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Norway's bizarre role in Sri Lanka

by H. L. D. Mahindapala

"The old Vikings" headlined the Washington Post (April 21, 2002) now strut the world stage as "raiders for peace", "Norwegian peacemakers," wrote Douglas Mellgren. "have assumed many roles: broker, facilitator, go-between or simply host, often changing as needed."

Norway's roles were elaborated by the former Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, a Lutheran preacher, in a speech delivered on the 100th anniversary of Norwegian Independence at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, last year. He said: "The examples of Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sudan, Guatemala and the Middle East show that Norway's participation in peace processes takes different forms.

"It ranges from official facilitator of negotiations, as in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, - to sponsoring a back channel for secret negotiations, as in the Middle East - to actor in an international coalition, as in Sudan, and also in Ethiopia-Eritrea, Somalia, Colombia and Guatemala," he said.

Bondevik also outlined the usual Norwegians sales pitch promoted to market their image as peace-makers. Here is a sample from Bondevik's speech: "We are also regarded in many quarters as impartial.

Norway has no colonial past, and we are usually perceived as having no hidden political or economic agendas. Being a small country it is possible for us to be discreet, which can be a crucial factor in some processes."

What he skipped in his presentation to the Victoria University is the reverse side of the Norwegian coin which is not so benign.

First, Norway is the fifth largest producer of arms - a thriving Norwegian industry that contradicts its professed aims of promoting global peace. Besides, it is in the habit of taking invited rebel groups (example: LTTE) on conducted tours of their arms factories.?

Second, it is also the third largest producer of oil and it has its eyes on wherever there is oil to be explored - and Sri Lanka is now a big blip in the radar screen of oil producers.

Third, in 1977 Gen. Kjell Langerud Garc?a, a Lutheran of Norwegian descent, became president in one of the most fraudulent elections in Guatemala. His record of human rights violations was so appalling that the Carter Administration stopped all aid.

Fourth, as proven in the case of Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim has stepped beyond the boundaries of the helpless "facilitator" that he pretends to be to that of an arrogant "arbitrator" attempting, at times, to dictate to the Sri Lankan government even the wording of its public statements.

And, last but not the least, though Norway is not a member of the EU it is a very active member of NATO. It is an active partner in the military operations bombing Afghanistan because terrorism (only the Islamic variety that affects the West) is high on the agenda of NATO.

If Norway is a principled activist in peace-making will it go to war in Afghanistan? Besides, if war is a legitimate alternative to fight terrorism why is it wrong for Sri Lanka to fight terrorism like the way Norway does in Afghanistan? Is there a difference between terrorism in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka?

That apart, consider how Norway reacts not to instances of terrorist violence running for over 30 years as in Sri Lanka but to a mere demonstration in front of the Norwegian base in Afghanistan. When about 300 Afghans demonstrated in front of the Norwegian base in Meymaneh, Faryab, north-west Afghanistan in February this year the camp commander ordered jets to swoop down on unarmed demonstrators and the soldiers inside the camp opened fire killing three civilians and injuring more.

In Sri Lanka they have reversed the roles in the most offensive manner. What, for instance, would Ms. Helen Olafsdottir, the spokesperson for the European Peace Monitors, tell the BBC if the Sri Lankan security forces opened fire not on a group of demonstrators but on the LTTE cadres deliberately provoking another war? Her verbal attacks on the Sri Lankan forces would have been more rapid that any LTTE machine gun fire. These are the Norwegian standards that the victims of LTTE terror are expected to accept obediently.

The role of Norway should also be assessed from the declared principles and the objectives of the Norwegian government. Bondevik outlined explicitly his government's official line in his address to the Victoria University. He said: "After the end of the cold war, the two main threats to international security are proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. No cause can justify terrorism."

During this time Erik Solheim, though he was not in Bondevik's party, was the appointed official by the Royal Norwegian government to facilitate the peace process in Sri Lanka. One would expect that, in keeping with his Prime Minister's declared principles, Solheim would operate on the strict principle that "no cause can justify terrorism."

Amplifying the Norwegian point of view Dagsavisen, a leading Norwegian newspaper wrote, soon after USA-UK alliance (with Norway in tow) started bombing Afghanistan:

"The military action which the world has been waiting for since 11 September started yesterday. The USA and the UK initiated the war in Afghanistan by bombing military installations and communication lines. All the signs point to this being the start of a prolonged offensive against the Taliban regime and the bases Osama bin Laden has been allowed to establish in the country. Loss of life on all sides is unavoidable. The world is entering an extremely difficult period, in which there is a significant danger of instability and growing conflict.

The war against terrorism can never be won by military might, but only by a coordinated attack in which all possible means are brought to bear.

Diplomatically the terrorists must be isolated. Financially they must be starved of funds. Politically the arguments which contribute to the recruitment of terrorists must lose their validity. But the struggle must always be waged in a way that does not infringe human rights, democracy, liberty and openness. It is first and foremost these values which are the target of the terrorists' attacks. If we allow these values to be compromised, the terrorists will have won after all."

Now any sensible reader is entitled to ask, based on Norwegian principles enunciated above, why the victims of Tamil Tiger terrorism should be asked to compromise and allow the terrorists to win, after all. Based on Norwegian principles, why isn't Norway, which is a primary collecting centre for LTTE in Europe, blocking the flow of funds to the Tiger terrorists?

When the declared Norwegian principles state categorically that "politically the arguments which contribute to the recruitment of terrorists must lose their validity" why does Erik Solheim intervene to prohibit arguments presented at the Geneva talks to expose the war crimes of recruiting children forcibly by the LTTE?

The critics of Norway's role in Sri Lanka are not asking Erik Solheim to do anything special, or to go out of his way to favour the tortured and brutalised victims of the LTTE. They are only asking Norway to adhere to what it preaches, especially by Lutheran religio-political ministers. After all, Lutheranism is the official religion of Norway and its message must have some bearing on the Norwegian policy-makers and peace-makers.?

Or is this all a sham? Bondevik states categorically that terrorism is one of the two great evils of the post-Cold War era. And they have gone all out to combat it in Afghanistan. So what are the responsibilities and the duties of Solheim and the Nordic peace monitors when they are faced with the deadliest terrorist group in the world? Erik Solheim is not a babe who had just lost his milk teeth.

He is seasoned enough to know what he is doing. In Sri Lanka he knows that he has to choose between the declared principles of his own government (along with its obligations to international humanitarian laws) and his commitment to save the skin of his friend Anton Balasingham and his boss Prabhakaran.

As the record shows, at every critical moment he uses his position to save the skin of the LTTE. For instance, he is currently in the forefront of the LTTE cry to disarm Karuna's group. ?The Hindu (April 5, 2006) hit the nail on the head when it wrote: "After four agonising years, the Sri Lankan peace process has boiled down to a single issue that has nothing to do with the rights of Tamils.

It is the survival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has centre-staged the bizarre demand that the Sri Lankan Government should guarantee its welfare by disarming Karuna, the breakaway LTTE leader." Practically all the demands of the LTTE - whether it is to remove Karuna, or to force the Army out of the High Security Zone, or to postpone elections -- are for the survival of the LTTE and have nothing with rights of the Tamils.

The persistent and escalating demands of the LTTE have been to strengthen its political and killing machine and not peace. Invariably, Erik Solheim too jumps into this bandwagon with both his feet because his survival also depends on the "strengthening" the claims of the LTTE. The partisan role of Norway is explicit in protecting the pro-LTTE Tamils in Norway.

The Sri Lankan community in Norway is very critical of the pro-LTTE policies of Solheim and his government. For instance,, the website of Pottu Amman, who heads the KGB-type operations from the Vanni gulag, blatantly flies the Royal Norwegian flag on its masthead implying that it has the Royal assent of the Norwegian government. Anti-LTTE Tamils are persecuted but the Norwegian Police have yet to take firm action to protect the victims of LTTE terror on Norwegian soil.

Norwegian government and Police are aware that Norway is one of the leading bases for the collection of funds. The latest Human Rights Watch highlighted the ruthless tactics of the LTTE agents collecting money from foreign bases. The Royal Norwegian government of which Solheim is a Minister has not lifted finger to stop this illegal operation. But it has swiftly raided Somalians organizations accusing of them raising funds for terrorism back home.

Here is the report from the Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, on the raids conducted on the Somalians:?

"Den norske Bank (DnB) in Oslo discovered that NOK 16 million was circulating through four different accounts belonging to Somali aid organizations. With the backing of the National Police Security Service (POT) and foreign intelligence agencies, the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime mounted simultaneous raids on 13 addresses. Norwegian police believe that some of the money from Norwegian-based Somalis may have been channelled to terrorist organizations."

Why are the Somalians raided and not the LTTE agents? Is the Norwegian Police and the Royal Norwegian government of which Erik Solheim is a Minister that incompetent or ignorant to realise that the LTTE has made Norway its base for laundering the funds collected from all over Europe by the LTTE agents? Isn't this Erik Solheim's way of scratching the back of LTTE in return for the LTTE scratching his back?

Besides, as a signatory to the UN Security council Resolution 1373 (2001) Norway has undertaken to

2 (b) "Deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens;

2 (d) "Prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other State or their citizens;

2 (e) "Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparations or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorists acts is brought to justice and ensure that, in addition to any other measures against them, such terrorists acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terrorist acts;"

The refusal of the Royal Norwegian government to act against the LTTE violating international and domestic laws of Norway clinches the argument, beyond any doubt, that Solheim and his government are blatantly playing a partisan role that has exacerbated the peace process. This makes him a part of the problem and not the solution. In providing the LTTE with a safe haven to carry out its terrorist activities within its territories make Solheim and the Royal Norwegian government guilty of being a partner in the crimes committed by the LTTE.?

The fact that he is the "facilitator" does not give him the right to be above international law. Nor does it exempt him or his government from the guilt of violating the fundamental principles of international humanitarian laws. Not when his Prime Minister, Bondevik told the University of Victoria: "Thus our efforts to prevent violent conflict, resolve conflict and avoid resumption of conflict must be made more systematic. And they should rest on a firm foundation of international law, the United Nations Charter and the UN Security Council."

So when will Solheim wake up to these realities and play the role of the honest broker to save peace and the victims of LTTE crimes against humanity and war crimes? His attempts to satisfy the "bizarre" demands of the LTTE have taken him nowhere.

He must think of new strategies and those strategies cannot be developed by satisfying the demands of only party. He can succeed only if he acknowledges the aspirations of all communities living and working within one homeland built on the fundamental principles of democracy, pluralism and rule of law that guarantees the right to dissent without yielding to the dictates of a sole representative in any one community.?

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