The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

27th October 1996




Chin-Chin Kollas for Sinhala Kellas

In the continuing series of secret tape conversations between former state Minister A.J. Ranasinghe and other VIPs 'The Sunday Times' today publishes more conversations with the then opposition leader, Sirimavo Bandaranaike about the formation of a national government amidst JVP threats

Conversation 1
Between Sirimavo Bandaranaike and A.J. Ranasinghe

Ms. B: Morning.

AJR: The president told me yesterday that letter from by Barnes Ratwatte was given.

Ms. B: No not to me. No letter was given to me, but I was told about a letter.

AJR: I was told that it was given.

Ms. B: No, I thought it was sent.

AJR: My God, I was told to bring him along. I was asked to meet him on Tuesday, on an appointment so I thought the letter was given.

Ms. B: No, no, I was only told about the letter, but I did not get it.


Ms. B: I did not get it. I thought there is no point in giving it to me, and so it was sent.

AJR: So he was quite satisfied. He told me that ... I said OK, and said everything is going on well. Its slow and steady. He had told that to the parliamentary group.

Ms. B:, What did he say?

AJR: He said that this is the result of our having differences in opinion and having no trust. We should talk it out with people. So, this is the result of it. Now we are talking directly. It is only when we don't do things correct that these things happen. Now we are discussing everything directly.

Ms. B: Their MPs are scared, that there might be an election. They are under the impression, that we (the five parties) have asked for elections. . We have not asked for elections. We suggested that there would be peace. So they got excited. Paul Perera has got worried that they would have to face elections.

Conversation 2
Between Sirimavo Bandaranaike and A.J. Ranasinghe

AJR: Madam, the President knows about these people. They are all scared about conducting an election. Even our people are scared.

Ms. B: They are afraid, they will lose their privileges, their cars and type writers, Photocopy machines and calculators and all. They can sell these no?

AJR: He said that what ever he does he would consult you I felt very happy about that. He told me to keep in touch with you. My driver ...

Ms. B: Ah, did you find the driver ?

AJR: Yes, the president phoned me up said he had found that he has been taken away by the army, for a routine check . About 15 in all have been taken away.

Ms. B: We cant stay at home because of this it's real trouble these days. That is because of these chaps. It is a nuisance. When I go to Horagolla also it is a bother.

AJR: Yes, this is a bother, People are being taken away, and they say it is the army, the black cats, the JVP, 'Praha' and what not.

Ms. B: There is a round about like place you know at our area. There have been several heads along there. on the next day about 20 were killed. Sepala Attygalle asked about it and told me. Earlier they had denied. But later they had admitted. They had killed and burnt the chaps Anuruddha(Ratwatte) told me. No body had reported this up to now. We said that as long as ..(name deleted) is there, this will not stop. Best thing is to get the man out. He is the man doing all these.

AJR: In God's name, these must be stopped. Otherwise this will not end. Nobody will survive in this country. Killing, killing no end to killings.

Ms. B: Our Sinhala youth are getting killed.

AJR: Yes, the Sinhalese, and Buddhist, both are finished.

Ms. B: Sinhalese girls will not find boys to marry.

AJR: Boys will have to be brought from China.

Ms. B: We said that at this rate, one husband will have to keep several women, like mistresses. [ laughs]

AJR: Yes. that is what is going to happen.

Ms. B: This seems to be the end. of our Sinhala race, we will like the Muslims have to marry several.

AJR: Already they are finished. We are safe here, because we are looked after by the army. Otherwise finished. Madam you too must be careful, I advise you.

Ms. B: Yes, I know. of them.

AJR: These chaps dispatch letters. They come on mobykes They have no number plates. We must be able to catch them somehow.

Ms. B: They don't come with the proper number plates, our people are not quick enough.

AJR: We must be able to catch them quickly. Then everything will be OK.

Ms. B: They have come to Dinesh's, all the drivers were there. They should have caught them, they should have fired at the motorcycle tires. They had their security guards no.

AJR: That's it, they should have shot them.

Ms. B: They are not so wise, our security men, to do such things.

AJR: They must be warned that they will all be transferred.

Ms. B: Yes, I too told them that.

AJR: That's right, otherwise it is useless.

Ms. B: OK, then.

AJR: OK, thank you madam.

Conversation 3
Between Sirimavo Bandaranaike and A.J. Ranasinghe

AJR: Good morning, did you find that letter.

Ms. B: Yes I found it was in the file.

AJR: That's the thing.

Ms. B: I had forgotten the thing.

AJR: Madam this is the best time to unite on a good foundation. Not a coalition which will breakdown like during NM's time.

Those could break, it would not last long. But on certain principles, for example ending terrorism, restoring peace, law and order, devolution, higher education, socio economic. issues.

We could avoid sensitive areas. Some thing like that with trustworthy persons being brought into the govt., like, K.B. Ratnayaka, Stanley Thilakarante, Anuraddha Ratwatte. Some balanced people like that Even Anura Bandaranaike. and Mangala Moonasinghe are good. If we had some people like that as ministers we can do it.

I told the President that we should think of the next generation. We should put an end to petty differences. We should agree on certain policies on common problems. If the UNP tries to do something, the SLFP opposes and if the SLFP tries do something the UNP opposes .We should stop that and unite

Ms. B: Some are already accusing me of getting close to Premadasa.

AJR: They will tell those things.

Ms. B: They are saying I have forgotten what had been done to me by the UNP

AJR: Who is saying this.

Ms. B: Our people They are saying that we are trying to get close and get Ministerial portfolios.

AJR: People will tell these things. This Vasu and the Communist Party, and the LSSP want to do what they like. Put them on to aside and Madam you decide who are the balanced people. Get these people together.

Ms. B: They don't come. They are scolding me. They say that I worked with the Indians. That I got money from India.

AJR: Our President has been slated in the "Hindu" What you must do is to join Premadasa and have a common program. It has to be on a war footing. We expected you that day madam.

Ms. B: I had a wedding of a niece.

AJR: Yes. Mr. Premadasa said that. We felt sorry that you were not there. Everything is going on well.

Ms. B: Even killings?

AJR: Yes, they are going on killing and destroying. That is why I say the two sides must join and stop this.

Ms. B: Cant you just take them into custody? without killing all these Buddhist youth

AJR: Yes Madam, How many times they have been told not to kill.

Ms. B: These are not the hard core, most of them mere area boys. They need not be killed .

AJR: We have told them it is not the done thing, because world opinion will be against us.

Ms. B: You must rehabilitate them without killing. We cannot stop their killings until we stop ours.

AJR: The President gets accusations, like you got. There is so much opposition just as it was to you. I'll stop now madam.

Ms. B: OK.


Japan: one-dimensional Superpower

Its economic performance was so spectacular that Japan, the only victim of an atomic attack (Germany was spared that horror) could challenge the American superpower. Its political system, however, had its own peculiar features. The multiparty democracy was in fact a one-party system. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) governed the country for almost four decades. And so we had a rather unique example of a dynamic private enterprise, confident of political stability, freed of the burden of defense spending, emerging as a superpower, albeit one-dimensional.

I993 was the turning-point. The LDP failed to win a majority in the House. As a result the old, familiar "stability equation" did not work any more. And so a new, far more complicated electoral system, the product of a traditional Japanese flair for compromise, says correspondent Gerard Baker.

"Voters can cast two simultaneous ballots - one in 300, small single-member seats, where the winner will be decided on the basis of plurality (first past the post); the second will be cast in one, of eleven giant, multi-member constituencies, which will return 200 MPs.

But "money politics" will continue to dominate the Parliamentary contest, warn seasoned diplomats and foreign correspondents. And in that game, it is always the LDP which finally wins.

Established ten years after Hiroshima and Japan's defeat, the LDP could be compared to any established Conservative party in the West. But it has been smart enough to make way for new faces, younger men who are not afraid to test new ideas, learn from the experience of other countries, their triumphs and failures. In the field of international trade, certainly, Japan has been a pace-setter.

But it is the political system, and its frailties and quirks, that troubles a new generation, fully conscious of the emergence of an "Asia-Pacific region".

Taiwan issue

The elections in Taiwan earlier this year raised the issue of regional security. In February, last year the US. Defense Dept. produced a short study that outlined the American "defense posture" in the region. It did justify the impressive American military presence in the area.

Earlier the Soviet Union would match the American military posture. As Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev proudly stated some years ago, the new Russia could have "the unprecedented possibility to be Asians in Asia, Europeans in Europe and democrats in the world". We have recently seen however the limitations of Russian power projection. And so it was left to China to respond to the "massive US military presence in the region".

It was none other than US Defense Secretary William Perry who suggested a 'security dimension' to APEC. This was in striking contrast to the proposal of Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans' proposal to establish "an all-embracing Conference on Security and Cooperation in Asia built in some way on the Helsinki CSCE model in Europe".

On a brief visit to Colombo, Mr. Evans addressed a mixed group of foreign correspondents and Sri Lankan journalists and argued strongly for new security arrangements for the Indian Ocean region and East Asia. After the Australian polls we have not heard much of the Evans "plan".

However the region's policy makers have yet to come to terms with the consequences of the Soviet implosion, and the massive American deployment (two aircraft carrier battle groups) in the Taiwan strait in March.

US. dominance

How will Japan, the economic superpower, respond to American dominance in this region? Singapore's Ambassador Tommy Koh, one of the brightest of the new generation ASEAN intellectuals, argued that "The Asia-Pacific is a region of booming economies at peace with itself" (Asian Wall Street Journal) but an Australian Defense White Paper warned more recently that "the relative peace in Asia may not last".

In keeping with its spectacular rise as a global economic power, Japan needs to undertake a much larger diplomatic-political role but each attempt has failed. Or the US., and the E.U. too, did not appear to welcome the move. For instance, the Gulf War. Japan's gigantic industrial machine is oil dependent. The Tokyo media seem to suspect that the US. and its western allies would like to see Japan's main contribution limited to 'cheque-book diplomacy" and project aid.

Political parties

Since it has held office most of the time, the conservative L.D.P. now has a new generation pressure group that agitates for structural reform, in both economic and political spheres. It is led by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Opinion polls held in the first few months as Prime Minister, placed his popularity almost as high as that of "the legendary" Kakuei Tanaka (1972-74). One pollster gave his rating as just over 60%. But it soon dropped to a modest but respectable 40%, observed correspondent William Dawkins.

In late 1993, the L.D.P. was swept by internal squabbles. Some senior rebels left the party and worked quite hard to gather together other dissidents. Ultimately the LDP rebels co-opted "rebels" from other parties.... nine in fact. This awkward alliance finally called itself the New Frontier Party. The leader of the NFP is Mr. Ichiro Ozawa.

The New Harbinger Party (NHP) also has LDP dissidents as leading figures. But the N.H.P. is a wobbly coalition of nine parties. Again, the most influential personalities are former L.D.P. personalities. The party leader is Masayoshi Takemura.

When "socialism" lost its appeal worldwide, the Japan Socialist Party, launched 90 years ago, changed its name to the Social Democratic Party in 1991. It has tried to model itself on "European-style Social Democratic parties, center-Left ideologically." It is led by Mr. Tomiichi Murayama.


How best can one introduce Mr. Hashimoto? I think reporter Dawkins did well to describe him in the context of Japan-US. relations and trade. The motor car (Ford or Cadillac) is the American Symbol recognized worldwide. "Japan started to accord trade interests more prominence in its US relations three years ago, a belated consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union," says William Dawkins who adds: "Tokyo's refusal to bend to US trade pressure has since toughened and it is no accident that Mr. Hashimoto owes much of his popularity to having resisted US demands in last year's talks on access to the Japanese car market....."

Like ethnic conflict, trade wars are part of the US.-dominated "New World Order". Whereas President Bill Clinton may ride to a famous (historic?) victory on November 5, the prime minister of Japan may have a pretty rough ride.

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