The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

15th September 1996

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"I won't be fooled as JR was" said Preme


The arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the demand from President Ranasinghe Premadasa calling for their immediate withdrawal may be history, but the role played by certain parties and behind the stage talks between the government and diplomats are hardly known even after seven years. Former diplomat and state minister, A.J. Ranasinghe, was one of those involved in the talks.

'The Sunday Times' today publishes some the telephone conversations which President Premadasa had with Mr. Ranasinghe on the IPKF withdrawal and other important events which took place in the country at that time. Some of the conversations which Mr. Ranasinghe also had with the Indian High Commission's first secretary, Gurjit Singh, on the instructions of the then High Commissioner, Lakhan Lal Mehrotra, and also other important personalities during that time are also being published.

Coversation 1

President Premadasa with. Mr. Ranasinghe.

RP: Hello, What's happening?

AJR: Yes Sir, Neville Jayaweera called . He gave a good point. There is an international protocol, he said. All visiting forces must place themselves under the CIC( Commander in Chief) of the country concerned.

RP: Yes

AJR: When a foreign battle ship enters the territorial waters of a country, it has to hoist the national flag of that country. It means that they are under the CIC of that country.

RP: The Indians say they have no question on that and they accept it. But when one goes to pinpoint it, a problem arises. They are also prepared to suspend hostilities.

AJR: The High Commissioner also told me they are ready to sign that. But that delegation is the problem as I told you.

RP: No. A delegation cannot go to that country. If there are to be talks, they must be held simultaneously in both countries. Otherwise we are not equal. You know discussions can take place in Delhi and Colombo at the same time. regarding the final withdrawal.

AJR: Right. That's it.

RP: Otherwise I will not allow it.

AJR: What they are saying now is, they told me to wait and that the High Commissioner will come to meet me at midnight. I said it is ok with me. Now they are scared all of them are to be put into the hotel. I told them that the High Commissioner need not come at midnight . I would come in the morning.

RP: Tomorrow, tomorrow. I am going to declare this no. May yaka, may IPKF must go, no.

AJR: What time tomorrow sir?

RP: Tomorrow, that means midnight tomorrow. It will be operative. We will declare it around 11 AM tomorrow.

AJR: Sir, Now another thing happened. in the meantime Kumar's family came here now. They have received a letter a death threat from those people (JVP) . It is from the commander of the JVP himself. I saw the original of it too. I read it well. It says: "Resign immediately" otherwise it says what happened to Guruge will happen to them.

RP: They have sent letters to him and Manel and all others .

AJR: Yeah. Yes They have sent those threatening letters to all, by now. They all say something like that even our Shirley Perera's wife came now and told me that. I told her not to panic over that and that we too have got similar letters. These people are awfully frightened . Don't you know how they feel. I told her, you better not be afraid. We also have got such threats, about it.

Sir cannot we announce that the army has taken over those institutions or some such lie and get these people to work behind the scene?

RP: Why not? We can do that. We will get it done by tomorrow.

AJR: Yes. I will get it done tomorrow. We will say the army has taken over till further notice.

RP: And the army is operating it. Very good.

AJR: Yes sir.

RP: Very good. Get it announced by Ranjan (Wijeratne) .

AJR: They can work behind the scene. They say that we are prepared to die for the sake of the President. The three of them say, that they are now a little worried.

RP: OK. We will do it like that. Is our so and so there?

AJR: Now they are saying sir, that they are coming back in fear. The Major said so.

RP: We have got certain things to do, after consulting them.

AJR: That is it sir, even Rukman has said that. Rukman is worried. I received a message from a certain place asking me to come soon as there is plenty of work to be done. . They will come, the problem is this curfew.

RP: So in that case if they are somewhere, bring them along. .

AJR: I said that I will get a pass for Rukman, a curfew pass.

RP: That is good. But see that no one comes to know about it..

AJR: I will do it without telling anyone. Then that is all. Then I will do it that way.

RP: Yes, the way curfew was imposed .........

AJR: If anyone inquires in the night I will tell the story in detail sir.

RP: Yes, say that "I say this job can't be done that way. But all these must be done in public on the 29th. All must go.

AJR: Yes, they all are ready.

RP: That is good, you must show everything on TV .

AJR: Yes sir, do you know another thing.

RP: What?

AJR: These are funny people. Gurujit has gone to Woodlands and met Rukman sir, these are the fellows , I just came from Rukman"s and told him that he must tell the JVP leadership that they are withdrawing on the 29th and after consultation they will withdraw before December. They have promised that.

RP: We cannot wait till December.

AJR: They have discussed the time table. They have said they are definitely talking a lot on the 29th. To tell the JVP that. Rukman called me separately.

RP: Ha, ha ha, Tell me who else will do this, tell me.

AJR: That is what even Rukman says. Sir, I say you would be a world hero. God willing, your name will be there not in Sri Lanka, but in the whole world. in golden letters.

RP: Ha, ha, ha, ha, (loud laughter)

AJR: It was told about Abraham also like this.

RP: Ha, ha, ha (loud laughter), so I will keep the phone now.

AJR: Yes sir.

Conversation 2

Between President Premadasa and Mr. Ranasinghe.

RP: Hello.

AJR: Sir they said it well on the Dhoordharshan yesterday. I have recorded it. I will send it to you tomorrow.

RP: Send it, send it.

AJR: I will send it sir.

RP: Tomorrow morning I am going to the estate early morning.

AJR: Then, I will send it now.

RP: It is better you send it now.

AJR: There is a rumor going round now that this happened..... I got a call from Canada now from Ira de Silva. She is a leading person. She asked whether it was correct that we are sending them out. I asked her who said this. Our old old ........

RP: But they said they were leaving today.

AJR: I told that, everything is correct.

RP: No no, it is false, there were calls from England.

AJR: Even on BBC they said.

RP: I think the person who said this, would have been sleeping.

AJR: Rumors going from here ........

RP: No this is false.

AJR: I told to listen to the BBC.

RP: Even people in England called me.

AJR: When they go, the whole world will see.

RP: Then ..... then that speech - combine the Rupavahini and ITN and put it in all three languages with a good peak hour cover, morning and evening., like yesterday. because most people could not hear it.

AJR: We will put it in the morning and evening simultaneously.

Conversation 3

Between former Speaker, M.H. Mohamed and Mr. Ranasinghe.

MHM: They are trying to make capital out of it. They said they stopped the withdrawal in the Indian radio. They stopped the withdrawal in March and now we are resuming it again.

AJR: All sorts of things, yeah. Yeah, now they said in the Dhoordharshan that everything went well. Any way the President was like a rock. He did not give in an inch ... You know. up to the last moment the Indian High Commissioner went up and down ... more than 10 times yesterday..

I said nothing doing. I am going to come out and say that they are an occupying force and all sorts of things. Finally at about 4 o' clock everything was discussed.

MHM: But then India radio does not say that. They are giving another impression.

AJR: But Dhoordharshan gave a good .......

MHM: Yes, but they were always demanding. There is nothing new in what they are asking. Same thing they were telling earlier also.

AJR: Why not? They said they are leaving. We told them on or before 29th you should leave.

MHM: They were already telling they are . They were maintaining that they want to leave

AJR: And now Ranjan is there. They will now discuss a time table.

MHM: Earlier they were telling no we should have done it earlier. All this trouble no? Terrible loss.

AJR: Earlier that is right, now what they are making out is we stopped the withdrawal in March. They say that. Now we are recommending it because of the agreement, we have signed a new agreement with them. The worse thing is that.

A new agreement signed no, to discuss all these matters and all that.

MHM: Yes, a new agreement no, a new accord. All these could have been avoided nicely no? Anyway I am happy this happened at least today and we are happy about it.

AJR: In fact I am going with our State Minister for foreign affairs, Amaratunga. and myself. We are going to Trinco at about 11 o' clock. So we will watch the situation and all that.

MHM: To go for the withdrawal of troops? In the evening they are taking off. Who else is going?

AJR: Attygalle is also going.

MHM: Our old man has got something to do within I am told No?

AJR: Ah...

MHM: Our old man (laughter)

AJR: Nothing. old man was (ha, ha) Don't you know (ha, ha) anyway we have achieved that. whatever it is.

MHM: No no, The old man had a big hand in the matter. Ranjan had met him also and discussed. Otherwise you know India would not have backed down like that.

AJR: Yes. yes.

MHM: Old man you know, he has made a statement also.

AJR: Ah!.

MHM: Yesterday he came on the television in India to say that he is happy that an accord has been made.

AJR: In Dhoordharshan? It did not come?

MHM: Dhoordharshan, this is the television. I have seen it this morning. I watched just now.

AJR: I saw it too this morning.

MHM: Yesterday too, the radio gave the text of what he said. Anyway we are happy that this happened you see. We are very glad about it. I know that the question of the LTTE will come in now. Vartharajah Perumal will come in now. Quite natural no? Very glad that it happened no. You too took a lot of effort in the matter.

AJR: Thank you very much.

MHM: OK.

Conversation 4

Between Ven. Hadigalle Pannayaseeha thera and Mr. Ranasinghe

AJR: Hamuduruwane

Ven thera: Is it our minister?

AJR:Yes. That I send ( a TV crew ) but you'll had sent them back that they were not necessary.

Ven thera: What?

AJR: TV.... They had not allowed them through the gate.

Ven Thera I did not know anything about it.

AJR: That's the thing. I told that Hadigalle Hamuduruwo.

Ven thera: They should have come and spoken to me.

AJR: They told. But then someone there had said that they were not necessary.

Ven thera: Ah!..

AJR: Anyway, no problem. Everything was OK. Now everything is OK. Indian Doordarshan also announced it.

Ven thera: That day it was well told. (Referring to the call for the withdrawal)

AJR: They told us various things. But the President stood firm. He said all (IPKF) should go. Nobody stays on.

Ven thera: That's good.

AJR: Today the ship is coming. Ranjan has gone to India to work out the timetable. After that the SAARC Summit will be held here.

Ven thera: That's good.

AJR: Now could you give a statement on this. I will send a crew.

Ven thera:: What do you want?

AJR: An important statement.

Ven thera: Good.

AJR: I will send them at 10 o'clock to the Vidyodaya Pirivena.

Ven thera: Good.

Conversation 5

Between President Prmeadasa and Mr. Ranasinghe

(Conversation starts abruptly)

RP: These fellows are leaving. They did this to save themselves from V.P.Singh.

AJR: Yes.

RP: If they cannot give me the time table, the dates of the departure( IPKF) to be announced in Parliament. I have told the Lankan delegation in India to come back.

AJR: The delegation?

RP: Yes.

AJR: That's good. Tell them off.

RP: Call Gurujith and tell him "I say the people are disbelieving this. Look at what Gamani Jayasuriya says that this is only a stop gap." They are trying to fool again. Don't think that this man is going to be fooled like J.R.Jayewardene. He (Premadasa) wants to make a statement to parliament. So you must give the time table. You must stop hostilities against the LTTE. Otherwise the delegation , I do not know I am telling my thinking, the whole thing will break down and your reputation will go for a six.

First they would have told that we are in a hurry and we have gone for consultations. I now I have satisfied those people "Samaharu kiyanawa ledek amaruwunoth baliyak arinna ona kiyala. Onna mama ekath kala"

AJR: Hariyata Hari Sir (Ah, ah)

RP: Tell this to Gurujith.

AJR: I will tell him. Gurujith asked me whether I was satisfied. I told yes, so far so good.

RP: Tell him do not carry on by telling lies. Tell them that this is a lie and already notice has been given for an operation. Tell they have taken Sirima into their confidence.....

AJR: OK.OK. Then I will speak to that crowd, and the Bishop and organize it. I also spoke to Gamani Jayasuriya. He agreed.

Conversation 6

Between . Gurujith Singh and Mr. Ransinghe

AJR: Gurjith

G: Good morning. How are you.

AJR: I came last night from Mahiyangana.

G: I see.

AJR: So how are you.

G: I am all right.

AJR: I want to give a gift.

G: Very kind of you.

AJR: I want to give a gift of the talk (speech) made at Mahiyangana. The English version of the cassette to you today.

G: OK.

AJR: So that is a very good gift for you.

G: Indeed, so what's happening.

AJR: Well, we are ready for the war.

( Both laugh)

G: We will never fight.

AJR: we are ready. I am speaking to you very honestly, Mr Gurujith. Although we are a small country and you are a very big country, we are ready to face the war. We are going to declare war on the 31st of July.

G: Really.

AJR: Definitely.

G: What will you do really?

AJR: We will declare war. You come and bomb us and kill us.

G: Why should we do that?

AJR: That is something. The President has openly told now. It will appear in the press also that he is going to declare war on the 31st. You come and kill all of us.

G: Why should we kill.

AJR: Bomb and kill.

G: Why?

AJR: I do not know. This is what's going to happen.

G: You know that if somebody has the death wish, the suicide wish, then we can't do anything.

AJR: Yes. we will commit suicide.

G: We will not do.

AJR: You know this is going to be a terrible thing. You and I tried our best. The President is hopping mad. He says nothing doing. He gave a speech. He has told if they can't go let them (IPKF) be in the barracks. That is the ultimatum. Otherwise declare war. So let Indians come and bomb and kill us. (Ah, ah, ah). That is the thing. I am telling you very sincerely. I was with him for the last two days. He (President) is there at the Gam Udawa doing very well, going around, enjoying . Let the bus people suffer, people who are afraid of the goon will suffer. So we are going ahead. He won't come to Colombo. He will come only for the cabinet meeting. After that we will get back and till the 3rd he will be doing that.

G: He is staying back?

AJR: Yes. He is taking things very lightly. According to Lord Buddha, Nassana Dhammatri, Nassana Dhammatri that if something is to happen something will happen. So he believes in Buddhist philosophy. Let anything happen. It happens to the country or the masses. So what is happening cannot be stopped by any force. So,if we are destined to perish, we will perish.(Ah, ah, ah)

G: Are you going home this evening.

AJR: Yes.

G: Then I will give you a call and come and see you.

AJR: OK. Thank you.

Conversation 7

Between Gurujith. Singh and Mr. Ranasinghe.

G: Will you be at home about 7.00

AJR: Let me see. Now Dooradharshan is doing damage to us. Now You and I are friends. I can tell you I am joking with you. Now Doordharshan has shown in a telecast to southeast Asia, that only the north and east are working, because of the IPKF presence and nothing else is working. They have shown roads deserted in Colombo and nothing is working in other districts. All bloody nonsense no.

G: You don't think that is true?

AJR: So we are going to flash today. I have given instructions. We will say that because of the IPKF people are suffering in Jaffna. ( Ha.... Ha.....Ha.....) I told you no Mr.Gujith. We must stop this nonsense. Why is India trying to harass us? I know Rajiv Gandhi is a great man, but it is your bureaucracy.

G: Will you be free around 10

AJR: Yes, Let me see, I want to go and see Rukman regarding this strike.

G: I had just gone to Kollupitiya and all the shopkeepers have got letters that tomorrow they should be closed.

AJR: Ah I see

G: Shopkeepers were telling me buy everything you want today.

AJR: These are done by various guys. Not only JVP, various people

G: So I will come and meet you

AJR: Gurjith, we have to discuss this and do something.

G: I hope so, OK then.

Conversation 8

Between President Premadasa and Mr. Ranasinghe:

(Beginning of the conversation not clear)

RP: :........I can't accept that. We have not gone and settled down in their country. Everything should be discussed with me. Anybody outside the government cannot decide.

AJR: Sir, it's better that you telephone and tell.

RP: Why should I telephone? Is he our king. Are we mad to do that? What has to be said has been said.

AJR: Yes sir.

RP: The country has been betrayed. I can't do that. Appoint somebody else to do that.

I am not Elara.

(More next week)

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