480. Telegram From the Embassy in Sri Lanka to the Department of State and the International Communication Agency1

400. Subj: VOA Expansion: Meeting With Jayewardene. Ref: Colombo 292.2

1. C–Entire text.

2. In January 25 meeting with President Jayewardene, Ambassador took up expansion of VOA installation, explaining we wish to secure GSL agreement in principle to proposed expansion and, assuming Jayewardene so agreed, plan to discuss matter with Minister of State De Alwis3 in greater detail.

3. After noting present arrangements are due to expire in 1981 and have never been source of friction between U.S. and GSL, Ambassador gave in summary form outline of our thinking re expanded installation. He noted differences new arrangements would make in number and size of transmitters, buildings, number of American staff, geographical coverage (“VOA would have capability for broadcasts to Soviet Central Asia and western China, as well as northern India”), and operational management and control.

4. Jayewardene said he could see no objection in principle to what we have in mind and encouraged Ambassador to take matter up with De Alwis in order to get agreement in principle. (Ambassador has requested early meeting with De Alwis.)4

5. Jayewardene raised no questions re languages of broadcasts, duration of agreement or control of program contents. Immediately after Ambassador noted need for VOA managerial and operational control of expanded installation, however, Jayewardene commented he would ask De Alwis to bring before Cabinet or directly to President [Page 1095] himself any questions needing attention before GSL agreement in principle is given.

6. Comments: While timing of latter remark may have been purely coincidental, it could well be indication we are in for some trouble on point of U.S. managerial and operation control over expanded installation.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800043–0355. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Telegram 292 from Colombo, January 21, requested from the Department information on the scope of future VOA transmission from Sri Lanka and the type of transmitters VOA would use. The requested information was to be used in preparing for discussion with Jayewardene. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D80035–1293)
  3. Dustan De Alwis, Sri Lankan Minister of State and Presidential Counsel.
  4. Telegram 509 from Colombo, February 1, reported Toussaint’s meeting with De Alwis. The Embassy commented: “Although reaction was basically positive, De Alwis and top aide were clearly troubled by VOA need for managerial/operational control. De Alwis will discuss proposed expansion with Jayewardene, who will decide whether Sri Lankan agreement in principle requires Cabinet discussion; if so, and De Alwis considers this likely, it will be about one month before agreement in principle can be given.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800056–0659)
  5. The Sri Lankan Ministry of State informed the United States that it would seek Cabinet approval of the revision to the VOA agreement on December 8. (Telegram 6104 from Colombo, December 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800597–0978) On January 22, 1981, the Ceylon Daily News reported that the Sri Lankan Government had approved the revision of the VOA agreement. (Telegram 336 from Colombo, January 22, 1981; National Archives, RG 59, D810032–1042)