In a letter dated July 10, 1973, Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike has appealed directly to President Richard Nixon for PL 480 Wheat flour shipments to meet desperate food shortage facing Sri Lanka during last three months of 1973.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked US diplomatic cables from the WikiLeaks database. We publish below the cables in full;
LETTER FROM PM BANDARANAIKE TO PRESIDENT NIXON
1973 July 16, 06:45 (Monday)
From:Sri Lanka Colombo
To:Department of State | Secretary of State
1. BECAUSE OF POSSSJILITY SRI LANKA EMBASSY WASHINGTON HAS NOT YET DELIVERED LETTER OF 10 JULY FROM PM BANDARANAIKE TO PRESIDENT NIXON, WE ARE TRANSMITTING TEXT (COPY GIVEN AMB AT MEETING WITH PM MORNING 16 JULY — SEPTEL).
2. QUOTE: MY DEAR PRESIDENT, YOU WOULD RECALL MY WRITING TO YOU IN JAN THIS YEAR SEEKING THE SUPPORT OF YOUR GOVERN- MENT FOR CONVENING THE 9TH MEETING OF THE AID-GROUP FOR SRI LANKA AND REQUESTING THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN TO MAKE A SUBSTANTIAL PLEDGE OF ASSISTANCE. I WISH TO EXPRESS OUR APPRECIATION OF THE EFFECTIVE SUPPORT EX-TENDED BY YOUR GOVERNMENT AND FOR THE PLEDGE OF FOOD ASSISTANCE MADE BY THE UNITED STATES DELEGATION AT THE AID-GROUP MEETING.
WE WERE HOPING THAT THE SUPPLY OF WHEAT FLOUR UNDER PUBLIC LAW 480 WOULD BE MADE AVAILABLE AT AN EARLY DATE. MY GOVERNMENT WAS ADVISED THAT DUE TO CERTAIN FISCAL AND SUPPLY PROBLEMS, OUR REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE WOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED UNTIL THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE US FISCAL YEAR 1974.
MEANWHILE,THE FOOD SITUATION IN SRI LANKA HAS BEEN AGGRAVATED BY THE SEVERE DROUGHT. COMPARED TO THE TARGET SET FOR THE RICE HARVEST IN 1973, THE LATEST ESTIMATES INDICATE A SHORTFALL OF OVER 30 PERCENT. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE DROUGHT IS ALSO SEEN FROM THE FACT THAT THE POWER SUPPLY IN THIS COUNTRY, WHICH IS LARGELY HYDRO-GENERATED, HAD TO BE RESTRICTED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 40 YEARS.
MY GOVERNMENT HAS INTENSIFIED ITS EFFORTS TO INCREASE RICE PRODUCTION IN THE COMING YEAR, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE TO GROW SUSTITUTE FOOD GRAINS AND YAMS. THE SUCCESS OF THESE EFFORTS HOWEVER, WOULD, TO A LARGE EXTENT, DEPEND ON SATISFACTORY WEATHER CONDITIONS. THE DRIVE TO GROW SUBSTITUTE FOOD GRAINS WOULD ONLY HAVE A MINIMAL IMPACT IN THE COMING YEAR. THUS, IF WE ARE TO KEEP THE POPULATION FED AT EVEN SUBSISTENCE LEVELS, THE IMPORT OF MINIMUM QUANTITIES OF RICE AND FLOUR WILL BECOME VERY NECESSARY.
AS YOU ARE AWARE, THE PRICE OF FOOD GRAINS HAS RISES CONSIDERABLY IN THE WORLD MARKET. EVEN AT ENHANCED PRICES, SUPPLIES OF RICE ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR IMPORT IN ANY SUBSTANTIAL QUANTITY. IT IS IN THIS CONTEXT THAT THE NEED FOR WHEAT FLOUR BECOMES AN URGENT NECESSITY. IN RELATION TO OUR MOUNTING DEBT SERVICES BURDEN AND OUR CURRENT BALANCE OF PAYMENT DIFFICULTIES IT IS NECESSARY THATTHESE IMPORTS BE MADE ON EASY FINAN- CIAL TERMS SUCH AS THOSE OFFERED ON PL 480.
I AM DISTURBED TO LEARN THAT SRI LANKA IS NOT IN THE LIST OF COUNTRIES ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE PLNMRIP ASSISTANCE DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF THE US FISCAL YEAR. I AM WRITING TO MAKE A SPECIAL REQUEST TO YOU TO RESTORE SRI LANKA TO THE LIST OF ELIGIBLE COUNTRIES, IF NOT DURING THE FIRST QUARTER, AT
LEAST DURING THE SECOND QUARTER OF THE FISCAL YEAR. I WISH TO MENTION THAT THE LATTER WOULD BE THE MOST CRITICAL PERIOD
FOR US IN REGARD TO CEREAL SUPPLIES. AS WE ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO MAKE PURCHASES ON COMMERCIAL TERMS, ANY DELAY OR POSTPONEMENT OF THE PL 480 ASSISTANCE PLEDGED AT THE LAST MEETING OF THE AID-GROUP WOULD HAVE SERIOUS SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES.
I SHALL BE GRATEFUL IF YOU WOULD INSTRUCT YOUR OFFICIALS TO GIVE SPECIAL CONSIDERATION TO SRI LANKA’S CASE SO THAT EARLY SHIPMENTS OF WHEAT FLOOR UNDER PL 480 COULD BE EFFECTED.
WITH WARMEST PERSONAL WISHES,
(SIRIMA R.D.BANDARANAIKE) PRIME MINISTER.
HIS EXCELLENCY MR. RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICAN, WASHINGTON, D.C. USA. UNQTE
PRESIDENT’S REPLY TO PRIME MINISTER BANDARANAIKE
1973 August 6, 17:13 (Monday)
From:Department of State
To:Canada Ottawa | OTTAWA COLOMBO | Sri Lanka Colombo
1. FOR OTTAWA: PLEASE PASS THE TEXT OF FOLLOWING LETTER FROM PRESIDENT TO PRIME MINISTER BANDARANAIKE. PRIME MINISTER CURRENTLY ATTENDING COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE.
2. QUOTE: AUGUST 3, 1973: DEAR MADAME PRIME MINISTER: YOUR LETTER OF JULY 10 WAS A VERY PERSUASIVE DESCRIPTION OF SRI LANKA’S URGENT NEED FOR FOOD ASSISTANCE. YOU CAN BE SURE THAT WE APPRECIATE THE PROBLEMS YOU FACE IN THIS AREA AND WILL TRY TO BE AS RESPONSIVE AS WE CAN. SINCE WE ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO PROVIDE A PRECISE ANSWER JUST YET, I WANT YOU TO HAVE THIS PROMPT EXPLANATION OF HOW YOUR GOVERNMENT’S REQUEST IS BEING HANDLED.
YOUR LETTER RECALLS THE FEBRUARY AID GROUP MEETING, AT WHICH THE U.S. REPRESENTATIVE EXPRESSED OUR HOPE THAT WE WOULD BE ABLE TO PROVIDE DOLS 15-18 MILLION WORTH OF WHEAT FLOUR TO SRI LANKA UNDER TITLE I OF PUBLIC LAW 480. AS YOU KNOW, THE INTERVENING MONTHS HAVE SEEN VERY SERIOUS QUESTIONS OF FOOD AVAILABILITY DEVELOP ON A WORLDWIDE BASIS, GREATLY COMPLICATING OUR TASKS IN MAKING ALLOCATIONS UNDER PL 480.
THESE MATTERS ARE CURRENTLY UNDER VERY ACTIVE EXAMINATION WITHIN OUR GOVERNMENT. OUR AMBASSADOR WILL KEEP IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH YOUR GOVERNMENT AS THIS PROCESS CONTINUES. MEANWHILE, YOU MAY BE SURE THAT WE WANT TO BE AS HELPFUL AS WE CAN AND THAT THE POINTS RAISED IN YOUR LETTER WILL BE TAKEN CAREFULLY INTO ACCOUNT.
WITH WARM PERSONAL REGARDS, SINCERELY, RICHARD NIXON.
3. FOR COLOMBO: ORIGINAL OF LETTER BEING POUCHED
FOR TRANSMITTAL TO GSL. ROGERS
len / April 17, 2016
43 Years on CB czar and his team of panhandlers from Sri Lanka back in Washington begging for money to pay debt run up by pilfering politicos.
Ben Hurling / April 17, 2016
“OUR MOUNTING DEBT SERVICES BURDEN AND OUR CURRENT BALANCE OF PAYMENT DIFFICULTIES”
Indeed. How shameful! 70 years after Independence our so called “glorious” nation is still begging.
From Washington, London, Riyadh, New Delhi, Beijing, Seoul, Canberra & Tokyo. List keeps growing. At this rate we might soon beg from Dhaka as well. Lagos and Tehran we have begged from already.
Official UNP & SLFP policy has been about who can beg best from well-to-do overseas capitals. Successive foreign, finance ministers, PMs & Presidents have returned to KIA in Colombo to hold beaming press briefings. Where they declare proudly how successful their begging trips have been.
Every time the stupid Sri Lankan electorate has cheered this shameful merry-go-round. And we continue to do to this day the same old crap. Last one was in Beijing as we all know.
Meanwhile, our debt burden & balance of payment troubles keep climbing. We are deeper in that bottomless pit. We are about go bankrupt.
We are still cheering the same old clowns who have run this impoverished country. Since 1948.
Guess what! We don’t deserve any better.
Zonda / April 17, 2016
Well put, Mr. Hurling.Shows how far we have fallen. Thank you.
Native Vedda / April 17, 2016
My elders told a few years ago Sri Lankan government was warned in mid 70 by a professor of management studies (I do not remember his name) attached to Katubedda University about the imminent shortages in wheat production in the US and elsewhere. He also warned increases in variety of grain prices.
Lets forget about the politicians for a moment, what the hell were the bureaucracy and diplomats doing in those years. Had they been proactive they could have purchased/imported/stored enough grain to feed the nation for many years. (Please don’t tell me that the country was facing a massive foreign exchange crisis at the time, or the impact from external shock, sudden increase in imported oil prices)
I do not see any purpose in recruiting and feeding these men/women (mostly men) who are supposed to be running this island. They are no different to their Hindian counter parts.
On the one hand Siri Mao was seen to be fighting the west led by USA and on the other, the would be leader of the Non Align Movement was begging from the leader of the free world.
Yet our own home grown little Mao’s believe she did a fantastic job, in foreign policy formulation.
Hypocrisy knows no bound.
IncovenientTruth / April 18, 2016
It is regrettable that Colombo Telegraph commenters either have no interest or no competence in analyzing a situation. If they were interested they would have found out about the grain prize bubble of the mid seventies, how US sold surplus grain to then USSR creating price increase just as the Midwest drought hit.
Why not exercise your brain a bit, ask your elders about PL480, here is a taste from wikileaks
“5. WE WILL SHORTLY BE SENDING ADDITIONAL POLICY RECOMMENDA- TIONS REGARDING US RESPONSE TO OUR INCREASINGLY UNTENABLE POSITION CAUSED BY OUR INABILITY DELIVER ON PL 480 PLEDGE. VAN HOLLEN”
sach / April 17, 2016
the current situation is solely created by RW’s antics in central bank and taking short term loans
Spring Koha / April 18, 2016
Yo Ben, nicely put.
WE are a nation of beggars.
Best bit is that if we don’t get what we want we let them have a stream of anti this or that filth.
The mere mention of Madam’s name brings back memories of those hazy, lazy, crazy days of the Seventies. They were forgettable except when I remember the worried look on my parents faces, as they struggled with the uncertainties of being unable to put food on the table. AND WE were supposed to be ‘better off’!
Who can forget those days, families queueing in the early morning gloom for the chance to buy a loaf of bread.
Not the good old days of choice.
Amarasiri / April 17, 2016
len and Ben,
“In a latter daed July 10, 1973, Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike has appealed directly to President Richard Nixon for PL 480 Wheat flour shipments to meet desperate food shortage facing Sri Lanka during last three months of 1973.”
“Indeed. How shameful! 70 years after Independence our so called “glorious” nation is still begging.”
Mrs. B was caught off guard due to worldwide food production shortage and the 1973 Oil Price increases.
The Current begging by MaRa, Sira and RW is mostly theirs, those men the citizens repeatedly elected.
The 1972-73 Food Price Spiral
JOHN A. SCHNITTKER, Schnittker Associates
THE SHARP RISE in U.S. and world prices of agricultural commodities in
1972 and 1973 traces to five principal causes:
(1) a decline in world of grains, and a persistent lag in growth in protein meal productionrelative to demand;
(2) rapid growth in the demand for meats in all developed
countries, based mainly on rising personal incomes;
(3) U.S. farmpolicies and programs that discouraged expansion of soybean production,
and continued to idle large acreages of cropland that should have been
turned to livestock production at least three years ago;
(4) administrativelags and errors regarding export subsidies, evaluation of crop reports from abroad, estimation of prospective export volumes, and the need to expand agricultural production sharply and to limit exports in 1973; and (5) devaluation
of the dollar, which added to the demand for farm products and
raised prices in countries whose currencies were devalued.
The price rise occurred despite near-record grain and oilseed crops in
the United States, and despite the utilization of sizable reserves of wheat
and feed grains that had accumulated in prior years
Kailainathan / April 17, 2016
Yes most people doesn’t know this !! Until the Tamils question rise Srilanka had food politics !! For paripu !! Haal !! Atta addak !!
Amarasiri / April 17, 2016
That is why Mrs. B lost the elections in 1977. People did not want to eat manioc and batala all the time.
Kailainathan / April 17, 2016
Until the Tamils question arice !! Srilanka had food politics !! For paripu !! Haal !! Atta addak !!
sach / April 17, 2016
And during that days tamil farmers in north specially onion growers had the best time due to sirima policies
sekara / April 17, 2016
It was hard times. Rains failed and there was grain shortage while the country was recovering from an insurgency. There was foreign currency problem too.
Th US was aware of the situation even without Mrs B’s appeal. But PL480 flour delivery was not forthcoming.
It was not a bad thing to the extent that it motivated some people to think in terms of self sufficiency in food and about a national economy.
The incident reveals the vindictiveness of the US.
The UF government eventually survived the crisis, amid vicious attempts to sabotage the Food Drive of the time.
But overall there were some benefits for the whole island. Sustaining them was another matter.
This may be another instance where comparison with China may be pertinent.
Native Vedda / April 17, 2016
“This may be another instance where comparison with China may be pertinent.”
Of course, let us compare the death toll, a mere 36 million and thousands of cases of cannibalism (according to Yang Jisheng) due to starvation and other official crimes, to our few in the upcountry.
I suppose we need a “cultural revolution” to correct the mindset of intellectual gymnasts.
sekara / April 17, 2016
Little NV it is time for the play pen.
nasser / April 17, 2016
Why did this shameless woman who denounced capitalism and cut off all links with the prosperous west have to go with the begging bowl to Nixon for food? What happened to her election promise to the people to bring down rice even from the moon? Poor woman – maybe her transport rockets were intercepted by the CIA or even landed on the dark side of the moon.
Native Vedda / April 17, 2016
“Why did this shameless woman who denounced capitalism and cut off all links with the prosperous west have to go with the begging bowl to Nixon for food?”
Please ask SJ/sekere.
These shameless little islanders, irrespective of their race, religion, region, … party affiliation do all kinds of acts, one for the people and public consumption and the other when they carry their begging bowls, making backroom deals and then sing the national anthem with gusto, still believe the country fought and preserved its sovereignty, …..
There are “intellectual gymnasts” who still believe Siri Mao (the weeping widow) won the west against imperialism, was the best leader this country ever had.
sach / April 17, 2016
first she isnt the one who promised to bring rice even from moon, it was JR.
And she did not cut off the capitalist world nor did not make SL a part of socialist camp. During her days SL practiced a non align policy and our foreign policy was closer to India’s policy which i think is what should have been done at the time.
Native Vedda / April 18, 2016
sachooooooooooooooooooooooooo the stupid II
“first she isnt the one who promised to bring rice even from moon, it was JR.”
Rice From The Moon: A Second Helping
Like her mother before her and indeed like the Bandaranaikes as a class, Chandrika Kumaratunga believes firmly that the people of Sri Lanka are a bunch of dithering idiots. It is widely recalled how in the run up to the 1970 general elections, Sirimavo Bandaranaike pledged to a starving, bankrupt nation that if necessary, she would bring them rice from the moon. A colourful metaphor, perhaps, which no one would take literally- except perhaps a public that had been reduced to eating scraps out of dustbins by seven years of chaos like only the Bandaranaikes can precipitate. It might well be said however, with apologies to the poet Wordsworth, that the child is mother of the woman.
gamini / April 17, 2016
What a JOKE after lambasting the West as the Rapacious West asking for Food support. Dudley Senanayake was ridiculed as Pacha Bahu. I remember UF processions at the ’70 elections, kicking loafs of bread tied to a stick with a string and rice packets stuck on poles shouting slogans, ‘Dudleyge Aley Jathika Poley’, ‘Bath Gotto Apita epa’ etc.
As natural retribution these buggers were rummaging dustbins for left overs to stave off hunger. The curses of the people on the Banadaranayake family is quite evident seeing what has happened to them today. MR and family are not far behind for pay back time.
upi / April 21, 2016
I agree with you hundred percent as I can remember these events.
Sirisena Yatawara / April 17, 2016
There is nothing wrong asking US to provide necesstary food time of short of crop Sri lanka. That will happen to any country any movement in future.
With the democratic cerdintital by USA as leading country in that camp of capitalist democracy is to provide food needy of the e people in world which is responsibilities of democraciesis.
Well Mrs B has made gunien request to Richard Nixon is right way of thinking.
People of USA is not our an enemay,we Sri lankan are belongs to bloc of democracies world ,but not occupy other lands by any means.
Mallaiyuran / April 17, 2016
CT did know where the moon is located, for sometimes, but has been hiding it without telling us. It is not 230,000 miles away. It is only 9,300 miles away.
CT silently killed the duplicity & double faced queen’s “pride, a new “Manhattan Island” those Lankawe’s PhDs after PhDs has been building with their false and cooked up essays for a about a month on the other side of the news column. ( I did not read anyone of them).
The woman has been challenging the free rice Dudley gave to poor until he can have systematic Mahaweli project launched for entire island, rather than the latter JR’s modified accelerated for Sinhalese only. It was only a political challenge to Dudley to take the country towards racial, religious, anti-west, communist political path. While she was saying the “rice from moon” she was working with Russia to materialise the JVP against Dudley.
“Rice from the Moon” slogan was not a prediction of the probable problem that Lankawe was about to face. The famine was not a nature’s strike,but rather unplanned and self induced adversary of the Sinhala Intellectual Politics. For example China did not come and grab the Port City or Hambantota, but it just used a Shylock method to collect back the commission loans it paid. When Deng Xiaoping opened the Chinese economy for western capitalism, with the name of China’s friendship Sirima closed it for west. 1970s communist LSST steered the ship and wrecked for Sirima. Those PhDs fooled the uneducated woman, who was dreaming her as a queen, and took the country to disaster on the economical side.
1948, without any plans of how he was going to steer the industry of the “Ceylon tea Estates” which was producing the world’s most famous tea, without any regards to the country’s economy, Don Stephen make the Tamils landless people. The same way Sirima nationalised the British Tea manufacturing factories. Sirima (or native Veda’s Siri Mao) had the communist LSSP clowns NM and Colvin to change the constitution to make lanaka as a “Socialistic Republic of Lankawe” and then went to be to America.
Modaya voters deserve to go through these, but not Tamils. They need their land back. They not ready to give it for China for the commission loans.
aloy / April 17, 2016
I do not think we should put the blame on Mrs. B alone. The premiership was first entrusted on her as there was no one acceptable to the masses at that time. The masses were deceived by the so called socialist and she had to toe the line. So while countries like South Korea, Singapore etc. were with the west and got help we never got anything. However JR changed the situation by getting the west’s help and got the food security problem solved by developing the Mahaveli etc. and now all our paddy store are full and no place to store. The problem is acute so much so that even the airport warehouses are full. We are not in any danger food security wise. For that we have to be thankful to JR even though he buckled under Indian pressure. But during the last decade or so our politicians may have diverted funds from the treasury through the CB to offshore accounts direct. $1.5 billion is a lot for a poor country like SL. It may be happening even now. Perhaps that is the reason they do not want the public to know what is happening in the CB. If we go on like this ours will be a bankrupt country very soon.
Sellam / April 17, 2016
Even now Sri lanka goes round the world begging for food and financial assistance. And then they talk big and say that some nations are intervening in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.
Roy in Victoria. / April 18, 2016
Why did Mrs B appeal to Washington.?????
Why didn’t she appeal to those she admired, personalities such as Mao, Chou en Lai, Kim il Sung, Tito, the African dictators of the Non Aligned Movement, and all the other blood thirsty thugs in the dictatorial world on whose rule she was modelling Sri Lanka.
Its not nice or pleasant to use the word hate, but this female former head of state brings bitter memories and thoughts of hatred when mentioned. Let there not be further grinding of teeth and vengeful words of hatred. Even those Ceylonese and Sri Lankans who were forced to migrate because of her and her damn husband have consigned the Bandaranaike name to the incinerator to be burnt beyond recognition.
Let the past be past and forgotten.
” Colombo Telegraph “, please stop mentioning this woman anymore. The land has been hurt much by many a devilish politician, specially this ungodly woman, so very kindly, please, stop publishing anything about her anymore. These are times of healing and forgetting, not opening of past wounds. Sri Lanka needs to progress and prosper, there are many good Sri Lankans in the world who would like to contribute their fare share to the lovely land even though some may not be citizens but whose goodwill and love of the land abounds in plenty. Give them a chance.
Its not the country but the buggered politicians who are a curse a bloody curse, a evil omen to peace, harmony, progress and prosperity.
Once again CT please stop this “Bandaranaike yakka” subject for its getting thick on nerves.
Rohan Polwatte / April 19, 2016
This happened in 1973. Still we are begging. Our problems are not solved. Still we are poor. Political Bull Shitters are robbing. we are not self sufficient in rice nor we have a continous power supply. Coal power plant installed at the expense of the public but not a success. I am thinking will we ever solve our problems? NOPE! Since we are stupid!We only know to rob to earn quick bucks. We dont care about the future generation.Thats why the weterners call us 3RD WORLD!
Dunuwila / April 20, 2016
Ratwatte and Mahawelatenne is in her genes, you cannot expect better
The 3rd world tribal mentality meant she got elected, whilst many good and capable people will not get elected, the sympathy vote for relations and Buddhist monks killing SWRD
Vivian Goonewardena was by far the best lady in politics
Queen Victoria was the most powerful person ever