Erik Solheim – What future holds for him?
Solheim getting kicked out came in the wake of a strong protest by Sri Lanka to the Norwegian government for his meeting with the Global Tamil Forum/ Norwegian Council of Eelam Tamils (GTF/NCET), on Friday, March 16.
On the morning of 22 March, prior to the Geneva debate on the Sri Lanka resolution, a large number of Sri Lankans in Norway gathered outside the Norwegian Parliament to protest the US Resolution and Norway's support for it and handed over letters listing out their views to key legislators.
This was the first time ever that such a demonstration with Sri Lankan national Flags has taken place in Oslo. Even though the participants knew they faced a daunting task with regard to the resolution on Sri Lanka, there was a great deal of relief due to the departure of Erik Solheim from the government announced just hours earlier.
Many thought that they should also be displaying a cartoon in a Norwegian publication that morning which showed what the former peace envoy of Norway would have learnt from some developing countries--globetrotting as a minister and then getting unceremoniously kicked out of government (see the shoe print on his back) while claiming his innocence.
One of Solheim's last meetings was with GTF and NCET a few days before his dismissal from the government.
One of his last public comments was: 'The resolution is probably not very strong in language, but it is because the U.S. wants to gain a broad coalition in which several developing countries represented.’ Sri Lanka's official protest on his latest actions were made to the Norwegian Government (Secy General of MFA) on Monday & Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (incl. parliamentary group leader of Solheim's party) on Tuesday 21 March & 24 hours later, Solheim was removed from the cabinet of ministers.
Solheim is criticized for meeting too many diaspora groups to try and satisfy them for their votes. But according to many, now the newly elected leader of that party (Socialist Left-SV) has dumped Solheim in order to get fresh votes to the party!
Sri Lanka’s view of this development—simply put, "We do not want to comment on ministerial changes in another country. However, we cannot hide our glee as the person sacked is one who had nothing but one-sided comments against our country, not to mention aiding and abetting a separatist agenda while representing the interests of a ruthless terror organization."
When Norwegian media asked for the views of Sri Lanka on Solheim's departure from government after 7+ years, a senior Sri Lankan diplomat responded "It will further strengthen Sri Lanka-Norway bilateral relations."
The man who kicked Solheim out of the ministerial portfolios, the newly elected leader of the Socialist Left Party, Audun Lysbakken, has said: “Our dependence on the US is very old-fashioned. We should no longer have a situation where a super-power in Washington is setting the agenda. It’s not wise for a small country to be so bound by the USA.”
Audun Lysbakken who took over the leadership of the Socialist Left Party found that the Partty’s popularity has dropped from 7.5 percent in 2005 to 3.7 percent in 2012. According to Norwegian law to have representation in the parliament one party must maintain minimum level of 4 percent in popularity.
On 22 March Erik Solheim was removed from his ministerial portfolios and replaced by two members of the Socialist Left Party:
Heikki Holmas – Minister of International Development
Bard Vegar Solhjell – Minister of Environment
Norwegian media last weekend reported on Solheim conveying, publicly, his deep unhappiness over his dismissal from ministerial portfolios and has gone on to criticize his newly elected party leader.
Solheim's contention was that by sidelining a senior of his caliber and bringing in 'young inexperienced replacements' (both his replacements are 40 years old), Norway will lose out on its 'influence' on the global stage! Most Norwegians are simply appalled at these comments. It is also reported now that Solheim is canvassing for an Ambassadorial post. Just prior to his dismissal, Solheim's Facebook page had this comment about his 'hobbies'--"Travelling around the world"!!!
Erik Solheim (born January 18, 1955 in Oslo, Norway) a Norwegian politician for the Socialist Left Party (SV). Solheim was the leader of Socialist Youth 1977–1980 and party secretary of the Socialist Left Party 1981–1985. In 1987, he became leader of the Socialist Left Party and rose quickly to become a popular figure in Norwegian politics. In the 1989 election he was elected to Parliament from Sør-Trøndelag in what was to then SVs best election, but was the following two elections (in 1993 and 1997 Solheim was elected from Oslo).
From the spring of 2000 he was granted a leave of absence from parliament to serve as special advisor to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sri Lanka.
He went on to become one of the most recognizable figures in the peace negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. Until being appointed minister, he worked as a diplomat and a participant in the Norwegian delegation that unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War before the outbreak of Eelam War IV.
He was appointed Minister of International Development in 2005 and also Minister of the Environment in 2007, and served as minister until 22 March 2012.
- Asian Tribune -