19th April 1998
From the Green Corner
By Viruddha Paakshikaya
Reading 'Paakshikaya' last Sunday, I might be broad-minded and generous enough to concede that it was good reading. But what you have done, Mr. (or Ms?) Paakshikaya, is to just prove that the UNP is indeed a democratic party.
And, as in all democratic parties throughout the world, there are differences of opinion - you say so yourself, Paakshikaya. Your beloved founder, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike left the UNP - let's face it because he was impatient to become Prime Minister, didn't he?
Paakshikaya cites the Dudley-JR dispute in an attempt to imply that the UNP has always been divided. But, the publication of the details of this dispute in JR's authorised biography proves only one thing - that there is nothing to hide. And, Paakshikaya conveniently chooses to tell the truth and nothing but the truth but not the whole truth, quoting only the differences between Dudley and JR but choosing out not to reveal the enduring friendship between them.
Those of us old hands in the UNP remember how they resolved their differences like mature politicians and then went around the country campaigning against the nearly-dictatorial regime of Mrs. Bandaranaike, drawing massive crowds, some of them coming up to the stage and worshipping their feet as if to atone for voting for the United Front in 1970.
Dudley shied away from this campaign later, not because he was furious with JR - as Paakshikaya cunningly implies - but because his frail health overtook him.
This was evident when Dudley died in 1973 and people lined four to five deep for five miles from his "Woodlands" home at Borella via Cinnamon Gardens to Galle Road, Bambalapitiya.
Paakshikaya himself concedes there was a 'national outpouring of grief' at Dudley's funeral. But does he remember how his SLFP-led government boycotted this great leader's funeral? How his government - which declared a public holiday for the death of then Egyptian President Gamel Abdal Nasser - refused to do the same for Dudley.
None of Paakshikaya's SLFP MPs attended that funeral except one - Ronnie de Mel whom Paakshikaya even now castigates happily.
But to revert to JR's exemplary conduct on this occasion, Paakshikaya will recall JR's famous funeral oration - "Good Night, sweet Prince, may hosts of Devas sing thee to thy sleep," cleverly paraphrasing Shakespeare's Hamlet, and recalling, emotionally, their differences, the final resolution of their conflict and how in those last days, they became closer than ever before.
Paakshikaya, I must remind you that your government which had promised to broadcast funeral proceedings (there was no 'Sirasa' then: it was only SLBC) cut the airwaves as Gamani Jayasuriya, General Secretary of the UNP and a close associate of Dudley who was being groomed for the leadership, was reciting pansil administered by the Maha Sangha.
More recently, Paakshikaya's PA government was guilty of doling out the same step-motherly treatment to JR's funeral, but that event is too recent to warrant repetition here - readers will readily recall that sequence of events. From a PA perspective, it indeed seemed that Ediriweera Sarachchandra did more service to the nation than JRJ.
Paakshikaya contrast this with how the SLFP treated the funeral of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, and still not satisfied with that, they declared September 26 a National Holiday year after year after year.
Then contrast your attitude with how the UNP treated our political opponents at their demise: The man whom you refused to honour in death, JR, was gentleman enough to accord state funerals to LSSP leader N. M. Perera and your "Bahubotha Party" leader Vijaya Kumaratunga.
Pardon me, Paakshikaya, for I do digress. Yes, you wrote of divisions in the UNP. I said I would write of how the SLFP fared in the Opposition, I owe it to you as a promise from my last episode.
Jog your memory, Paakshikaya. Do you recall how senior SLFPers thought the time was right to oust Ms. Bandaranaike when she lost her civic rights.
The fact is, Paakshikaya, your party has no leader other than the Bandaranaikes, so you gave Ms. Bandranaike's job as leader of the Opposition to her son. So, the SLFP leadership has become a family heirloom to be passed on from Father to Mother to Son and now to Daughter. Your party of forty five years knows no leader other than a Bandaranaike. And of them, we concede that Anura was not a bad leader of the Opposition. He stood alone with cannons to the left of him and cannons to the right of him in a Parliament swamped by UNPers with a five sixth majority but now he's with us, Paakshikaya.
But my point is how Maitripala Senanayake - now languishing as governor in the UNP-controlled North Central Province, a man who entered the Party in 1956, was slowly but surely sidelined to ensure a family succession. Wasn't it similar to JR's fate in 1970. So, naturally, Maithripala also probably believed in a kind of accommodation and restraint when with the government.
But the UNP always acted legally Paakshikaya. When Maithripala's supporters laid a claim for the party Headquarters at Darley Road, the government did not give it to him, it was done on the basis of the law.
Anura Bandaranaike himself was on Maithripala's side (Remember SLFP 'S' and SLFP 'M' Paakshikaya) and the latter even totally supported the 1982 referendum about which the SLFP still howls about!
And if Anura was the Prodigal Son, what about daughter Chandrika and son-in-law Vijaya who also broke away from the SLFP. They started their own Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya (SLMP) and the main agenda was attacking the Bandaranaike-led SLFP. Chandrika Kumaratunga then changed like an amoeba to the Bahujana Party, dumping half of those who worked with her in the SLMP and then came back to the party they strayed from, the SLFP. They sent the grand-children first to make peace with the Grand Old Lady. Then followed the daughter.
So, Paakshikaya, to accuse Anura Bandaranaike of being a turncoat is to look up and spit. Poor Anura was the victim of the daughter's return from political oblivion after a miscalculated misadventure. And may I say without malice that it was possible only because Vijaya Kumaratunga happened to die like his father-in-law, fatally shot at his doorstep.
Paakshikaya, I think I have now comprehensively proved to you that divisions within a party are not the monopoly of any one side; that these things happen throughout history - Ronald Reagan crossed over from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party; Winston Churchill from the Liberal Party to the Conservative Party and they were two of the greatest leaders in their respective countries this century.
But, Paakshikaya, I'm sorry that you chose to evade air debate on corruption merely because Anura Bandaranaike and Ronnie de Mel had a disagreement. It was a mere storm in a tea cup and our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has handled the issue with consummate ease, having given both of them a right to say what they wish. He has also clamped a "party-comes-first" on them. So why not revert to the subject of corruption, Paakshikaya, or is that an embarrassing subject for you?
For instance, how about discussing not only how trains with ship engines have been purchased but also six Airbuses with Rolls Royce engines (I hope they don't have ship engines too!) have been bought up front for AirLanka which has now been sold to Emirates?
Let us discuss, Paakshikaya, the great economic miracle of this government - that of selling not only the family silver but also of pawning future generations of this country to total outsiders - Eppawela to the Americans, the Port to the Australians and AirLanka to the Emirs!
To quote just a tip of the iceberg, Paakshikaya, in THE SUNDAY TIMES last week, the boss of PERC now concedes that there could have been mistakes in the AirLanka negotiations and that they are "learning on the job," as it were on how to sell the country!
So, Paakshikaya, let us forget the red herrings about divisions in parties,
because even your "Some People's Alliance" has divisions as I
demonstrated a fortnight ago. Let us discuss real issues like who is better
at selling the country, the UNP or the PA? How about that, Paakshikaya?
Whether he is in the opposition or in government, George Fernandes likes to make his mark. His choice to the Defence Minister's post surprised many people. In an interview, Fernandes told John Cherian that he had been closely following defence and related issues since the early 1980s. In the 1970s he had seemed to have an aversion to nuclear weapons. Today he has become one of the strongest supporters of the idea of India retaining the nuclear option and, if the need arises, exercising it. Excerpts:
How is your Government's position on the nuclear issue different from that of the previous Government? The I.K. Gujral Government also talked about keeping the nuclear option open.
We have gone one step further. What they said in a general kind of a way, we have made specific. We keep our nuclear options open and we cite our national positions on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the CTBT, both of which India refused to sign. Implied in that position is the truth that India, if need be, will go in for a nuclear weapon. All that our National Agenda has said is that at the end of doing a strategic review, which will be the first of its kind, if we come to the conclusion that things have reached a stage with China and Pakistan - one an acknowledged nuclear power and the other claiming to be a nuclear power - and that India now needs to take the plunge, then so be it. What we are saying in so many words is what is implied in the national position. So why are some people now saying "Oh God!", and talking about international sanctions, and posing the question whether poverty alleviation or the weapons programme is more important. All this is a lot of hot air because our national policy implied in no uncertain terms such a development at some point in time. The only question is, has that point in time arrived. We have not said that it has arrived. In the course of the strategic review, if we believe that the time has come, so be it.
If India exercises the nuclear option, sanctions by the United States will come automatically.
Frankly, I have not personally seen any statement from any major nuclear power, whether it is the United States or any European country, that sanctions will be applied against India if such a decision is taken. Therefore, one need not make any comments about speculation.
There is an influential section in the BJP which is more interested in attracting foreign capital than exercising the nuclear option.
Foreign capital is only concerned with profits. Foreign capital will go wherever they can make profits. Western countries, North American Treaty Organisation countries, sell arms to countries that face sanctions.
You have a reputation as a pacifist. If the nuclear option is exercised, will it not trigger an arms race in the region?
I am a pacifist. But it was with the CTBT debate in the Lok Sabha that, after several hours of anguish and introspection, I stood up and said that much against my whole life's convictions and commitments, I am today changing my position. Because the manner in which the CTBT was sought to be imposed on India can some day expose my country to a critical security situation. I stood up and said that India should now oppose the CTBT and should now say that the options are open. So it is not something that has to do with the National Agenda.
Do you agree with the BJP's stance on the nuclear issue as reflected in its election manifesto?
The point today is that we have a National Agenda. Our individual manifestoes no longer figure in our political action.
Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian jungle, seated with an ABC news team during an interview in undated file photo. An official of the Khmer Rouge guerrilla group confirmed April 16 the death of its infamous ex-leader. Pol Pot's reported death had previously been confirmed only by Thai military officials after contacts with the guerrilla group.
PHNOM PENH, Saturday (Reuters) - The death of former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot robs the radical guerrilla group of a bargaining chip, but could also quicken their demise by clearing the way for their return to society, analysts said on Friday.
Pol Pot, the man responsible for the death of more than a million people during his group's 1975-79 "killing fields" rule, died of a heart attack on Wednesday in a guerrilla zone in northern Cambodia, Thai military officials confirmed.
The once-feared guerrilla force has been crippled by defections since 1996, with a new wave fighters joining the government in recent weeks, and was no longer a military threat to the government, the analysts said.
"The Khmer Rouge around Pol Pot were a dying organisation anyway," said a Western diplomat.
"They're no longer a military threat, not that they were before. They were a military pest before," he said.
Government army commanders say Khmer Rouge military strongman Ta Mok, who toppled Pol Pot as the group's supreme leader last year, has only 200-300 troops left. However, some independent observers put their strength at closer to 1,000 men.
Other top Khmer Rouge leaders still holed up with Ta Mok on the Dongrek escarpment on northern Cambodia's border with Thailand are Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
"They now have very minimal strength in terms of numbers of troops. Really minimal," said an Asian diplomat.
Said another Asian diplomat: "It's quite evident that they've been having lots of internal problems. Pol Pot's death is another nail in their coffin."
Pol Pot was sentenced to life under house arrest at a Khmer Rouge show trial last July at their former headquarters of Anlong Veng.
But though no longer part of the Khmer Rouge leadership, while he was alive Pol Pot was a bargaining chip for Ta Mok.
Just before he died, the Khmer Rouge were reported to be trying to negotiate a deal to hand over Pol Pot to the international community for trial.
"With him alive they held a bargaining chip, but not a very strong one," the Western diplomat said. "Their backs are against the wall and the government felt anyway they could eradicate or capture the remainder" of the Khmer Rouge.
But analysts said the death of the hated Pol Pot could facilitate the surrender of the remaining fighters.
"The death of Pol Pot will be very valuable for the Khmer Rouge," said a Thai intelligence officer. "No one can forgive him for his crimes and that bad image had become an unbearable burden for the new generation of Khmer Rouge."
"Pol Pot's death will facilitate the integration of those remaining forces back into the mainstream of society," said another Phnom Penh-based diplomat.
Co-Defence Minister Tea Banh said on Friday that government efforts to lure Khmer Rouge fighters away from Ta Mok would continue.
"We have a policy of national reconciliation. If they run away from the hardliners we welcome them," Tea Banh told Reuters. "This is what we've been doing. We want to finish the war."
The death of Pol Pot and the virtual collapse of the Khmer Rouge was also a significant political victory for government leader Hun Sen, who ousted his former co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh last July.
Before he was toppled, Ranariddh was trying to negotiate the surrender of the Khmer Rouge. But Hun Sen said the prince was actually plotting a coup with the help of the rebels.
"It's a very significant political success for Hun Sen," one of the diplomats said.
Hun Sen was likely to use his success against the Khmer Rouge in an upcoming campaign for a July 26 election.
"I'm sure the authorities will say, 'There was Ranariddh trying to cut deals with the Khmer Rouge, but we've finished them without compromising'," the diplomat said.
Hun Sen was a junior Khmer Rouge officer until he broke with Pol Pot and fled to Vietnam in 1977.
Hun Sen and other Khmer Rouge defectors returned to Cambodia with the Vietnamese troops who routed Pol Pot's government in early 1979.
China and Thailand supported the Khmer Rouge through the 1980s when they battled Vietnamese forces and the Hanoi-backed government in Phnom Penh.
There is only one thing more dangerous than an intelligence agency with a license to kill, and that is such an organization in the hands of a prime minister like Binyamin Netanyahu. The latest fiasco in Jordan can attest to that.
Netanyahu promised the Israeli public peace and security while campaigning for the May 1996 election after spending much of 1995 calling then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a traitor and standing by without protest while his own right-wing followers carried a mock coffin with Rabin's name on it. Whether or not it was deliberate incitement to murder, Rabin's assassination took place, opening the way to Netanyahu's election.
On July 30, Israel's security cabinet unanimously authorized the prime minister to take extreme measures in combatting Hamas, leaving the final details to his discretion.
Netanyahu then held a preliminary meeting with the heads of the intelligence community.
These included Ami Ailon, head of the Shabak; Danny Yatom, head of the Mossad; Amnon Lifkin Shahak, commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces; Gen. Moshe Lalon and Gen. Amos Gilad, head and deputy head of Aman,1 the national intelligence evaluation section; and Uzi Arad, the prime minister's personal intelligence adviser, a Mossad officer until six months ago in charge of analysis.
With the exception of the prime minister and Arad, the entire group opposed an assassination campaign. Ami Ailon pointed out that Shabak was barely capable of handling the situation as it was. Any further agitation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories would cause a rapid acceleration of terror and could ignite a total rebellion.
Amnon Shahak agreed, saying that the IDF would pay a high price if it had to fight a guerrilla war on two fronts, against Hamas in the occupied territories and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
The Aman representative said that such a campaign without a move on the peace front would increase the influence of Hamas in the territories and weaken Arafat. Mossad's Yatom, one of the architects of the Oslo accords, refrained from commenting, as his opinions already were known.
The meeting ended with no conclusions reached, but the prime minister said that he would consider the opinions offered. To understand what followed, it is important to note that most of Mossad's presently serving department heads were appointed by Yatom's predecessor, Shabtai Shavit, and are right-wing in their political opinions.
Yatom therefore finds himself isolated in his own agency. As a mid-level officer in the agency told me recently, "He is in control, but unaware of what is going on."
The following day, the prime minister called Yatom to his office and instructed him to prepare a list of Hamas leaders responsible for the bloody terrorist attacks. Yatom had a list ready, but pointed out that the names on the list were of members of the secret military arm of Hamas, and are not prominent figures. Their elimination would have little impact on the organization or on public opinion. Arad then suggested that they eliminate leaders on the political side of Hamas. Ultimately they are responsible, he argued. The prime minister agreed.
Yatom acceded to the prime minister's wish but hoped, as he told some of his loyal friends in the agency, that he could postpone such acts by citing operational difficulties. The leadership of Hamas, he pointed out to Netanyahu, is dispersed among countries like Syria, Libya, Iran and Jordan. Yatom concluded that the only soft Hamas target outside the occupied territories is in Jordan, and that Jordan was out of bounds because of promises made to King Hussein in 1994 when Rabin was prime minister of Israel.
On Sept. 19, six members of the Israeli hit squad arrived in Amman and registered at the Amman Intercontinental Hotel. Two had come on a flight from New York and registered as Canadian tourists. The others arrived from Europe, three with Canadian passports, one under the assumed name of Guy Erezz, and the fourth on a French passport. All four posed as businessmen, and also had fake Egyptian passports in their possession to be left behind in the event of an accident, to point a finger in a different direction.
The passports did not attract the attention of Jordanian officials because all passports used in such operations are replicas of the real thing, and the persons to whom the real passports belong actually reside in Israel. These persons turn in their passports willingly, and promise not to report them stolen. Unknown to them, however, they are unable to leave the country while their passports are in use by Mossad agents unless they are active, in which case their addresses and phone numbers are used as umbilical cords for operatives in the field.
The two triggermen, using the names of Shawn Kendall, 28, and Barry Beads, 36, set out to see the city and did not associate with the other team members. They already knew details of the plan and they went over their planned escape route. The other agents rented a Hyundai automobile and several cellular phones. By coincidence, however, on September 22 there was an attack on two security officers from the Israeli Embassy in Amman. Because this raised the fear of heightened alertness in Amman, and a possibility that there had been a leak, the operation was almost called off.
Yatom, in fact, presented these possibilities to the prime minister, but Netanyahu insisted the project be continued. The prime minister's decision probably was assisted by Yatom's adversaries in the Mossad, who assured Netanyahu that the operation was simple and that Yatom was overcautious and an impediment, in their minds, to the agency's effectiveness.
On September 25, "Kendall" and "Beads" accosted Meshal as he sought to enter his office in Amman. One stepped in front of him while the other assaulted him from behind, placing a pressure-gas injector against his neck and releasing a toxin that immediately penetrated the skin without breaking it.
As they fled, one of Meshal's two bodyguards, Mohammad Abu Saif, sprinted after them. He was gaining on them until they turned a corner and jumped into the Hyundai, driven by "Guy Erez," who was waiting for them with his motor running. Abu Saif then flagged down a passing vehicle and continued the pursuit. He caught up with them when the Hyundai stopped and the two triggermen got out, as part of a prearranged plan to switch cars.
When they saw Abu Saif, however, "Kendall" and "Beads" ran across the street and then attempted to disappear into an alley while the Hyundai sped off to the Israeli Embassy. But Abu Saif overtook them, knocked one of the two to the ground, was in turn gashed in the head, and then pushed the other triggerman down a slope, plunging after him.
At this time a Jordanian security guard who was passing by came to Saif's assistance and, together, they managed to subdue the two triggermen, get them into a taxi, and deliver them to the police.
Meanwhile the other members of the Mossad hit team sought to take refuge in the Israeli Embassy in Amman. The Mossad liaison officer in the embassy contacted Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv to ask if the men were bona fide Israelis working for the government as they claimed. It took more than an hour for a positive response.
The reason was that hit squad operations are regarded as secret, even within Mossad. Therefore the Mossad officer in Amman and probably his normal contact in Mossad headquarters were outside the circle of those who "need to know."During that time the two triggermen were unwilling to co-operate with Jordanian police, who still believed they had on their hands only two Canadians who had been involved in a scuffle, despite the insistence of the Hamas bodyguard that they were assassins who had just attacked Meshal.
When a Canadian diplomat arrived at the jail and offered a local lawyer, the two asked that their names be kept secret and said they had no need of assistance from the Canadian Embassy.
This reaction finally aroused suspicion among the Jordanian police that the detainees were would-be assassins, as the Hamas bodyguard insisted.
By that time Meshal was in the hospital in critical condition. Jordanian interrogators then turned their attention to the two men in custody and, after several hours of intense interrogation, they broke down and admitted their real identity.
Soon negotiations were underway between Israel and Jordan in an attempt by the Israeli government to contain the storm. King Hussein warned that if Meshal died, Jordan would try the triggermen and have them publicly hanged for murder. He insisted that Israel could avoid this only by handing over the antidote the Mossad back-up team, now holed up in the Israeli Embassy in Jordan, must be carrying in case of an accident.
The Israelis insisted on the release of their agents and claimed the antidote the agents had been carrying had been discarded. They offered to send some antidote from Israel.
Hussein, not trusting Netanyahu and suspecting the antidote sent from Israel would be nothing more than another dose of poison, demanded to know what the poison was. Netanyahu, through emissaries, since at this point the king would not talk directly to Netanyahu, refused, stating the poison was a state secret. King Hussein asked U.S. President Bill Clinton to intervene. The frustrated president declared Netanyahu an impossible man, but finally the prime minister agreed. The poison was identified, the Jordanians applied the antidote, and Meshal's life was saved.
The king was ready to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in retaliation for Netanyahu's breaking of Rabin's promise that Mossad would not act on Jordanian soil. To forestall that, Netanyahu and some of his cabinet members travelled to Amman for secret negotiations with the king's brother, Crown Prince Hassan.
Netanyahu at first believed that he had secured the release of his two jailed agents. In fact, however, the Jordanians insisted on getting more. Meanwhile, the news that the Mossad hit squad had used Canadian passports struck a raw nerve in Ottawa, my home. The Israeli government had promised the Canadian government not to do this after it was revealed that Canadian passports had been used in Mossad operations in Cyprus in the mid-1980s and one in Lillehamer in the 1970s, when a Mossad hit team killed a Moroccan waiter married to a Norwegian in the mistaken belief that he was a PLO member involved in the deaths of Israeli Olympic team members in Munich.
After the release and return of Sheikh Yassin to Gaza, the release from Israeli jails of 20 Hamas members accused of "terrorism," and a promise of 50 more releases, the Jordanians returned the two triggermen and Netanyahu hoped that the story dubbed by the Israeli media as "the Jordanian affair" would come to an end.
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