Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 113

The games Norwegians play

By Sesha Samarajiwa

Norway’s partiality to the Tamil Tigers is now well documented. To recap the key point, let me quote from my analysis of two years ago in a widely reproduced article titled Lanka’s New Nordic Overlords: Norway’s sinister agenda bodes ill for Lanka. Behind the suave façade beats the heart of a marauding Viking on a power trip. It is time to learn the lessons from the long history of European subterfuge, for those who refuse to do so are doomed to repeat them.

I was wrong about one thing: Norway does not wear a suave façade; instead it pursues a blatantly open agenda for the Tiger mob and against the sovereign interests of Sri Lanka. Itself a secessionist nation that broke away from Sweden, Norway has compelling reasons to support the Tamil Tigers. It is estimated that Norway is home to 13,000 Sri Lanka Tamils. Of these, a sizeable proportion arguably comprises Tamil Tiger supporters. In a sparsely populated country (2006 population: 4.6 million), Tamil Tiger supporters would make a valuable voting block, with enough numbers in certain districts to swing ambitious politicians in or out of power.

Clearly they have enough clout to make sympathetic officials, including police officers whose monthly income is enhanced with contributions from the Tiger coffers, soft-peddle murderous inter-Tamil gang fights – deploying Samurai swords and guns in board daylight – over drug turfs.

How impoverished Eritrea provides direct support to the Tigers

Recently, the respected online journal, Africa Path broke the story that US Senate Foreign relations Committee “ investigations has revealed that the Eritrean government is giving direct military assistance to Sri Lanka’s separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, also known as the LTTE.” The article goes on to state that “Reports have accumulated tying the Eritrean and Norwegian governments in the complex politics of Sri Lanka and the Horn of Africa.”

The question is, how can an impoverished country in the drought-stricken, war-battered Horn of Africa provide support to the Tiger outfit, an outfit whose coffers – according to the conservative estimate of Jane’s Defence Weekly – expands its ample war chest by US$300 million every year, through its ‘taxes’ on the Tamil Diaspora, voluntary contributions, dope peddling and, with their fleet of ships, the provision of logistical services to other terrorist groups.

There obviously must be a wealthy supporter who is channeling the support to the LTTE through the dirt poor Eritrean government. The hidden hand, unsurprisingly, is Norway, the very same Norway who counseled warlord Prabhakaran (sometimes spelled Piripaharan) on how to outfox the government of Sri Lanka and wage war against it, providing the LTTE support in the form of finance, intelligence, and military hardware and training.

How Norway helped divide Ethiopia

I don’t intend to analyze the complex politics of the Horn of Africa. Instead, I want to show how the Norwegian agenda in Africa mirrors what they have been doing here. Eritrea, formally part of Ethiopia, successfully broke away as a separate nation in 1993. The website ‘Norway – the Official Site’ admits upfront that “Norway actively supported Eritrea during their liberation struggle, and continued cooperation during the 1990s … and bilateral assistance started optimistically after the liberation.” It seems difficult for the Site’s author/s to hide their glee at the fait accompli.

However, reading through the section on Norway’s engagement in Eritrea, you get the sense that things didn’t pan out as well as well as Norway expected. Things are still downright gloomy for the new nation. This is no surprise, given Eritrea’s internal chaos and continuing hostilities with neighboring states, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Eritrea also engaged in a brief war with the Yemen over Hanish Islands. A July report by the Nairobi-based U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia stated that Eritrea was supplying a gathering Somali insurgency with surface-to-air missiles and suicide vests to fight the Ethiopians. Ethiopia alleges Eritrea is doing the same for the Oromo National Liberation Front (ONLF), an Ethiopian separatist rebel group in the country's eastern Ogden region, which killed 74 civilians at an oil exploration site there in May.

These increasing tensions are igniting fears that the regional-war fears could become reality. As Ethiopia's rulers see it, their country's army and finances are being stretched ever thinner by two Eritrean-backed insurgencies. The Eritrean government is made up of the former secessionist EPLF rebels that separated Eritrea from Ethiopia – like the Tamil separatists rebels, Norway’s blue-eyed black boys.

Norway is also deeply engaged in Somalia’s strife, where they are partial to the OLF rebels. According to the Africa Path story, “After long discussions to reduce concerns with Norway’s influence in the region, the Ethiopian government kicked out six Norwegian diplomats.”

The article, which also deals with Eritrea’s direct assistance to the Tamil Tigers, conveys a strong sense of antipathy to “Norwegian NGO aid workers’ bias in assisting the separatist population,” and aided countries’ “suspicion of assistant aid workers from the same ethnic group as rebels”. The article goes onto state that the “Ethiopian government has kicked out a couple of aid organizations accusing them of bias and collaborating with pro-rebel individuals.” Familiar scenario?

When the Ethiopian government banished six Norwegian diplomats/agent provocateurs who were destabilizing that country through Norway’s proxy, Eritrea, Norway retaliated by playing the aid card: they froze aid to Ethiopia. The message to Ethiopia: bite the hand that feeds you and we’ll dump you to the vultures.

Israel’s rude awakening

Now Associated Press reports that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has exchanged "strong words" with the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv over a diplomatic document the embassy sent back to Oslo calling for criticism of Israel for allegedly using torture in prisons.

The Norwegian state radio network NRK reported that it had obtained a secret diplomatic document from the embassy urging action by "expressing our concern that torture is still practiced in Israel." According to NRK, the embassy's concern stemmed from a report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claiming that prisoners were sometimes beaten during interrogation, held in painfully tight handcuffs and suffered isolation, threats, humiliation and sleep deprivation.

Diplomatic officials in Israel said that there was "anger and disapproval inside the Foreign Ministry at the way the Norwegian embassy is conducting its business." The officials said that the Norwegian embassy was "acting in an unprofessional and very one-sided way, and that their actions bordered on hostility."

The officials expressed astonishment that the Norwegian embassy sent its report back to Oslo based on reports by NGOs without asking for any formal Israeli clarification.

The officials said that the job of embassies is to represent the position of the host government to their own governments, but it seemed like the Norwegian embassy "is not interested in what the government has to say."

"In Norway in particular, and Scandinavia in general, there is all too often an anti-Israeli agenda and climate of opinion. This type of behavior is just going to foster more blatant, one-sided anti-Israeli feeling there," one official said.

The bitter portion Israel tastes now has been tasted by Sri Lanka and several African countries where Norway was involved. Norway’s strategy is simple but effective: having decided whose side they are on, Norway slinks in as the honest broker. Once they get a foothold, they work wholeheartedly to support their favorites and damage the ill-favored.

Israel is astonished by Norway’s partiality and absence of respect for diplomatic norms. But Sri Lanka is long past astonishment; we have had the time to get to know the true colours of the White Tiger, and to know that a Tiger cannot change its stripes.

Had the Scandinavians succeeded in their intense maneuvers on behalf of the LTTE, the European Union would not have banned the Tigers as a terrorist outfit, and the Tigers would be enjoying unbridled freedom to do as they please throughout Europe today.

Nordic Subversion

Norway’s set of behaviors that irritated Israel are, in fact, the identical package that Sri Lanka got from them: partiality, lack of respect for protocol, ignoring, or, worse, not giving the other side a chance to offer any explanations, taking for granted NGO views as ‘facts’, and secret destabilization of states they abhor for one reason or another.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry states that the Norwegian embassy "is not interested in what the government has to say." Israel is angry that the Norwegian embassy was "acting in an unprofessional and very one-sided way, and that their actions bordered on hostility." Not “acted”, past tense, but “acting”, present tense – in other words, Norway carries on its hostile agenda regardless.

Despite evidence about his partiality for the Tigers and how he gained from the Tigers’ financial and material inducements, authenticated by eye witnesses such ex-LTTE man Colonel Karuna and Norwegian media investigative reportage, the canny Eric Solheim has scrambled into the seat of Norway’s Minister of International Development. With personal command of the purse strings, the odious Solheim can now disburse largesse to his favorites. He can ignore with impunity the protests of Norwegians Against Terrorism, an organization that has scrupulously itemized Norway’s disbursements of their taxpayers’ money to the Tamil Tigers and similar outfits, directly and through various Tiger fronts.

Why does Sri Lanka tolerate this?

It is a hard fact that it’s beyond a small country, especially those dependent of foreign aid, to buck the rich and mighty. Their power to dictate terms to small, powerless nations are taken for granted. When they say jump, they expect us to ask how high, master? It’s hegemony in practice the way Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci saw it – an insidious power that makes it seem common sense to take it for granted. But we must try to consciously resist that unjust hegemony.

Innumerable International NGOs (INGOs) operate as they please in Sri Lanka, many enjoying full freedom to even subvert us under various guises. Dr Susantha Goonatilake, in his book Recolonisation – Foreign Funded NGO’s in Sri Lanka has single-handedly exposed many of them, including some like the sinister German Berghoff Foundation, whose avowed agenda is to demilitarize Sri Lanka’s military – in other words, to emasculate them.

Yet they enjoy red-carpet treatment here. For example, Sri Lankan Immigration has even set up a special channel for INGO personnel, where they are whisked through visa extension formalities (to extend their interference, enrichment and high life on the island), while the natives must endure the laborious process of the passport ordeal.

The Scandinavians got a foothold in Sri Lanka back in the 80s through the irresistible aid card. Then came offers of mediation and peacekeeping. Before we knew it, we had got a white Tiger by the tail. The challenge is to let go. If the Ethiopians can do it, even at the cost of vital aid, so can we. We certainly don’t need new neocolonial overlords from Europe to divide and rule us.

Sesha Samarajiwa is a political analyst with special expertise in Asian secessionist movements. He has conducted a major academic study comparing the Tamil Eelam movement in Sri Lanka and the Moro separatist movement in the Philippines, engaging in extensive field research in both places.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this