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WikiLeaks: Basil Rajapkasa Admitted Military Shelling into the Safe Zone

by Colombo Telegraph, January 21, 2012

Rajapaksa was not as forthcoming to the Ambassador’s concerns about credible reports of shelling of the safe zone on several successive days recently. Rajapaksa lamely pointed out that GSL forces had come under fire from LTTE artillery within the safe zone and they had to defend themselves. Ambassador pointed out such retaliatory shelling had killed many civilians and was a reversal of the government’s own commitment not to use heavy weapons.

“The Norwegian Ambassador commented that in two recent meetings with Rajapkasa he acknowledged military forces were shelling into the safe zone, but was not comfortable discussing the subject.” The US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Satellite images show 'disappearing' temporary structures in the safe zone, indicating heavy fire

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and recounts details of a meetings the US Ambassdor has had with Co-Chair Ambassadors on March 5, 2009. The cable was written on March 5, 2009 by the US Ambassador to Colombo, Robert O. Blake.

Ambassador Robert O. Blake wrote “Ambassador opened by summarizing a meeting (reported septel) he and USAID Director Cohn had the previous day with Basil Rajapaksa, the GSL’s Senior Coordinator for all humanitarian issues. In response to the Ambassador’s concerns about the first credible reports of possible starvation in the safe zone in the north, Rajapaksa undertook to arrange an immediate delivery of an additional 200 metric tons of food by the end of March 6 and to work with the WFP to schedule more regular shipments. He also reported that the Government is arranging to bring a larger ship from Colombo equipped with a crane that will make possible the transport of greater quantities of food and more efficient off-loading. Rajapaksa reported that the ICRC delivered a shipment of medicine to the safe zone earlier in the week, but Ambassador noted there are still shortages.”

“Rajapaksa was not as forthcoming to the Ambassador’s concerns about credible reports of shelling of the safe zone on several successive days recently. Rajapaksa lamely pointed out that GSL forces had come under fire from LTTE artillery within the safe zone and they had to defend themselves. Ambassador pointed out such retaliatory shelling had killed many civilians and was a reversal of the government’s own commitment not to use heavy weapons. The Norwegian Ambassador commented that in two recent meetings with Rajapkasa he acknowledged military forces were shelling into the safe zone, but was not comfortable discussing the subject.” Blake further wrote.

Headline of this article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: 1.20 pm January 21, 2012

An earlier version of the headline said that “WikiLeaks: President Rajapkasa admitted military shelling into the safe zone.”

Below we give the relevant part of the cable;

VZCZCXYZ0000 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHLM #0252/01 0641344 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 051344Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9515 INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 2739 RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4733 RUEHPG/AMEMBASSY PRAGUE PRIORITY 0052 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3833 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L COLOMBO 000252 SIPDIS STATE FOR A/S BOUCHER E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2019 TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV CE

SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: CO-CHAIR AMBASSADORS DISCUSS WAYS TO PRESSURE GSL AND LTTE Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr. for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

Situation Update

2. (C) Ambassador opened by summarizing a meeting (reported septel) he and USAID Director Cohn had the previous day with Basil Rajapaksa, the GSL's Senior Coordinator for all humanitarian issues. In response to the Ambassador's concerns about the first credible reports of possible starvation in the safe zone in the north, Rajapaksa undertook to arrange an immediate delivery of an additional 200 metric tons of food by the end of March 6 and to work with the WFP to schedule more regular shipments. He also reported that the Government is arranging to bring a larger ship from Colombo equipped with a crane that will make possible the transport of greater quantities of food and more efficient off-loading. Rajapaksa reported that the ICRC delivered a shipment of medicine to the safe zone earlier in the week, but Ambassador noted there are still shortages. Rajapaksa was not as forthcoming to the Ambassador's concerns about credible reports of shelling of the safe zone on several successive days recently. Rajapaksa lamely pointed out that GSL forces had come under fire from LTTE artillery within the safe zone and they had to defend themselves. Ambassador pointed out such retaliatory shelling had killed many civilians and was a reversal of the government's own commitment not to use heavy weapons. The Norwegian Ambassador commented that in two recent meetings with Rajapkasa he acknowledged military forces were shelling into the safe zone, but was not comfortable discussing the subject.

BLAKE