INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: American Ngo Receives Threats After Election

Published: Fri 26 Mar 2004 11:58 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS COLOMBO 000546
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
DS FOR DS/IP/ITA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PTER
SUBJECT: AMERICAN NGO RECEIVES THREATS AFTER ELECTION
SURVEY IS PUBLISHED
1. (SBU) Summary - On 03/26/04, RSO Colombo was advised by a
local USAID-funded NGO that its office had received a series
of anonymous phone and fax threats concerning a local
newspaper article that publicized the results of an election
survey funded by the NGO that was favorable to President
Kumaratunga. The faxed threat stated, "See what happens to
your office in a week's time." The telephone threat stated,
"Tell your boss to leave the country or his children will be
playing with cobras." Two Americans are employed by AED, the
USAID-funded NGO. RSO has discussed the threats with the
American NGO supervisor and it was agreed to increase the
number of private guards at the NGO office and American
residence. One of the Americans may relocate his family to a
hotel for the weekend, the other American is already in a
secure high-rise apartment building. RSO investigation into
the threats is pending. End Summary.
2. (SBU) On 03/26/04, at approximately 1500 hours, RSO
Colombo received a phone call from Mr. Kim DeRidder, American
supervisor of a USAID-funded NGO named AED. DeRidder advised
that his NGO office had received a series of disturbing
threats during the day apparently in response to a DAILY NEWS
article that publicized the results of an election survey
funded by the NGO that was favorable to Sri Lankan President
Kumaratunga. In summary, the article claimed President
Kumaratunga was "best suited" to run the country compared to
the current Prime Minister. Emotions have been running high
in Sri Lanka since President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament
last month and called for new elections April 2.
3. (SBU) The first threat was phoned in to the NGO at
approximately 1030 hours this morning, and was characterized
by the NGO as "verbally abusive." A fax that arrived at 1258
hours, however, stated, among other abusive language, "See
what happens to your office in a week's time." Then, at 1320
hours, an unidentified man spoke to the AmCit's secretary and
stated, "Tell your boss to leave the country or his children
will be playing with cobras." That phone call originated
from the telephone number 461-5506.
4. (SBU) After discussing the threats with the RSO, Mr.
DeRidder agreed it would be a good idea to put a double guard
on both the NGO office and his residence. The other AmCit
employee, Scott Melendez, is already a resident of a large
high-rise apartment building that has 24-hour private
security coverage. RSO investigation into the threats is
ongoing.
5. (SBU) RSO Comment: National elections are scheduled for
April 2, and although incidents of violence are surprisingly
lower than expected thus far, Sri Lanka has a history of
election violence. An estimated fifty people were killed in
the 2001 elections. Local newspapers are notoriously
inaccurate and biased in their reporting, and the article in
question did in fact make a strong point that the
controversial survey was USAID-funded. RSO will
investigate the threats to include attempts to trace the
phone numbers from which the threats were made, and will
maintain a dialog with the NGO on appropriate security
recommendations.
LUNSTEAD
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