Published On: Sat, Oct 15th, 2011

WikiLeaks – UNP leader downbeat but unbowed US Ambassador wrote to washington

“Wickremesinghe appeared to be in control of his party and remains the central figure in the UNP. But his cautious statements and reluctance to deviate from standers UNP talking points may be Wickremesinghes’s response to internal UNP questioning of his leadership.” the US ambassador wrote to Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found a leaked US diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks database recounts details of the US ambassador’s first meeting with Opposition leader and United National Party leader Ranil Shriyan Wickremesinghe held on October 13, 2009. The cable was classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” by Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis.

Under the subject “UNP Leader downbeat but unbowed” the ambassador Butenis wrote “Wickremesinghe asserted that if the current government won the national elections, political freedom would be fewer, that there would be unrest in the north, that the government’s inaction to develop new industries would leave the country economically disadvantaged, and that the gap between the elite and the poor would grow larger.”

The pair discussed a wide range of issues, including IDPs, the soon – to be released report to Congress on incidents during the recent conflict, and the results from the recent southern provincial elections. “Wickremesinghe expressed concern that the government’s attempts to colonize historically Tamil areas could aggravate ethnic tensions. He suggested congressional hearings after the release of the report could help ease the GSL’s frustrations and serve as an outlet for dissenting opinions. He also said that the UNP while not happy with its own showing, was pleased that the UPFA did not achieve its goal of an 80 percent majority in the recent southern provincial elections.” the ambassador wrote.

Read the full confidential US diplomatic cable below;

VZCZCXRO3454
OO RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #0957/01 2921302
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191302Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0630
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 1952
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 8988
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7226
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5161
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3370
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5117
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 1394
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0652
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4228
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9549
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 6849
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 1323
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3775
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000957

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: UNP LEADER DOWNBEAT BUT UNBOWED

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In an October 13 courtesy call by the
Ambassador, main opposition United National Party (UNP)
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe discussed a wide range of issues,
including IDPs, the soon-to-be released report to Congress on
incidents during the recent conflict, and the results from
the recent southern provincial elections. Wickremesinghe
expressed concern that the government’s attempts to colonize
historically Tamil areas could aggravate ethnic tensions. He
suggested congressional hearings after the release of the
report could help ease the GSL’s frustrations and serve as an
outlet for dissenting opinions. He also said that the UNP,
while not happy with its own showing,was pleased that the
UPFA did not achieve its goal of an 80 percent majority in
the recent southern provincial elections. END SUMMARY.

————————
UNP Concerned About IDPs
————————
¶2. (C) This was the Ambassador’s first meeting with the main
opposition party leader. They discussed a wide range of
issues. Wickremesinghe expressed concern for the IDPs
interned in camps in the north and suggested that the
government formally detain suspected LTTE cadres and step up
the return of other IDPs. He also suggested that the
government amend its law so that it would be in synch with UN
guidelines, thus legalizing the government’s continued
detention of the IDPs. Wickremesinghe expressed frustration
with the government,s refusal to allow members of parliament
to visit the camps, saying that he understood the
government’s refusal to allow access to detainees but not
IDPs. He suggested that the government wanted to resettle
Sinhalese in the Vanni, but the lack of schools and
infrastructure would make it difficult. He asserted that the
government could exacerbate ethnic tensions if it eventually
succeeded in changing the Vanni’s historically Tamil
demography.

—————————————-
Taking the Sting Out of the S/WCI Report
—————————————-

¶3. (C) Wickremesinghe suggested the upcoming report to
Congress had been met with silence thus far from the Tamil
parties because their priority was IDPs. When the Ambassador
asked him what he viewed as the next step after submission of
the report, Wickremesinghe suggested congressional hearings,
in which GSL representatives would have the opportunity to
testify, would “take the sting out” of the report and provide
the government the opportunity to make its case heard.

——————————————— ———-
UNP: Current Political Climate Hurts Political Freedoms
——————————————— ———-

¶4. (C) On the recent southern provincial election results,
Wickremesinghe offered that the UNP knew it was not going to
win but was pleased that the UPFA did not do as well as it
had hoped. He also cited access to the media as a hindrance
to the UNP’s campaign and pointed to General Sarath Fonseka’s
weekend speech, which was censored or unaired by several
media organizations, as an example of the country’s dwindling
respect for free press. (Note: The speech was carried in a
leading english-language paper on October 18.)
Wickremesinghe asserted that if the current government won
the national elections, political freedoms would be fewer,
that there would be unrest in the north, that the
government’s inaction to develop new industries would leave
the country economically disadvantaged, and that the gap
between the elite and the poor would grow larger.

COLOMBO 00000957 002 OF 002

¶5. (C) COMMENT: Wickremesinghe appeared to be in control of
his party and remains the central figure in the UNP. But his
cautious statements and reluctance to deviate from standard
UNP talking points may be Wickremesinghe’s response to
internal UNP questioning of his leadership.
BUTENIS

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