Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

US Embassy Cables

President demands removal of chief monitor, but it is not clear how far she wants to push matter

by Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 9, 2011, c/o Wikileaks

If the president presses this matter, it will become
a real cohabitation donnybrook, however, with the president
pitted against the prime minister over which of them has power
over foreign policy. The president legally does, but the prime
minister has effective day-to-day control and would be loath
to give into her on this issue. At the same time, disruptions
in the SLMM´s operations would be highly problematic for the
ceasefire and the larger peace process, especially in light of
the likely delivery of the LTTE counterproposals in a week or
so. There is no doubt that it would be best for all concerned
if the president backs down and soon.

10/23/2003

14:07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001845

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, EUR/NB; NSC FOR E. MILLARD
PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC E.O. 12958:
DECL: 10-24-13

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, MOPS, PHSA, CE, NO, LTTE - Peace Process
SUBJECT: President demands removal of chief monitor,
but it is not clear how far she wants to push matter

Refs:
- (A) SA/INS -Colombo telecon 10/23/03

- (B) FBIS Reston Va DTG 231407Z Oct 03

- (C) Colombo 1826, and previous

(U) Classified by Charge´ d´Affaires James F. Entwistle. Reasons 1.5 (b,d).

1. (C)

SUMMARY: President Kumaratunga has requested that Norway
remove the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) chief. In
making this demand, the president complained that the SLMM had
lost "objectivity." While the GoN reviews next steps, the SLMM
is continuing its operations. The GSL is balking at removing
the SLMM chief and we are not sure how far Kumaratunga wants
to push the matter. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU)

PRESIDENT LASHES OUT: President Kumaratunga has requested that
Norway remove Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) chief
Tryggve Teleffsen. The president made this demand in a letter
that was sent to the Norwegian government. The full text of
the letter was not made public, but some of its contents have
been leaked to the press. In making her demand, the president
was cited as having "serious doubts" about Teleffsen´s and his
organization´s impartiality and objectivity. The president
went on to assert that the continuation of the ceasefire
"within acceptable levels of national security requires
effective, objective and impartial monitoring of the truce,"
but that Teleffsen´s conduct, when compared to his
predecessor, had been "quite unsatisfactory." Teleffsen, a
retired Norwegian major general, took over as chief monitor in
March, replacing Trond Furuhovde, another former Norwegian
military official.

3. (C)

In her letter, the president also specifically complained that
the SLMM had recently acted to prevent the navy from
intercepting a reported Tiger arms resupply ship operating off
the northeast coast (see Ref C). The president directly
accused the SLMM of either deliberately trying to tip off the
Tigers via a phone call so that their boat could escape, or
acting in a highly negligent manner. Per Ref C, Mission was
told by the Defense Minister that the SLMM´s actions in this
matter were inadvertent (see more below).

4. (C)

GSL/NORWEGIAN RESPONSE: The Sri Lankan government is balking
at supporting the president´s demand. Locked in a tense
cohabitation situation with the president and her party,
unnamed members of the United National Party (UNP) governing
coalition have been quoted in the press as warning the
president that her efforts to remove Tellefsen are putting the
peace process at risk.

5. (C)

Mission´s understanding is that the Norwegian government is
reviewing next steps, and has not yet responded to the
president´s letter. Charge´ called Norwegian Ambassador Hans
Brattskar early October 24. Brattskar would not comment on
the phone, but invited Charge over to discuss the matter later
in the day. Timo Ekdahl, the SLMM´s acting spokesperson and
chief of operations, told polchief that the SLMM was waiting
for the Norwegian government to decide what to do in response
to the president´s demand. As far as the SLMM was concerned,
he added, it was "business as usual," however, with no changes
in personnel for the group or adjustment in its operations at
this time.

6. (C)

CONVERSATION WITH TELLEFSEN: At a recent function, the
Ambassador briefly spoke to Tellefsen about the October 16
incident off the northeast coast. (The conversation took
place before the demand for his ouster). Confirming what we
were told by the Defense Minister (see Ref C), Tellefsen
admitted that his office had made a mistake by contacting the
Tigers and asking them about the report that one of their
ships was operating off the northeast coast. There was no
intention to tip off the Tigers, he underscored. That said,
Tellefsen said the matter had been badly handled and that the
SLMM duty officer had failed to brief him on the matter in
time.

7. (C)

COMMENT: We are not sure how far President Kumaratunga wants
to push this matter. She has a propensity for making huge
issues of matters and then dropping them. Given her track
record, it is very possible that she is simply trying to score
points with her political base, which is significantly more
skeptical toward the peace process than the general public
(and happens to be gathering today in Colombo for a big
rally). If the president presses this matter, it will become
a real cohabitation donnybrook, however, with the president
pitted against the prime minister over which of them has power
over foreign policy. The president legally does, but the prime
minister has effective day-to-day control and would be loath
to give into her on this issue. At the same time, disruptions
in the SLMM´s operations would be highly problematic for the
ceasefire and the larger peace process, especially in light of
the likely delivery of the LTTE counterproposals in a week or
so. There is no doubt that it would be best for all concerned
if the president backs down and soon. END COMMENT.

8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE

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US Embassy Cables: Rajapaksa shares responsibility for 2009 Sri Lankan massacre

US Embassy Cables: Import of radio equipment for Tamil Tigers sparks controversy for GSL and Norwegian facilitators

US Embassy Cables: Tamil Tigers Siphon Off Part of International Relief Funds

US Embassy Cables: Doctors recant eyewitness accounts of civilian casualties

US Embassy Cables: Assessing progess on key issues