters who may have died or left the country years ago. A majority of observers seem to believe that a key vulnerability exists in the transportation of ballot boxes from polling stations to counting centers.
“Preference” voting — what’s the deal?
5. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) The Sri Lankan constitution requires a presidential candidate to receive at least 50 percent plus one vote to be declared the winner outright. If neither Rajapaksa nor Fonseka makes it over this hurdle, election officials will consider “preference” votes (voters manually cast their votes for first, second, and third choices on the paper ballots). Candidates who were not in first or second place are eliminated from the contest and the ballots of those who voted for them are consulted to determine their second preferences. If the second preference on a ballot is for either of the two top candidates, the vote is added to that candidate’s total. If a voter’s first and second preferences had been for neither of the top two candidates but his or her third preference was, that third-preference vote is added to the candidate’s total. Whoever receives a majority of the votes so counted is declared the victor. In case of a tie, lots are drawn to determine the winner
6. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Sri Lanka has never had to utilize this preference system in its presidential elections — someone always won at least 50 percent plus one. The system has been utilized, however, in provincial-council elections. In those elections, election officials — who presumably were up all night counting the first choices on ballots — were given at least a twelve-hour rest before the counting of the preferences began. We are unclear at this point whether such a rest period — which would significantly delay the tabulation of results, leaving the country on the edge of its collective seat — will be provided.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO59
2010-01-26
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 12 – MORNING GENERALLY PEACEFUL, TURNOUT HIGH SO FAR

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Election morning largely peaceful
1. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) As of 12:00 PM local time on election day in Sri Lanka, the balloting so far had been generally peaceful. There were some limited reports of violence, outlined in the paragraph below, but by and large voting was occurring without major incident. Mission officers in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, and in the greater Colombo area reported seeing typically only two to three police officers at each polling station. Sri Lankan military presence near polling locations appeared minimal thus far.
Limited violence in Jaffna, Batticaloa
2. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) There were reports of four to six small explosions in the Jaffna area early in the morning, before polls opened. Details are still emerging, but accounts so far indicate these were small explosions, either hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, or even “thunder stick” explosives normally used to scare off wild elephants. Post RSO assesses these attacks were most likely attempts to intimidate voters and reduce turn-out. A small explosion was reported in the Batticaloa area, again early in the morning before the polls opened. No deaths or injuries were reported, and again the cause was likely a grenade or other small explosive meant to intimidate voters.
High turnout so far
3. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Initial reporting suggests high voter turnout in most voting districts. People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) reported they estimate final turnout at 70-80 percent. Another observer told Post that if the morning’s trend of voter turnout continued, the final number could surpass 80 percent, an unprecedented level of participation for Sri Lankan presidential elections.
Police ban demonstrations for 7 days
4. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Local media reported this morning that the police had announced a ban on all public demonstrations for seven days. Local observers, however, said they would not expect police officers, rumored to be heavily pro-Fonseka, to break up demonstrations if they were in support of the opposition candidate.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO61
2010-01-26
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 13 – POLLS CLOSED

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Overall turnout high, Jaffna figures low
1. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) After the close of polls at 4:00 PM local, elections monitoring group PAFFREL reported an estimated turnout of 74 percent for all of Sri Lanka except Jaffna, where it reported 18-20 percent turnout. Figures on turnout for Jaffna are difficult to interpret, as voter rolls there have not been updated recently. We believe the old total number of registered voters was approximately 720,000, but the number of registered voters living in Jaffna now is reportedly about half that figure. Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe noted to us that, when calculated on the basis of the actual number of registered voters in Jaffna, the turnout figures there were relatively high.
Low violence
2. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Reports of election-related violence continued to be quite low, and there were no reported deaths. A total of 82 incidents of elections violations were reported as of the closing of polls at 4:00 PM local time, including 38 incidents of assault and 12 incidents of damage to property. While regrettable nonetheless, Post had been concerned there might be more violence (than reported) as part of a campaign to reduce voter turnout.
Both sides confident
3. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) G.L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, and a member of the president’s close circle, called Ambassador around 11:30 AM on election day and said he and the campaign were confident of victory by a substantial margin. He would not give specifics on what that margin might be. Later, we spoke to opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who also expressed optimism. Wickremesinghe said the good voter turnout made them confident, and he said much would depend on returns from the north and east. But Wickremesinghe thought that even in the south — a Rajapaksa stronghold — Fonseka would at least break even with the president or, perhaps, gain a slim majority.
No buses for Vavuniya IDPs
4. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) A group of approximately 11,000 IDPs from Manik Farm waited in vain for buses to take them to polling stations in Kilinochchi. Reports were that some 30 buses had been requested by the government, but only two appeared on election day. TNA leader Sampanthan was reportedly planning to ask the Elections Commissioner to delay announcement of the elections results until the IDPs had been able to vote, but it was unclear whether he had submitted a formal request or whether there was a mechanism to handle this sort of eventuality. PAFFREL reported just after 5:00 PM local time that some 3,000 of the IDPs were taken in the afternoon, but very few were able to actually vote before the 4:00 PM closing of polls.
Fonseka inability to vote stirs brouhaha
5. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Pro-Rajapaksa media had a field day with reports that Fonseka was unable to vote, with some commentators suggesting this was because he was an American citizen. (NOTE: Fonseka is a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S., not a citizen. END NOTE.) Later in the day, Fonseka appeared on television explaining that he was unable to vote because his registration had expired and he had forgotten to renew it. (NOTE: Voting registers in Sri Lanka are updated by officials more or less yearly. When the lists were updated in 2009, Fonseka was in the combat zone commanding the army and not at his home, and thus his name was stricken from the voter list. END NOTE.) Finally, the Election Commissioner issued a statement saying that failure to appear on a voter list or to cast a ballot in an election did not disqualify someone from being elected and serving as president.

What happens next?

6. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Polls closed at 4:00 PM local time. Transportation of the ballot boxes will take place between then and approximately 7:00 PM local time. Then doors to the counting centers will be locked and the counting will begin. Postal (absentee) votes will be counted first, with results from that segment expected anywhere between 10:00 PM local time this evening (11:30 AM EST, January 26) and 2:00 AM local time tomorrow morning, January 27 (3:30 PM EST, January 26). Then regular ballots will be counted for each of the 225 electorates, beginning with some of the more rural and distant areas. Results of some of these electorates will begin trickling out into media reports throughout the early morning, but the electorates with the highest populations often are counted last, leaving the final result unclear until the totals are announced, expected to be around mid-day on January 27 (early morning on January 27 in Washington, DC).
Post hosts other missions
7. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Post hosted representatives from other foreign missions throughout the day, including the Swiss, Dutch and German Ambassadors. Post organized a command center, including phone banks, televisions tuned to local and international news, text-message capability and Opennet connections. Post elections reporting teams both in the larger Colombo area and in the areas around Kandy, Galle, and Nuwara Eliya reported regularly to our command center throughout the day, and those staffing the room reached out frequently to local elections monitoring groups and regionally-based Post contacts.
All post teams safe
8. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) All Post reporting teams in the Colombo area have returned safely to the Chancery, and those teams in other towns are safely at their hotels to wait out the elections results and possible curfew.
Comment
9. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Election-day voting went off more smoothly than we expected. While there were reports of some violent incidents — isolated explosions in the north and east and some assaults and fisticuffs at a few polling stations — the overall pattern was relatively peaceful. We must caution that this could change if there were reports of malfeasance in the transport of ballot boxes to counting centers later this evening or perceptions of fraud at the announcement of official results, expected Wednesday. January 27 has already been declared a national holiday, and there is a good chance the government will impose a curfew later this evening lasting through Wednesday.
10. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Turnout, too, was good and a credit to Sri Lankans able to vote nationwide for the first time in decades following the defeat of the LTTE and the reunification of the nation. It is unclear to us whether the government’s failure to provide bus transportation for 11,000 IDPs at Manik Farm to polling stations in time to vote was deliberate or a system breakdown. The number of votes — even if all cast for a single candidate — would not have impacted the final tallies. But ensuring IDP voting would have been a good way to signal national reconciliation — a point the Ambassador pressed with Minister Peiris earlier today.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO62
2010-01-27
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 14 – ANNOUNCEMENT OF RETURNS SLOW

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Ballot counting slow
1. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Ballot counting has been slow overnight. Postal ballots were not completed until around 2:30 AM local time, and by 9:00 AM local time, only about 20 per cent of the total ballots had been counted, when in past elections over 50 per cent would be complete at that point. At this rate we do not expect final results until later in the day.

Outcome still unclear

2. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Postal (absentee) ballots went to Rajapaksa, with 66 per cent of those cast. The postal votes are a small portion of the total vote, and the bulk of those voters are government employees and appointees who might naturally vote for the incumbent. Still, many observers expected this postal vote to be closer. With regard to the total number of regular votes, approximately 20 per cent had been counted by 9:00 AM, with approximately 60 per cent are in favor of Rajapaksa and 40 per cent for Fonseka. Past practice, however, has been for the government to release early in the counting the results of electorates expected to favor of the incumbent, and it is still difficult to predict the final outcome. At this point, we have not received any reports of ballot-box stuffing or other attempts to tamper with the results. Domestic monitoring organizations also have received no reports of irregularities at ballot counting stations.
Fonseka holed up in hotel, military surrounding him
3. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Post contacts and media are reporting that Fonseka is staying at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo with a number of key campaign officials. Over 100 military troops have cordoned off the hotel and part of the street it faces, searching all vehicles going in and out. PolOff spoke to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at about 8:00 AM local time. Ranil said the government was telling them the soldiers outside the hotel were for Fonseka’s protection, but other Post contacts report being told by the government they are there to prevent Fonseka from staging a coup. Ranil said he had been negotiating with the government to move Fonseka from the hotel to his office. Ranil reported that he and other party leaders had been coming and going from the hotel, and that the security appears to be focused on Fonseka himself. Ranil said he could not comment on any early results, as he had been caught up in these negotiations.
4. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) PD contacts have reported many press personnel have had police or military guards posted outside their offices since early this morning local time. Post employees coming in to the Chancery early this morning saw very few police or military on the streets, outside of the contingent at Fonseka’s hotel.
Monitors confirm limited election-day violence
5. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Both the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) have issued preliminary reports on election-day incidents, stating that the voting was peaceful and relatively free of violence. They cited pre-dawn incidents in Jaffna for suppressing voter turnout there, and complained about the reporting by state media while polls were still open of Fonseka’s failure to vote.
Comment
6. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) The heavy tilt of early returns for Rajapaksa is not surprising, given that Sri Lankan governments tend to release first the numbers for the districts expected to support the incumbent. With only about 20 percent of the results announced so far, it is too early to predict the outcome. Trends will become clearly when figures for the Western province — which accounts for approximately a third of the population, including the capital Colombo — become available later in the day. The stationing of troops outside Fonseka’s hotel is disconcerting, but deploying military within Colombo is not uncommon, and at this point we are interpreting it as a political distraction.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO63
2010-01-28
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: IPR PROTECTION IN SRI LANKA: BAD, BUT IMPROVING

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler for Reasons 1.4 ( B) and (D).
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Sri Lanka’s intellectual property rights regime is good on paper but lax on enforcement. Still, since the passage of comprehensive legislation in 2003, things have slowly been improving. The Embassy, American Chamber of Commerce, Business Software Alliance, a cadre of specialized law firms, and a number of government offices have worked hard to increase awareness and provide much-needed training for judges, police, and investigators. While much remains to be done, new and ongoing initiatives should reduce the amount of pirated and fake items available in the marketplace. END SUMMARY.
Background
2. (U) Sri Lanka’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime is, like that of many emerging economies, good on paper but lax on enforcement. The country enacted a comprehensive IPR law in 2003 that governs copyrights and related rights, industrial designs, patents, trademarks and service marks, trade names, layout designs of integrated circuits, geographical indications, unfair competition, databases, computer programs, and undisclosed information. Infringement of intellectual property rights is a punishable offense under the law and falls under both criminal and civil courts of jurisdiction in Sri Lanka. Recourse available to owners includes injunctive relief, seizure and destruction of infringing goods and plates or implements used for the making of copies, and the prohibition of imports and exports. Penalties for the first offense include a prison sentence of 6 months or a fine of up to Rs 500,000 ($4,425). Penalties can be doubled for a second offense.
3. (C) Since the passage of the 2003 IPR law Sri Lanka has slowly begun enforcing its provisions. However, counterfeit goods continue to be widely available. Local agents of well-known U.S. and other international companies representing recording, software, movie, clothing and consumer product industries continue to complain that the lack of IPR protection is damaging their businesses. Piracy of sound recordings and software is widespread, making it difficult for the legitimate industries to protect their market and realize their potential in Sri Lanka. The Police occasionally raid stores selling counterfeit goods — especially garments. However, it is rare for the Police to act without a formal complaint and assistance from an aggrieved party. Several offenders have been charged or convicted by courts. A leading anti-piracy lawyer, Sudath Perera, told EconOff that his firm has successfully conducted several raids in Colombo in 2008-2009. In January 2010, police and the law firm (representing the rights holders) recently raided two outlets in Colombo selling counterfeit garments and stationary.
Software piracy
4. (SBU) Software companies complain of the lack of IPR enforcement within government institutions and even some larger corporations, including several banks. According to a survey commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and conducted by the IDC, a leading global IT market research firm, software piracy in Sri Lanka is as high as 90 percent. Sri Lanka,s software companies and the Sri Lankan Association for Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) dispute the findings of the study, questioning the sampling methodology used by the IDC. However, both organizations have bottom-line reasons to publicly doubt the study. For example, SLASSCOM’s members worry the bad publicity could cause potential clients to go elsewhere due to the high piracy rate. ICTA, in collaboration with the SLASSCOM, is planning to commission an independent IPR survey covering a sample of about 5,000 companies.
5. (SBU) Sri Lankan government officials in charge of IPR protection acknowledge there is a high software piracy rate in the government. The government and industry leaders are taking various actions to improve IPR protection in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. In December 2009, the government of Sri Lanka approved a new Information Technology (IT) policy for the government sector which includes rules on hardware and software procurement. When the new policy will be implemented is not known. Under the new policy, the government will issue IT procurement guidelines requiring all government agencies to stick to licensed software or open-source software. If the cost of licensed software or maintenance and consultancy fees of open-source software is higher than proprietary software, the government will provide additional funds to purchase proprietary software.
6. (C) While we see this as a step in the right direction, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is not fully satisfied with the policy and accuses the government of “more funny business.” Shalini Ratwatte, BSA’s local consultant, told EconOff that she sees it as a push for open source software. However, she acknowledged that pricing is an issue. For instance, global software producers are not willing to offer discounted prices to Sri Lanka (as they do in mass markets such as India). They argue that Sri Lanka, although a developing country, does not offer economies of scale to justify discounts. Nevertheless, BSA is contemplating starting IPR awareness programs for senior Sri Lanka government officials covered by the new procurement policy.
Other progress and programs
7. (U) Post’s recent efforts focus on IPR protection in the ICT sector. In a bid to support the ICT sector, Post teamed up with BSA to hold an IPR awareness program for the Sri Lanka Police on January 8. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (USDOJ/OPDAT) and Business Software Alliance provided funds for this workshop. Approximately 45 police officers from the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the Sri Lanka Police participated. The program focused on the importance of IPR to the economy, elements of IPR law, and investigating and prosecuting IP cases. Industry representatives from pharmaceutical, software, and electrical product industries provided technical information about product identification. At the conclusion of the seminar, participants from the CID requested continued training on IPR awareness and education and more involvement from the industry.
8. (U) Demonstrating a positive trend, well-known vendors of branded laptops and computer systems now advertize that their products come “only with licensed software.” Previously, laptop and desktop computers were sold without any reference to software and the sellers and users freely copied software. Furthermore, Dr. D.M. Karunaratne, Director of the National IP office, informed EconOff that a World Intellectual Property Office’s (WIPO) intellectual property academy will soon be established in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been chosen for this academy as a pilot project. Earlier, WIPO carried out a successful pilot project on WIPO outreach programs in Sri Lanka.
Comment
9. (SBU) The end of the war gives an opportunity to refocus efforts on IPR enforcement. The Embassy, the USPTO regional office in New Delhi, AMCHAM and BSA are working to pursue more aggressive enforcement and enhance public awareness, and require the active cooperation of the National IP office of Sri Lanka. Upcoming training programs in the first quarter of 2010 for law enforcement agencies include USPTO-sponsored training programs for the Attorney General,s Office and Sri Lanka Customs, and an AMCHAM/BSA sponsored training program for magistrates in the Central, North Central, Eastern and Northern Provinces, ensuring that magistrates from all nine of Sri Lanka’s provinces receive training.
BUTENIS
10COLOMBO65
2010-01-28
CONFIDENTIAL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: ELECTIONS UPDATE NO. 15

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)
Elections commissioner confirms Rajapaksa’s victory
1. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Despite earlier confusion, Elections Commissioner Dissanayake confirmed in a meeting with PolOff on January 28 that he had indeed certified President Rajapaksa’s victory in the January 26 presidential election. He said the official gazette notification was being printed and would be released to the media later in the afternoon on January 28. The confusion had arisen late on January 27 when he had not stated in his results-announcement speech that he was certifying the final results being listed on the Elections Commissioner’s website. In that speech, he cited a number of problems he had faced during the campaign and on election day itself. In the later meeting with PolOff, he reiterated those complaints but clearly stated that the voting had been “free and fair.” Upon this personal confirmation, Post issued a public statement congratulating the people of Sri Lanka on their first post-war election and Rajapaksa on his victory. Post noted the claims of elections law violations and urged that they be dealt with according to Sri Lankan law, and that the government ensure the safety of all candidates and election workers. The full statement is on the embassy website.
Results show remarkable win for Rajapaksa
2. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Rajapaksa’s wide margin of victory (18 percent) was not predicted by anyone except a few hard-core Rajapaksa supporters and defied both the president’s own internal polling figures and those of the opposition, all of which showed the race as neck-and-neck just a few days before the balloting (ref H). Rajapaksa’s margin also was unprecedented in Sri Lanka apart from the election of Chandrika Kumaratunge in 1994 under extraordinary circumstances. Chandrika won by 26 percent in tumultuous times after the incumbent president had been assassinated in 1993 two weeks before the election and was replaced by his wife as a last-ditch candidate. Chandrika was re-elected by eight percentage points in 1999. Most recently, Rajapaksa won over UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe by less than two percentage points in 2005.
3. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Rajapaksa,s numbers hovered fairly consistently around 60 percent in each district, except Colombo, Kandy and Badulla where he won with 53 to 54 percent, and the Northern and Eastern Provinces where Fonseka won with strong support. Rajapaksa exceeded expectations in some normally UNP strongholds. In Colombo, despite recent buzz about Fonseka and the UNP’s 51-percent win in 2005, Rajapaksa carried the vote with 53 percent. He also did unusually well in the Central Province. In Kandy, the fourth largest voter pool nationwide, Rajapaksa won 54 percent of votes, having lost with 44 percent in 2005. In Matale, he won with 60 percent, up from 48 percent in 2005. Nuwara-Eliya remained loyal to the opposition, but less so than in 2005 )- Rajapaksa collected 43 percent of the vote compared to just 28 percent previously. Rajapaksa also did surprisingly well in the North-West Province. In Puttalam, he garnered 59 percent compared to 48 percent in 2005. He increased his support in Karunegala from 52 percent in 2005 to 63 percent in 2010. Matale and Karunegala were two of the locations cited by the Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) as having had disruptions of the counting process. The other districts flagged by CMEV, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, also went to Rajapaksa.
Process in north better than in past but far from perfect
4. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) As expected, Fonseka carried the Eastern and Northern Provinces but by smaller margins than the UNP had in 2005. Voter turnout in Jaffna (26 percent) was significantly less than the 74 percent nationwide average but a marked improvement from the one percent who cast ballots during the conflict in 2005. In the Vanni, 40 percent voted, up from 34 percent in 2005. Turnout was particularly low (14 percent) in Mullaitivu where transport was largely unavailable. Internally displaced persons who voted through special procedures strongly supported Fonseka. Many IDPs who relied on government transportation to polling booths were reportedly unable to vote due to a lack of buses (ref B).
Opposition says it will mount legal challenge to results
5. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Shortly after the Election Commissioner’s announcement of the final results, the opposition declared it did not accept them and would mount a legal challenge. On the evening of the announcement, January 27, the opposition leaders were distracted by the developing standoff between Fonseka and government troops stationed outside his hotel (see paragraph below). By the morning of January 28 the opposition was still deciding what its next steps would be. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told PolOff the opposition leaders would be meeting later in the day to decide their course of action, but he admitted to PolOff that the legal challenge option would take a month just to prepare and would then be subject to decision by a Supreme Court seen by many as friendly to President Rajapaksa. Ranil already seemed to be moving on to the parliamentary elections as he spoke. We have had little contact with the usually stand-offish JVP, the other main member of the Fonseka coalition, so it is unclear what they are thinking next steps should be.
Fonseka still focused on his security
6. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) General Fonseka spent most of January 27 holed up in the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel with members of his family, his advisors, and key opposition COLOMBO 00000065 003.4 OF 004  officials, while the government kept the hotel surrounded by hundreds of armed troops and police. Fonseka claimed he was not being allowed to leave and feared he would either be arrested or assassinated. The government gave conflicting stories on why the troops were deployed there, alternately citing concerns for Fonseka’s safety, concerns he would stage a coup, or the need to hunt down insurgents and military deserters in the hotel (and presumably part of Fonseka’s personally-hired security detail of 30, described by opposition leaders as retired Army officers). As the evening progressed, the government began ordering Fonseka’s government-provided security detail of 65 personnel to withdraw, ostensibly because he was no longer a candidate and therefore no longer was entitled to protection at government expense. Fonseka began appealing for international assistance, including safe harbor in a neighboring country. There were reports swirling that he was asking for safe harbor at the U.S. Embassy, or guarantees of safe passage to the U.S., but neither Fonseka nor his coalition partners asked Embassy directly for such assistance.
7. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Foreign Minister Bogollagama summoned the diplomatic corps for a 6:00 PM meeting on January 27, where he saluted the service of the Elections Commissioner, cited the Centre for Monitoring of Election Violence’s (CMEV) allegedly “incident-free” characterization of the voting process (with no mention of the later CMEV letter citing irregularities) and appealed that Fonseka’s situation not be allowed to tarnish the election. The Foreign Minister was then challenged robustly but politely by the diplomatic corps, beginning with Ambassador Butenis, on Fonseka’s situation and the government’s response. By late evening, Fonseka appeared to have worked out a deal with the government and left the hotel with his family and some of his remaining security, traveling to his home.
8. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Fonseka spoke several times with the Ambassador on the evening of January 27, expressing deep concerns about his personal security, noting his government-provided security detail was to end at midnight. The Ambassador attempted to contact Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to urge the detail be extended, but could not reach him. Fonseka also called the State Department Operations Center twice, trying to reach the Secretary on the same subject. On January 28, Ranil Wickremesinghe told PolOff that President Rajapaksa had informed him that morning that Fonseka would be provided with security at the level of a former Army Commander. Also on January 28, Minister GL Pereis told the Ambassador that a 65-person detail had been provided to Fonseka by Supreme Court order as long as he was a candidate.
9. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Later on January 28, Fonseka’s assistant asked for a meeting at the Embassy, where she explained to PolOff that Fonseka was still at his home but had no security personnel at all. She reported that over a dozen armed men with ski masks on motorbikes were stationed outside of the house and said Fonseka was requesting that foreign governments again raise the issue of his security with the government. She said he would only try to leave the country if he did not have any security. When PolOff reconnoitered Fonseka’s house, he saw three men with ski masks in fatigues hanging around, but it was unclear whether they might have been part of any smaller security contingent promised by President Rajapaksa. (When the Ambassador spoke with Fonseka this morning, he said that while his detail was gone, there were soldiers deployed on his street, which he viewed as a threat.)
10. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) Fonseka told the Ambassador that he wanted to travel to Singapore with his family, but that the government had placed him on a blacklist banning him from international travel, and that he understood his family was also on the list. Fonseka said that if he were to get to Singapore, he planned to stay there for awhile to assess the situation, while his family was likely to travel on to the United States. The Ambassador raised the issue of Fonseka’s travel with Pereis, who said that Fonseka would not have immunity from criminal prosecution if he faced any formal charges, noting that he had no knowledge of any such charges.
Elections commissioner retires, complicates parliamentary polls
11. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) While speaking to PolOff on January 28, the Elections Commissioner confirmed that he would retire effective on January 29, and would not show up for work on February 1. As in his formal speech a day earlier, he cited tremendous pressure from all sides in this presidential election and the inability of his office to obtain compliance with elections rules by the candidates and their campaigns, particularly on the government side. He also stated that his retirement would precipitate a constitutional crisis, because no election could be held without an Elections Commissioner, and no replacement Elections Commissioner could be named without implementing the 17th amendment to the Constitution.
12. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) There are reports that the president plans to dissolve parliament very soon and call for general elections.  While the term of the current parliament ends in April, some observers had thought Rajapaksa might try to avoid holding a general election by extending the current parliament’s term through a referendum or some other means. Other reports were claiming that the president likely would delay taking the oath of office for his second term to enable him to complete more of his first term and extend his total time in office.
Next steps for Rajapaksa
13. (C) (Rel to UK, CAN, AUS, SWITZ.) It is too early to tell what direction the reinvigorated Rajapaksa regime will take. The major issues facing him include economic development and the closely related issue of the possible removal of GSP-plus preferential trade tariffs, political reconciliation with ethnic Tamils, and the question of accountability for past human rights violations. Discussion among the political class of Colombo, and the opposition in particular, on what Rajapaksa will do next has not yet gotten into full swing. One of his inner circle told the Ambassador that with a parliamentary majority of his own (and not from a coalition), Rajapaksa would have the freedom to pursue reconciliation and reform, initiatives his reliance on nationalistic allies would have stymied. We are likely to see more in-depth analysis by both sides on what the results of the election mean over the next several days. Post will continue to monitor these discussions and report our views on the likely way ahead.
BUTENIS
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