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Fair dues

WITH JAPAN'S Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko due to arrive on a state visit next week, the Japanese have hired the slick PR firm Brunswick in an attempt to nullify protesters demanding that the Emperor apologise for Japanese war crimes. In an informative press kit that has reached Pandora's desk, Brunswick includes several dozen recent quotes from British newspapers.

Typical of these was the Sun's, "Old soldiers are demanding a full apology". In fact, as Brunswick points out, the Japanese have apologised and the British Government and the Royal British Legion have both accepted this. Moreover, the Emperor has no constitutional power to apologise to anybody for anything on behalf of Japan. On the question of fair compensation, however, the PR flacks are less convincing, saying that Japan has paid some compensation based on their San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951.

Pandora doubts if any sum of money could ever be enough, but that doesn't mean men and women whose lives suffered irreparable damage from the Japanese don't have the right to seek fair recompense. It would be agreeable, however, if the media could stop their hysterical anti- Japanese squawking and let the former PoWs seek justice with dignity.

Bus pass

MEANWHILE at a meeting of the influential All Party Group on ex-POWs in the Far East, Peter Bottomley provoked a wave of embarassment among assembled MPs, press and ex-POWs with his unthinking choice of words. Talking of the possibility of more compensation from Japan, Bottomley said there was a "chink" of opportunity. A few minutes later, he repeated the unfortunate phrase. The gagging crowd was, however, immediately distracted by the sound of a "Vote Yes For A London Mayor" campaign bus passing by and playing raucous music. No, it wasn't "Slow Boat to China."

Fleeing lords

COULD it be the curry fumes? Something seems to be repellent at the Conservative Whips' office in the House of Lords.

The current issue of The House magazine reports that 17 peers have resigned the Tory Whip. These include the Duke of Westminster, who had previously voiced concern in 1993 over the reform of leaseholds, along with the former Arts Minister Lord Gowrie; the distinguished Asian businessman Lord Bagri; and the former M&S chief Lord Sieff of Brimpton.

This brings the Tory majority down to 472, which still beats Labour's 156 by a mile. Pandora is pleased, however, to report that 323 noble lords proclaim themselves Independent.

Dad Jr

PANDORA salutes BJ Habibie, 61, who has just replaced Mr Suharto as President of Indonesia. "He regards me as his own parent. He always seeks out my advice on the principles of life." Who wrote this touching paternal account of Habibie? None other than former President Suharto himself in his autobiography. When Habibie was elevated to the vice-presidency last March, Indonesia's currency dropped by 36 per cent. Habibie likes to present visiting dignitaries with gold-plated assault rifles. Let us hope he won't be needing one himself in the near future.

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