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Cablegate: BSA Smears Sri Lanka's Government for Moving to Free/Open Source Software

Cablegate



Summary: US diplomatic cables from Sri Lanka reveal interesting stories about the small country's flirtations with freedom-respecting software

According to the following Cablegate cables (first one in ۦ7): "During a March 22 meeting with members of the American Chamber of Commerce, DAS Patterson outlined USG views on regional developments of the past two years and asked for insights into the current domestic political situation and business climate. IBM Managing Director and former Amcham President, Kavan Ratnayaka described IBM efforts to support open source software development, noting that Sri Lanka has become an internationally recognized "brand" in the open source community."



IBM is right because here in Techrights we accumulated many examples of Free software in Sri Lanka. But just like in Thailand, there is a fight back from Microsoft proxies. Let us remember that "[w]hen the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami seriously damaged the coastline of Sri Lanka, Virtusa funded salaries and benefits for its employees as they developed open-source software for disaster relief management. It continues to fund its employees as they travel to disaster-affected countries and assist in implementing the software program." (see cables below)

The BSA (Business Software Alliance) is not happy with the country's embrace of Free software. Here is what the BSA says according to cables: "While we see this as a step in the right direction, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is not fully satisfied with the policy and accuses the government of "more funny business.""

So when a country seeks digital independence, that is "funny business" in the eyes of the BSA. Good to know. Perhaps the BSA does not speak for FOSS like it claims to. Here are three Cablegate cables from which we extract the evidence:










C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000545

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/CT DEPARTMENT PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC NSC FOR E. MILLARD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03-26-14 TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PREL [External Political Relations], ECON [Economic Conditions], PTER [Terrorists and Terrorism], CE [Sri Lanka], LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] - Peace Process, Elections, ECONOMICS SUBJECT: In visit to Sri Lanka, SA DAS Patterson discusses April 2 elections, plus peace and economy

Refs: Colombo 515, and previous

(U) Classified by Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead. Reasons 1.5 (b, d).

ۦ1. (C) SUMMARY: SA DAS Torkel Patterson visited Colombo, March 21-23. Highlights of the visit included meetings at the MFA, with a key adviser to President Kumaratunga, with local diplomats, and with local business leaders, including the American Chamber of Commerce. Key issues discussed included the April 2 parliamentary elections, the peace process, and the economic situation. The visit served to underscore continued high-level USG engagement with Sri Lanka during this sensitive timeframe. END SUMMARY.

------------ MFA Meetings ------------

ۦ2. (C) Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs Torkel Patterson visited Colombo, March 21-23. On March 22, DAS Patterson and Ambassador Lunstead held separate meetings with Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando and Foreign Secretary Bernard Goonetilleke. Patterson and the Ambassador used both meetings to review CHR priorities, including the Cuba and China draft resolutions, and the Iraq situation (see Reftels). In a brief discussion regarding Sri Lanka's April 2 parliamentary elections, Goonetilleke remarked that he felt that voter turnout might be lower this time around due to voter dissatisfaction with the two major parties. Foreign Minister Fernando claimed that the campaign of his United National Party (UNP) was getting a good response among younger voters, but admitted that confidence in the UNP on economic issues among "the average voter" was low.

------------------------------------- Meeting with Key Presidential Adviser -------------------------------------

ۦ3. (C) On March 22, DAS Patterson and Ambassador also met with Lakshman Kadirgamar, former foreign minister and a key adviser to President Kumaratunga. Asked for his views on the election campaign, Kadirgamar seemed confident that Kumaratunga's "United People's Freedom Alliance" (UPFA) would do well. There had not been much violence so far in the campaign, he related. He thought, however, that there could be some post-election violence. President Kumaratunga was prepared to deal with any such incidents, he said. Queried re the split in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (see Reftels), Kadirgamar thought there was some prospect of reconciliation between breakaway eastern rebel leader Karuna and Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran. That said, any possible reconciliation would likely take place after the April 2 election, as would any possible armed conflict between the two sides. DAS Patterson noted the degree of control the GSL had over Sri Lanka's media. Kadirgamar, who is currently the Minister of Media and Communications, agreed that the state-run media outlets were quite influential. There had been attempts to reform the situation in the past, but they had all failed. (Per Reftels, the Ambassador also raised the issue of the fabrication of results of a poll in government-controlled newspapers on March 20. The poll had been partially financed by USAID. Kadirgamar said he would look into the matter.)

--------------------------- Dinner with Local Diplomats ---------------------------

ۦ4. (C) DAS Patterson also attended a March 22 dinner at the Ambassador's residence with local diplomats, including those from Norway, the UK, the EU, Netherlands, and Canada. The natural focus of conversation was the upcoming parliamentary election. The overall feeling at the dinner was that it was not precisely clear how the political situation was playing out. That said, most agreed that the President's UPFA grouping had gotten off to a fast start and was probably ahead at this point in the race. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's UNP had gotten off to a very slow start, but its campaign was getting more active. Norwegian Ambassador Brattskar noted that the anti-peace process JHU party -- in an unprecedented move -- was running an all-Buddhist monk candidate slate, and might pick up between 2-5 seats in Parliament. It was not clear whether the JHU's support would come from voters who might have supported the UPFA, or would come from voters who were dissatisfied with the two major parties and were looking for other alternatives. Regarding the LTTE split, there was widespread agreement that the main LTTE organization would probably wait until after the April 2 election to try to displace Karuna via an armed attack or by trying to entice Karuna's supporters away from him.

------------------------- Commerce Ministry Meeting -------------------------

ۦ5. (C) Secretary of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Harsha Wickramasinghe and Director General of Trade K.J. Weerasinghe updated DAS Patterson March 22 on current political activities, GSL positions in the WTO, and progress in BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation) and SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) talks. Wickramasinghe discussed UNP election tactics designed to discredit the JVP's stance that it is a credible political party, by highlighting its brutal past actions. He also noted that the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had said they would not ally with the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), but would hold out for as much as they could get from the UNP.

ۦ6. (C) On WTO issues, Weerasinghe promised that the GSL Representative in Geneva would support USG positions on UNCTAD and on food aid issues. The GSL is now busy finalizing its proposals for accession to the Information Technology Agreement, fulfilling a commitment made during the last round of TIFA talks. Wickramasinghe mentioned that he saw BIMST-EC as an important bridge between SAARC and ASEAN, and as a tool to open up Myanmar's trade regime. Weerasinghe bemoaned the multiplicity of bi- and multi-lateral trade regimes, and noted the need for convergence.

----------------- AMCHAM Roundtable -----------------

ۦ7. (U) During a March 22 meeting with members of the American Chamber of Commerce, DAS Patterson outlined USG views on regional developments of the past two years and asked for insights into the current domestic political situation and business climate. IBM Managing Director and former Amcham President, Kavan Ratnayaka described IBM efforts to support open source software development, noting that Sri Lanka has become an internationally recognized "brand" in the open source community.

ۦ8. (SBU) Amcham Director Graetian Gunawardene, whose company manufactures Samsonite luggage, noted that the export sector has been driving growth and employment. He asked specifically for DAS Patterson's support in pushing for a U.S.-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and in returning U.S. visa validity to 5 years. (Note: We are discussing possible changes in our visa reciprocity schedule with the GSL.) Noting that Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition, even through some very difficult times, Gunawardene suggested there should be closer U.S.-Sri Lanka commercial ties to match their shared democratic ideals. Patterson promised to review FTA issues when he got back to Washington, and urged the Amcham to consult with the GSL's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote a review of the reciprocity issues that have led to the limited validity of U.S. visas for Sri Lankans.

ۦ9. (C) On the current political situation, optimism about the future mixed with concerns about short-term political realities. Ratnayaka (a longtime UNP supporter whose family is close to the Prime Minister) raised concerns about the opposition's ability to move forward on the peace process due to the LTTE's lack of trust in the President. Others in the group, including Citibank CEO Kapila Jayawardena, thought the LTTE would look closely at who wins the April 2 election and would be willing to deal with whichever party wins, assuming that party has the intention of negotiating a workable solution. Outgoing Energizer Managing Director Sunil de Alwis commented that Sri Lanka remains an attractive place to do business. He mentioned Energizer's new USD 2 million investment, which upgraded its manufacturing facility and improved Energizer's ability to meet increased domestic demand and a potential export market into India as well. Citibank and Energizer reps said their Sri Lankan operations are leading performers in their respective companies. Jayawardene noted that American companies tend to do well in Sri Lanka. Citibank's own return-on-equity in Sri Lanka is over 50 percent, the best in Asia.

------- COMMENT -------

ۦ10. (C) As the many threads laid out above indicate, this is a very sensitive timeframe for Sri Lankans, who have deep worries about the future of the peace process and the economy. These overall concerns are fed by specific worries over the unstable pre- and post- election period, over what the radical JVP might due in power if the UPFA wins, over what the LTTE split means for the peace process, etc. Given this complex, fluid, situation, DAS Patterson's visit was reassuring to Sri Lankans, who deeply appreciate continued high-level USG engagement in support of the peace process. END COMMENT.

ۦ11. (U) DAS Patterson was not able to clear on this message before departing Post.

ۦ12. (U) Minimize considered.

LUNSTEAD







Cable II:








UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000851

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EEB/EPPD NSMITH-NISSLEY AND SCA/INS DOL/ILAB FOR TINA MCCARTER MCC FOR S. GROFF, D. TETER, D. NASSIRY AND E. BURKE TREASURY FOR LESLIE HULL GENEVA PASS USTR

FOR EEB ASSISTANT SECRETARY SULLIVAN FROM AMBASSADOR BLAKE

E.O 12958: N/A TAGS: ECON [Economic Conditions], BEXP [Trade Expansion and Promotion], ETRD [Foreign Trade], ELAB [Labor Sector Affairs], KSEP, SENV [Environmental Affairs], AMGT [Management Operations], CE [Sri Lanka] SUBJECT: SRI LANKA - NOMINATION OF VIRTUSA FOR CORPORATE EXCELLENCE AWARD

REF: STATE 47222

ۦ1. I am pleased to nominate Virtusa for the Secretary's Award for Corporate Excellence in the small and medium enterprise category. While meeting all eligibility requirements for this award, Virtusa has demonstrated outstanding corporate citizenship by assisting disaster-ridden countries with an open source disaster recovery management system it developed following the 2004 tsunami which struck Sri Lanka and other Indian Ocean countries. Virtusa also contributed to the advancement of Sri Lanka's scientific and technology policies by enhancing information and communications technology (IT) capacity in local universities. Finally, by creating an intensive training program which converts unemployed but motivated graduates without sufficient IT training into IT managers, Virtusa is directly contributing to Sri Lanka's overall growth and development.

OUSTANDING CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP: VIRTUSA-SPONSORED SYSTEM SPEEDS RECOVERY FOLLOWING DISASTERS

ۦ2. When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami seriously damaged the coastline of Sri Lanka, Virtusa funded salaries and benefits for its employees as they developed open-source software for disaster relief management. It continues to fund its employees as they travel to disaster-affected countries and assist in implementing the software program.

ۦ3. The system, called Sahana, was initially designed for Sri Lanka to have a good disaster recovery system following the tsunami. It has been widely used in recent disasters, including Pakistan following its 2005 earthquake, the Philippines following its 2006 mudslide in Southern Leyte, and Indonesia following the Yogjakarta earthquake of 2006. The software has received several awards, including the Free Software Foundation's 2006 Award for Social Benefit, the 2006 Good Samaritan Award from Software 2006. Sahana is now managed by the non-profit Lanka Software Foundation. In addition to Virtusa's continued support through its personnel, Sahana receives funding from IBM and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

CONTRIBUTING TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF SRI LANKA'S SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL POLICIES: ENHANCING UNIVERSITIES; ENLIGHTENING STUDENTS WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

ۦ4. Sri Lanka has identified IT as a potential growth sector, and is actively encouraging its development. Hundreds of "Virtusans" have volunteered their time and skills over the past few years to create IT awareness within communities and share best practices with academia. In 2006, the company introduced information technology to over 700 students in a southern district of Sri Lanka, donated a computer lab to a Colombo-based school, provided career guidance and leadership skills to thousands of undergraduate and advanced level students, and contributed to fostering free and open software education in Sri Lanka.

ۦ5. Virtusa supplies staff to universities to serve as lecturers/trainers. It shares industry best practices with university staff and invites them to Virtusa for special seminars. Through Virtusa's Project Enhancement Initiative, university undergraduates receive software engineering and management guidance. All of these activities promote the importance of IT to Sri Lankans, furthering Sri Lanka's prospects for growth in the IT sector.

CONTRIBUTING TO OVERALL ECONOMIC GROWTH: TRANSITIONING PROFESSIONALS FROM OVERSUBSCRIBED PROFESSIONS INTO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY THROUGH TRAINING

ۦ6. As Sri Lanka's IT industry continues to grow, the country's shortage of IT workers becomes increasingly critical. Universities still have not adapted sufficiently to meet the demands of the IT sector. In 2006, Virtusa implemented a dynamic IT Leadership

COLOMBO 00000851 002 OF 002

Conversion Program to help resolve this shortage. The company identifies self-driven, high-aptitude graduates who do not have sufficient IT skills. It then provides these individuals with a fast-track career conversion opportunity enabling them to make the transition into an IT services career.

ۦ7. The company has hired 30 successful Virtusa IT Conversion Program graduates from the 40 it trained. It plans to double the number of Conversion Program candidates this year, enabling Sri Lanka to meet a greater demand in the growing IT sector.

BLAKE







Cable III:








C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000063

SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR USTR MICHAEL DELANEY; COMMERCE FOR USPTO KRISTINE SCHLEGELMILCH DEPARTMENT FOR EEB/TPP/IPE JOELLEN URBAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2020 TAGS: KIPR [Intellectual Property Rights], ECON [Economic Conditions], PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], CE [Sri Lanka] SUBJECT: IPR PROTECTION IN SRI LANKA: BAD, BUT IMPROVING

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler for Reasons 1.4 ( B) and (D).

ۦ1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Sri Lanka's intellectual property rights regime is good on paper but lax on enforcement. Still, since the passage of comprehensive legislation in 2003, things have slowly been improving. The Embassy, American Chamber of Commerce, Business Software Alliance, a cadre of specialized law firms, and a number of government offices have worked hard to increase awareness and provide much-needed training for judges, police, and investigators. While much remains to be done, new and ongoing initiatives should reduce the amount of pirated and fake items available in the marketplace. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND

ۦ2. (U) Sri Lanka's intellectual property rights (IPR) regime is, like that of many emerging economies, good on paper but lax on enforcement. The country enacted a comprehensive IPR law in 2003 that governs copyrights and related rights, industrial designs, patents, trademarks and service marks, trade names, layout designs of integrated circuits, geographical indications, unfair competition, databases, computer programs, and undisclosed information. Infringement of intellectual property rights is a punishable offense under the law and falls under both criminal and civil courts of jurisdiction in Sri Lanka. Recourse available to owners includes injunctive relief, seizure and destruction of infringing goods and plates or implements used for the making of copies, and the prohibition of imports and exports. Penalties for the first offense include a prison sentence of 6 months or a fine of up to Rs 500,000 ($4,425). Penalties can be doubled for a second offense.

ۦ3. (C) Since the passage of the 2003 IPR law Sri Lanka has slowly begun enforcing its provisions. However, counterfeit goods continue to be widely available. Local agents of well-known U.S. and other international companies representing recording, software, movie, clothing and consumer product industries continue to complain that the lack of IPR protection is damaging their businesses. Piracy of sound recordings and software is widespread, making it difficult for the legitimate industries to protect their market and realize their potential in Sri Lanka. The Police occasionally raid stores selling counterfeit goods -- especially garments. However, it is rare for the Police to act without a formal complaint and assistance from an aggrieved party. Several offenders have been charged or convicted by courts. A leading anti-piracy lawyer, Sudath Perera, told EconOff that his firm has successfully conducted several raids in Colombo in 2008-2009. In January 2010, police and the law firm (representing the rights holders) recently raided two outlets in Colombo selling counterfeit garments and stationary.

SOFTWARE PIRACY

ۦ4. (SBU) Software companies complain of the lack of IPR enforcement within government institutions and even some larger corporations, including several banks. According to a survey commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and conducted by the IDC, a leading global IT market research firm, software piracy in Sri Lanka is as high as 90 percent. Sri Lanka,s software companies and the Sri Lankan Association for Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) dispute the findings of the study, questioning the sampling methodology used by the IDC. However, both organizations have bottom-line reasons to publicly doubt the study. For example, SLASSCOM's members worry the bad publicity could cause potential clients to go elsewhere due to the high piracy rate. ICTA, in collaboration with the SLASSCOM, is planning to commission an independent IPR survey covering a sample of about 5,000 companies.

ۦ5. (SBU) Sri Lankan government officials in charge of IPR protection acknowledge there is a high software piracy rate

COLOMBO 00000063 002.4 OF 002

in the government. The government and industry leaders are taking various actions to improve IPR protection in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. In December 2009, the government of Sri Lanka approved a new Information Technology (IT) policy for the government sector which includes rules on hardware and software procurement. When the new policy will be implemented is not known. Under the new policy, the government will issue IT procurement guidelines requiring all government agencies to stick to licensed software or open-source software. If the cost of licensed software or maintenance and consultancy fees of open-source software is higher than proprietary software, the government will provide additional funds to purchase proprietary software.

ۦ6. (C) While we see this as a step in the right direction, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is not fully satisfied with the policy and accuses the government of "more funny business." Shalini Ratwatte, BSA's local consultant, told EconOff that she sees it as a push for open source software. However, she acknowledged that pricing is an issue. For instance, global software producers are not willing to offer discounted prices to Sri Lanka (as they do in mass markets such as India). They argue that Sri Lanka, although a developing country, does not offer economies of scale to justify discounts. Nevertheless, BSA is contemplating starting IPR awareness programs for senior Sri Lanka government officials covered by the new procurement policy.

OTHER PROGRESS AND PROGRAMS

ۦ7. (U) Post,s recent efforts focus on IPR protection in the ICT sector. In a bid to support the ICT sector, Post teamed up with BSA to hold an IPR awareness program for the Sri Lanka Police on January 8. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (USDOJ/OPDAT) and Business Software Alliance provided funds for this workshop. Approximately 45 police officers from the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the Sri Lanka Police participated. The program focused on the importance of IPR to the economy, elements of IPR law, and investigating and prosecuting IP cases. Industry representatives from pharmaceutical, software, and electrical product industries provided technical information about product identification. At the conclusion of the seminar, participants from the CID requested continued training on IPR awareness and education and more involvement from the industry.

ۦ8. (U) Demonstrating a positive trend, well-known vendors of branded laptops and computer systems now advertize that their products come "only with licensed software." Previously, laptop and desktop computers were sold without any reference to software and the sellers and users freely copied software. Furthermore, Dr. D.M. Karunaratne, Director of the National IP office, informed EconOff that a World Intellectual Property Office,s (WIPO) intellectual property academy will soon be established in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been chosen for this academy as a pilot project. Earlier, WIPO carried out a successful pilot project on WIPO outreach programs in Sri Lanka.

COMMENT

ۦ9. (SBU) The end of the war gives an opportunity to refocus efforts on IPR enforcement. The Embassy, the USPTO regional office in New Delhi, AMCHAM and BSA are working to pursue more aggressive enforcement and enhance public awareness, and require the active cooperation of the National IP office of Sri Lanka. Upcoming training programs in the first quarter of 2010 for law enforcement agencies include USPTO-sponsored training programs for the Attorney General,s Office and Sri Lanka Customs, and an AMCHAM/BSA sponsored training program for magistrates in the Central, North Central, Eastern and Northern Provinces, ensuring that magistrates from all nine of Sri Lanka's provinces receive training. BUTENIS







Those propaganda workshops are indirectly funded by the likes of Microsoft. To quote, "recent efforts focus on IPR protection in the ICT sector. In a bid to support the ICT sector, Post teamed up with BSA to hold an IPR awareness program for the Sri Lanka Police on January 8. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (USDOJ/OPDAT) and Business Software Alliance provided funds for this workshop."

And who provides funds for the BSA? Follow the money.

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