24.4.2003: In another negative signal, Tigers postpone meeting

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"C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000705 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR D, SA, SA/INS, S/CT NSC FOR E. MILLARD LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL E.O. 12958:

DECL: 04-24-13

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, PINS, EAID, CE, NO, JA, LTTE - Peace Process

SUBJECT: In another negative signal, Tigers postpone meeting of key assistance committee

Refs: (A) FBIS Reston Va DTG 240442Z 03 - (B) Colombo 696, and previous - (C) Oslo 803 (Notal) (U) Classified by Lewis Amselem, Deputy Chief of Mission.

Reasons: 1.5 (B, D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Late April 23, the Tamil Tigers postponed the next meeting of a key committee focused on humanitarian assistance issues. Admitting to being caught off guard, the Norwegian facilitators are reviewing next steps. The Indian polcouns told us he thought the decision was another tactical step. Coupled with their recent withdrawal from the peace talks, the latest Tiger move places added pressure on the whole process. END SUMMARY. ================================ Tiger Statement re Key Committee ================================

2. (U) In a statement issued late April 23, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) announced that it was postponing the next meeting of a key committee focused on humanitarian assistance issues (see Para 3 for information on this committee). The statement came in the form of a letter from S.P. Thamilchelvam, the head of the LTTE´s Political Section, to Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, the head of the GSL´s Peace Secretariat. SIPDIS

3. (U) (((Note: Before the LTTE´s April 23 announcement, the next meeting of the Sub-Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rebilitation Needs in the North and the East, ""SIHRN,"" had been scheduled to take place April 25-26 in Kilinochchi in the LTTE-controlled Wanni region. SIHRN, which began operations earlier this year as agreed in the peace talks, is a joint committee made up of GSL and LTTE representatives. Norwegian facilitators and Japanese advisers guide the process. SIHRN had been holding semi-regular meetings up to this point.)))

4. (U) The LTTE´s statement attributes the decision to postpone the meeting to ""our leadership´s wish to await action and implementation on urgent matters"" raised in its April 21 announcement that it was pulling out of the peace talks (see Ref B). The statement, the text of which is contained in Para 8, goes on to complain that: ""As you (the GSL) are aware, urgent action is required on resettlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced people and of refugees. We wish to implore the government of Sri Lanka to act on matters...enabling the return to normal life to people"" in the north and east. The statement wraps up by saying: ""We wish to reiterate that mutual trust and cooperation can be restored through decisive and urgent action"" by the government ""to alleviate the hardships of the people in the northeast."" ============================= Norwegian and Indian Reaction =============================

5. (C) When queried, Norwegian government facilitators admitted to being caught off guard by the LTTE´s latest action. In an April 24 conversation, Norwegian embassy polchief Tomas Stangeland told us the first indication the GoN had that the meeting was being postponed was a LTTE fax containing Thamilchelvam´s letter that came in April

23. Up to that time, the Norwegians, convinced the meeting was on, were preparing to send their team to Kilinochchi. In response to the unfolding events, Stangeland said Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar planned to meet with GSL officials led by chief negotiator G.L. Peiris to discuss next steps soon. The GoN has also forwarded a request to Kilinochchi to meet with Thamilchelvam within the next week (as of late April 24, there had been no response to this request from the LTTE). Stangeland added that he thought the decision by the LTTE to postpone the meeting was completely counter-productive. He said the Norwegian facilitation effort would keep plugging away, hoping that the Tigers´ recent decisions were mere posturing.

6. (C) In an April 24 meeting, Indian High Commission polchief Taranjit Sandhu told us the Tigers´ decision was another ""unfortunate"" move by the group. He said he thought it was a ""tactical"" step by the Tigers, who wanted to put pressure on the GSL to cave in on various issues, including by reducing the security zones in Jaffna. India, he commented, had no indication that the group was intending to leave the peace process altogether. The GoI would continue to monitor the situation, however.

======= COMMENT =======

7. (C) Coupled with their withdrawal from the peace talks, the latest Tiger move places added pressure on the whole process. At this point, the government and the Norwegians seem to be scrambling a bit to find a way to respond to the LTTE and, by doing so, try to prevent further unraveling. While the LTTE is broadcasting its views, it seems to have turned off the receive mode, however. Despite all the bad news, there is still not a sense of panic regarding the state of the peace process. That said, skepticism regarding the LTTE is steadily rising. END COMMENT. ====================== Text of LTTE Statement ======================

8. (U) The text of the LTTE statement issued late April 23 follows: Begin text: Mr. Goonetilleke: In accordance with the decision of our organization´s leadership to suspend our participation in the negotiations, we regretfully wish to postpone the next meeting of the sub committee on immediate humanitarian rehabilitation needs (SIHRN). It is our leadership´s wish to await action and implementation on urgent matters raised by Mr. A. Balasingham in his letter to the prime minister, Hon. Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe, prior to setting a date for the next meeting. As you are aware, urgent action is required on resettlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced people and of refugees. We also wish to implore the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to act on matters already agreed at previous meetings of the sub-committee and ensure humanitarian and rehabilitation projects in the northeast are implemented enabling the return of normal life to the people living there. In the meantime, we are also hopeful that all efforts will be made by your government to urgently seek the funds from pledges made by several international donors at the Oslo conference on 25th November last year to be targeted for identified projects through the northeast reconstruction fund (NERF). In the last few months, from announcements made at our meetings, expectations among the people of the northeast have been raised to a high level. Therefore it would be meaningless for the sub-committee to continue to meet regularly without any tangible action on the ground. While we regret that we are compelled to postpone the next meeting of the SIHRN, we wish to reiterate that mutual trust and cooperation can be restored through decisive and urgent action from the government of Sri Lanka to alleviate the hardships of the people in the northeast. Yours Truly, S.P. Thamilchelvam Head, Political Section Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam End text.

9. (U) Minimize considered. WILLS"



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