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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2730

Tigers stab Erik Solheim, their best friend, in the back

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

When the two delegations of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the LTTE arrived in Oslo for their latest round of talks Erik Solheim, the Norwegian facilitator who had gone out on a limb to save the LTTE from international pressures and opprobrium, had grand visions of being in the smiling centre of the two parties shaking hands and informing the media that the LTTE had agreed not to target Nordic Truce Monitors. But the LTTE had other plans for him. Even before they left Sri Lanka they had planned to scuttle the talks like all other talks which were not going go their way.

If the talks got off to a new start the LTTE would have to face the flak from all quarters, including Norway, and agree (at least nominally) to adhere to the Ceasefire Agreement and guarantee security for the Truce Monitors. But from the LTTE point of view there was nothing to be gained at the talks that were going to restrain them. Earlier, they refused to go to the Tokyo Conference of international donors which had pledged $4.5 billion because the aid was tied to guaranteeing human rights and democratising of the one-man regime in the Vanni.

The LTTE was also under unprecedented international pressure. Canada and EU had banned them. The Truce Monitors had declared that the LTTE had no rights to the sea in the north and the east as it belonged to the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. India was not willing to accommodate a “third force” in the Indian Ocean.

Amnesty International had classified child abduction and torture of abducted adults as war crimes. Human Rights Watch had exposed extortion of money through a wide network of LTTE collecting agencies in America and Europe. And even Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s deep throat, was not fit enough to open his mouth at the proposed round of talks in Oslo. Frustrated and isolated by these factors the exit strategy available to the LTTE was to make a grand pretence of going to talks and then scuttle it at the last minute on frivolous excuses.

One of the main excuses of the LTTE was to complain that the GoSL had sent a delegation which was not headed by a Cabinet Minister who could make decisions. A rather angry Solheim told the journalists that the LTTE was provided with a complete list of the GoSL delegation prior to departure from Sri Lanka. The LTTE did not inform Erik Solheim then that they would refuse to meet the GoSL delegation face-to-face in Oslo. When the LTTE dropped this bombshell on the eve of the talks Solheim was visibly upset that his best friend in the peace process managed by him had stabbed him in the back.

It was a major embarrassment to him. To cap it all, Anton Balasingham, with whom he had a close relationship (he even picked up Balasingham’s unpaid bills of liquor left behind at hotels), was not going to be there to talk business.

That was not all. LTTE signalled its contempt for Norwegian mediation when they brushed aside the official program prepared painstakingly by the Royal Norwegian Utenriks Department (UD - Foreign Ministry) and followed their own agenda. The LTTE priorities were prepared by Yogaraja Balasingham, a central figure in the LTTE’s fundraising in Europe, who had arranged meetings with former Prime Minister Bondevik – another failed figure in Norwegian peace-making.

The third insult was the LTTE’s refusal to talk with Swedish, Finish and Danish SLMM representatives. The LTTE did not inform Erik Solheim prior to the arrival in Oslo they would boycott the SLMM talks. The LTTE wanted to talk only with the Norwegians and representatives from Iceland. The LTTE said they would not accept Truce Monitors SLMM monitors from any EU country. This statement would not have been a surprise for Solheim but he was frustrated. His efforts were going nowhere. His position was no different from that of the LTTE: going nowhere except into war.

GoSL delegation leader Palitha Kohona told the NRK (Government owned TV channel) that he was surprised by the lack of respect shown by the LTTE towards the Norwegian hosts. Norway had paid the air fare to get LTTE representatives flown from Sydney and New York. He suggested the LTTE had travelled to Oslo for other purposes than talk about the issues on the official agenda. http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/utenriks/5706124.html

LTTE was using every trick in their book to avoid talking to the GOSL representatives. The latter flew directly from Sri Lanka well prepared for the talks. The GoSL had a cleaner record. It had never targeted the SLMM nor put major obstacles in the path of the monitoring. They were also buoyed by Canadian and EU ban. Their mission was to retain the services of the Nordic Truce Monitors on land and sea (even though they were not happy with some of their decisions and judgements) mainly to keep a check on LTTE violence. Mahinda Rajapakse’s restraint in the face of provocative violence was paying dividends internationally and nationally and GoSL needs a third party to bear witness to violations – 95% of which were committed by the LTTE.

The damage to Solheim’s image

One of the first victims of the Oslo fiasco is Erik Solheim. It has damaged Erik Solheim’s lifetime labour of building an image as a human rights and peace activist. Of late, Solheim had cultivated journalists to build his image. Solheim invited a team of handpicked journalists to accompany him on his trip to Sri Lanka.

The Norwegian journalists were taken on a conducted tour to enhance his image. They visited the projects funded by Norad to help the poor and needy. They followed every footstep of Solheim visiting a Buddhist Temple which had received funds from Norway. In return the monks praised him as the “angel of peace”.

Next stop: the National Peace Council (NPC) – another NGO funded generously by UD. Predictably, Jehan Perera, the Director, NPC, lavished praise on Erik Solheim for his contribution to restore peace in Sri Lanka. Next stop: LTTE Peace Secretariat. The same story is repeated. Erik Solheim is beaming. All footage of these events are sent home to catch prime time television to boost Erik Solheim’s image as an indefatigable peacemaker sacrificing quality time with his small children in order to save Sri Lanka. The TV programs and numerous articles about Erik Solheim’s magic formulas for peace have made him a shining star within the Socialist Left Party and even among the Norwegian voters whose knowledge of Sri Lankan affairs is as narrow as one of their fjords.

Erik Solheim’s party, the Socalist Left party (SV) has serious electoral problems with voter approval dropping significantly after the last election. Erik Solheim had hoped to polish his image some more by scoring heavily in the proposed Oslo talks.

Everyone anticipated the meeting would be a success. The main issue on the agenda was the safety of the SLMM. What could possibly go wrong? No one was expecting the GoSL delegation to upset the apple cart as they could not be seen to derail the peace process or fire the first bullet. No problems there, for Solheim. And the only thing required of the LTTE was to show up, shake hands and promise to do their utmost to avoid shooting at the SLMM monitors.

Of course, if everything went according to Solheim’s plans the LTTE would have been allowed to use the platform to condemn the EU for outlawing the LTTE. Erik Solheim too would support the LTTE view and brand the EU ban as a counter-productive exercise and a setback for the peace process. A win-win situation for Erik Solheim, eh? Or so it seemed!

Tamilselvan stabs Solheim

Then Tamilselvan stepped in just at the time Erik Solheim desperately needed to reinforce his image as a successful peace-maker. He stabbed Solheim in the back shattering his image.

However, Solheim can’t blame the LTTE because his efforts had been to arm the LTTE with the knife that is sticking in his back. Had he weakened instead of strengthening the LTTE it would not have had the power to lift its hand to plunge the knife between his shoulder blades. By going along with the LTTE, and manufacturing excuses for their brutalities and providing covert and overt assistance to them, he was rewarded finally with a permanent pain in his back.

Not knowing how to handle the deteriorating Sri Lankan crisis an frustrated Erik Solheim despatched a letter with the five questions to President Rajapakse and Prabhakaran. This was Solheim’s way of admitting failure and passing the buck. It is most unlikely to bring him the results he expects from the LTTE.

Not when the war clouds are gathering fast over the northern horizon. The Chief of the LTTE Navy, Soosai, addressing a passing out parade, announced last week that his Leader is preparing for a “blitzkrieg” in the north and the east to his “final war.

He said that Prabhakaran would not go on the past strategy of capturing territory piece-by-piece. LTTE is also building a reserve army of civilians who are given a ten-day training in handling arms. Yesterday the Tamil Resurgence Force, one of the fighting fronts of the LTTE, declared that they would intensify their attacks on the Sri Lankan Security Forces and also attack Tamil government allies. Tamil websites also reported yesterday that Lt. Col. Mehanthai, area commander of Mannar region, was killed in an anti-personnel mine activated by the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol of the Sri Lankan forces.

Tensions have reached boiling point, according analysts. It is doubtful whether Solheim questionnaire will provide any substantial results in the light of violence escalating from both sides. Political analysts argue that the LTTE either has to come to talks or go to war. But the LTTE has lost the earlier monopoly of violence with the government reacting with punitive action to deter the LTTE from resorting to violence each time it intends pressing for its demands.

In the next phase the LTTE is expected to throw in a sizeable amount of civilians into battle. As this is on the cards the Security Forces will be facing a massive propaganda blast from the LTTE accusing them of killing civilians. Analysts agree if LTTE launches its postponed war due to the tsunami it will be the mother of all battles resulting in the biggest blood bath ever.

LTTE will want to have it both ways: throw the civilians into battle and then accuse the government of killing civilians, including children and women. Tamil websites are plastered with pictures of male and female civilians participating in the People’s Army. So if Solheim is expecting the LTTE to back down and come to talks, after he issued five questions, he has to think again. At the end of his peace process which he launched in 2000 Solheim is now left with only a menacing war looming overhead.

But the Norwegian voters have been fed regularly by UD propaganda of how Norway has been a leader in building peace around the world. Their leaders go round world claiming to posses some extraordinary skills in peace-building, peace-making and peace-monitoring. But the record on the board does not match up to their boasts.

Organisations and nations are using Norway’s obsession with image-building to milk it for funds. When the UN needs more money they travel to Norway and brag about Norway’s contribution to world peace and, of course, Norway’s generous aid to the poor and needy (add: aid to line the pockets of UN bureaucrats). When the US arms industry needs Norwegian contracts the US ambassador showers praise on Norway’s role in peace-building around the world and the urgent need for future cooperation. Even Hamas and LTTE have been repeating the story of the amazing Norwegians who are rewarded with funds and diplomatic assistance. While the Hamas leaders are begging for more Norwegian money they get blown up by Hellfire missiles. Who makes these missiles? It is a co- production by the “brothers in peace”, Norway and USA.

Norway’s image as a protector of human rights

The funding and political support of the LTTE damages Norway image as a protector of human rights. Norway has never respected human rights. The Norwegian history is full of shameful human rights violations. Even the UN and the EU has written extensive reports of the current HR violations in Norway. Even Pottu Amman could pick up a trick or two if he studied the Norwegian HR violations.
Norway is critic of other nation’s human rights violations.

At the same time they are either turning a blind eye to human rights violations of their allies or actively contributing to those violations through overt and covert means. One example is the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp, a prison camp maintained by Norwegian companies. The Norwegian company Aker Kværner has more than 300 contracts with the prison camp. Aker Kværner is one of the largest contributors to former Prime Minister Bondevik Oslo Peace Centre. The billionaire owner of the company, Kjell Inge Røkke, is a supporter of the Labour/Socialist Left coalition where Erik Solheim is a Minister.

When a Norwegian journalist interviewed American generals running the camp bragging about the Norwegian assistance, the Norwegian government TV channel refused to screen the program. Fortunately the private TV channel TV2 aired the program “Guantamo - A little piece of Norway”. This exposed the duplicity of Norwegian politics.

Yogaraja Balasingham

An example relevant to the Sri Lankan peace process is Yogaraja Balasingham. He is not so loquacious as Anton Balasingham but he is a clever manipulator. As an LTTE apparatchik in Norway he, along with other LTTE leaders has made a significant effort in cleaning up the LTTE stables in Europe. This has enabled the LTTE to legally raise substantial amounts in Europe. The LTTE has been able to infiltrate Norwegian politics and organisations through patronage of the Norwegian political establishment. No other terrorist organisation has been able to (1) get Norwegian funding, (2) get their leader elected into the capital’s municipal government and (3) get nominated to a parliamentary seat on the same ticket as the Prime Minister.

In addition to the political influence the LTTE has been working very closely with the Norwegian police. According Norwegian sources, the LTTE is protected by the Norwegian secret service. Norwegians monitoring terrorism have informed two Norwegian justice ministers about the LTTE cooperation with the Norwegian police but no action has been taken so far. Thanks to the police in Thailand the LTTE cooperation with the Norwegian police was exposed. This led to the arrest of a police officer, two LTTE cadres in Norway and several arrests in Europe and Thailand.

Norwegians against terrorism have posted information on the Internet aimed at exposing the corrupt police relations with the LTTE. With meticulous and extensive research a consistent campaign of exposing terrorists – particularly the LTTE – has been carried on by SVIK, a small organisation exposing links between terrorist organisations and the Norwegian police.

Another example of the links between the police and the LTTE is in seen in the case instituted against Mike Daniel Jeya -- the LTTE agent sentenced to jail by Norwegian courts recently for using forged passports with the help of the Police to smuggle people into Europe. The LTTE used the Norwegian police representative in Thailand as a defence witness in the case against Jeya. The police witness informed the judges that the LTTE should not be regarded as a terrorist organisation and Jeya should be given lesser sentence, if at all. Jeya was sentenced to three years in jail for his crimes.

- Asian Tribune

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