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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2366

Col Karuna hits back with more details on Erik Solheim’s dealings with Prabhakaran and Anton Balasingham

Colombo, 30 November, (Asiantribune.com): Rebutting the denial issued by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on Erik Solheim’s questionable dealings with the Tamil Tigers, V.Muralitharan, alias Colonel Karuna, hit back giving more details of the transactions, including the gifting of a six-foot TV to the TV addict Velupillai Prabhakaran and 16 million kroners handed to Anton Balasingham to buy ammunition.Col. Karuna: "I think Erik Solheim might not have disclosed the details about the purchase of the  6’ TV to the Foreign Ministry as it happened especially in Bangkok." Col. Karuna: "I think Erik Solheim might not have disclosed the details about the purchase of the 6’ TV to the Foreign Ministry as it happened especially in Bangkok."

Col. Karuna told the Asian Tribune that he would not withdraw one syllable of what he told the Editor of the Daily News, Bandula Jayasekera. Col. Karuna, deputy to Prabhakaran, was a close confidante of the Tiger Supremo, when he led the Tiger forces to victory after victory in battles against the Sri Lankan forces.

Revealing more details, he re-confirmed, among other things, that Erik Solheim gave 16 million kroners to Balasingham and Tamilselvan appealed to Solheim to buy a big TV for Prabhakaran.

Asian Tribune published the interview of Colonel Karuna on 27 November under the title "Solheim in the pay of Tigers: his house in Norway bought with Tiger money - Col. Karuna."

In a press release under the caption, "Open Letter to the Editor," the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the contents of Col. Karuna’s face-to-face interview with the Editor of the Daily News. It accused the Daily News of spreading lies. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its denial said: “The information on which the questions and answers in the interview are based unfortunately contains many incorrect and false claims about Norway and International Development Minister Erik Solheim. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to take this opportunity to dispel some of these misconceptions and lies."

Asian Tribune contacted Colonel Karuna for his comments on the denial issued by the Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Here are the details provided by Col. Karuna:

"I think Erik Solheim might not have disclosed the details about the purchase of the 6’ TV to the Foreign Ministry as it happened especially in Bangkok. It was Tamilselvan who informed Erik Solheim about Prabakaran’s request for a TV.

"Subsequently, when I was with our delegation in Bangkok, Tamilselvan invited Tharmalingham, alias KP the key agent purchasing arms for the Tigers in the underworld, to the Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok and money was paid to him to purchase the TV on behalf of Erik Solheim. KP was told that this was to be presented to Prabakaran.

"KP who is wanted by the Interpol on many counts of charges on illegal operations, bought the TV and gave it to Tamilselvan to be carried to Vanni on the instructions of Erik Solheim.

"This happened during the fourth round of talks between the LTTE and the Government of Sri lanka held on 06 – 09 January 2003. After the Conference was over, we flew out of Bangkok to Vanni in an Air Lanka flight. At the Bangkok international airport the station Manager of Air Lanka refused to allow TV to be taken free of charge. He said that Tamilselvan must pay for excessive luggage charges and again Tamilselvan called Erik Solheim and it was Erik Solheim who rushed to the airport and solved the excessive luggage problem.

"Later, at the Sri Lanka airport we had problems regarding this TV. Tamilselvan managed to go through the customs without paying any taxes. Tiran Alles was always there for those things. But Air Force helicopter people refused to take the huge luggage with the TV in the helicopter. Later Norwegian Embassy in Colombo made special transport arrangement to take the TV by road. Along with the TV luggage two Norwegian Embassy people also went and delivered it in Vanni to be presented to Parabakaran as a special gift from Erik Solheim.

"I wish to recall that no one would have forgotten about the US. $ 100,000 worth of radio equipment brought into Sri Lanka in the middle of December 2002, under diplomatic cover by the Norwegian Embassy during the time when John Westbog was the Ambassador in Colombo," said Col. Karuna.

Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry in its denial said: "It is also claimed in the article that Mr Solheim gave 16 million Norwegian kroner to Mr Balasingham. This has no basis in reality and is false information."

Responding to this denial, Colonel Karuna said: "It was agreed with LTTE that they will be amply rewarded in case their representatives participate in the first Sri Lanka Donor conference held in Norway on 25 November in Oslo, where representatives of 16 countries as well as the then Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe too participated. Anton Balasingham participated in the conference on behalf of the LTTE. The image of Balasingham shaking hand with Ranil Wickremasinghe was highlighted and the conference was hailed as a success.

"Norway’s role was hailed internationally. Subsequently when we had the third round of Peace talks with the Government of Sri Lanka on 02 to 05 December in Oslo, Norway, I was the part of the negotiation team led by Anton Balasingham. During that round of talks Balasingham showed us the papers connected with the fund transfer of Norwegian Kroner 16 million which was subsequently transferred to an account, the detail of which was not known to me. But Balasingham told me that money was meant for the purchase of a shipment of arms. But I am aware that the arms shipments arrived to Mullaithievu after 40 days.

"In the beginning whenever Erik Solheim went to Vanni he had on several occasions met Prabhakaran privately, outside the official talks he had with Tamilselvan.

"In those talks he has on a few occasion advised Prabakaran how to run his outfit. I was personally present in one of those meeting where he was trying to advise Prabakaran.

"I think I have clarified with more precise details of what appeared in my earlier interview.

"I am unable to understand why Erik Solheimm did not come forward personally to deny those allegations levelled against him by me.

"I think that Erik Solheim integrity is at stake and it is high time he personally come with his explanation," said Col Karuna.

Col Karuna also added: “We know very well that Erik Solheim was earlier from a small left wing party and was a political nobody. But it was the Sri Lanka facilitation that built him as a successful international peace-broker.

"We know well that Erik Solheim is a rich forest owner, but he received money from the LTTE as he was having some cash problems and the LTTE made use of the opportunity to help him. The issue of paying money was discussed by Anton Balasingham and I am well aware of the payment made.

"It is now up to Erik Solheim to come forward and deny the allegation and he should not hide behind the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to save himself.

"This is not the first time Norwegian peace facilitators received money from the parties involved in the conflicts.

"Bribing Norwegian peace-brokers is not a new thing. Israelis bribed Mr. Morten Rød Larsen and his wife with 100.000 US dollars after he provided an Israeli foundation with substantial amounts. There are numerous allegations of kickbacks from the 100 million US dollars Norway is giving to corrupt Palestinian organizations. Even though the UN has informed Norway about the widespread embezzlement, the flow of funds continued.

"These foreign funds were diverted from the Palestinian people who were supposed to receive it to Swiss banks. The Palestinians were angry and was a major factor in the Hamas victory over the Fatah party. My point of view is that the lack of control of foreign funds destabilized both Palestine and the peace process. This resulted in the chaos we have today.

"The same corrupt practices are applicable to Sri Lanka and LTTE too. Even some of the NGOs are funded by Norway to speak on their behalf against Sri Lankan opposed to the LTTE,” said Col. Karuna.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry in its denial said "Further it is stated that "Erik Solheim gifted a 6 ft TV screen to Prabhakaran to watch films". The Ministry would again like underline that "it is surprised to see that such blatant lies are being printed by the Daily News. Mr Solheim has certainly not bought a television for Mr Prabhakaran."

Regarding this denial, I think it is important that we should read the question and answer connected with this denial.

I was asked "Who killed Lakshman Kadirgamar? Who killed Kethesh Loganathan?"

My reply to this question was "It is the LTTE. There is no doubt. Lakshman Kadirgamar was Prabhakaran's biggest problem because the world accepted what Kadirgamar said.

"Do you know that Prabhakaran watch many films and he used the method in the movie 'Day of the Jackal' to kill Kadirgamar.

He got the idea from the film. I must also tell you that Erik Solheim gifted a 6 ft TV screen to Prabhakaran to watch films.

"But, former Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen was totally against it.

But Solheim went ahead and gifted the screen. About Kethesh. He was an intellectual. Tamil people liked him and he was never against the Tamil people. Kethesh was against Prabhakaran and that's why he was killed."

Political analysts commenting on the reaction of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said that this reaction was predictable. The allegations made by Col. Karuna should be taken seriously because he is the only available eye-witness who was privy to the inside dealings of the LTTE. His accusation sound credible considering in particular the partisan role played by Erik Solheim.

"His allegations are damaging to the credibility and the impartiality of the role by Norway as non-partisan facilitators of peace. Erik Solheim’s role has come under flak from all political quarters. But this is the first time that it has been attacked, with specific instances, from a Tamil source that was close to Prabhakaran. Solheim’s rush to appease the Tigers has not helped his image either. It was even reported that he picked up the liquor bill of Anton Balasingham after the talks held in Tokyo. Rightly or wrongly Solheim is in the dock and Norway and the Co-Chairs have to re-consider his role in the peace process," said a leading commentator.

Open Letter To The Editor – Norwegian statement in support of Erik Solheim

Reference is made to the article in the 27 November edition of the Sri Lanka Daily News entitled "Norway gave money to the LTTE: Karuna". The article reproduces an alleged interview with Karuna conducted by the editor of the Daily News. The information on which the questions and answers in the interview are based unfortunately contains many incorrect and false claims about Norway and International Development Minister Erik Solheim. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to take this opportunity to dispel some of these misconceptions and lies.

First of all it is claimed that "LTTE helped Mr Solheim to buy his house in Oslo". This is a very serious allegation and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is surprised to see that a respected and responsible newspaper like the Daily News is spreading obvious lies about Mr Solheim.

It is also claimed in the article that Mr Solheim gave 16 million Norwegian kroner to Mr Balasingham. This has no basis in reality and is false information.

Further it is stated that "Erik Solheim gifted a 6 ft TV screen to Prabhakaran to watch films". The Ministry would again like underline that it is surprised to see that such blatant lies are being printed by the Daily News. Mr Solheim has certainly not bought a television for Mr Prabhakaran.

More false claims are put forward by the Daily News when it states that "Solheim advised Prabhakaran on how to govern in the future". This is an absurd allegation and has no basis in reality.

It is unfortunate that the Daily News is printing obvious lies and illfounded allegations about Norway and Mr Solheim.

Other errors and misconceptions reproduced in the interview have been commented on previously. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will refrain from further comments on these now.

Norway remains committed to assisting the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as an impartial facilitator of the peace process for as long as the parties request our support.

Yours sincerely,

Odd Naustdal
Acting Head of Information

- Asian Tribune -

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