Editorial

14th January 2001
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Solheimism!

Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim's sojourn into con flict-territory has taken him this time to parliament and to the Speaker's chambers. In parliament, Solheim has been privy to some of our country's finer traditions of free speech. 

Solheim apparently heard that he was not a good man. Apparently he was not perturbed, but what is probably more pertinent than whether he is a good man, is whether he is a good man for peace. 

On this issue, the readings and the ratings have been diverse. But one thing is clear. He has been making pronouncements on peace, and also on volatile local issues. One of his last statements has him saying that the "Muslims can get involved later in the process of negotiations.

'' These intermittent "Solheimism'' does take the hard boiled peace-watcher by surprise. Though Mr. Solheim may not be expected to be clinical in his overtures, one always thought that he was a mediator, nay a facilitator at least to use the euphemism that even our own foreign Ministry folks seem not to tire of.

But for a facilitator to walk into the fray, and make pronouncements and statements the way he has done, makes Solheim a very pro-active facilitator, if that at least can be suggested subtly of his peace activities. 

Of course a facilitator who is pro-active may be a living paradox, but no matter. It is not exactly Mr. Solheim's modus operandi, but what he has in mind as a proclaimed man of peace that matters. 

Ideally, Mr. Solheim's ideas for peace should have been a matter strictly between Mr. Solheim and his god, if he has one. But, Solheim, as a foreign news agency report has observed, comes with "the very powerful backing of some very important countries.''

It is in this context that Solheim-watching becomes something of far greater import than a spectator sport. This man may be more than just a one-man peace brigade, which is why all his pronouncements and statements and little forays into the arena of conflict have to be viewed as less than quaint. But, at the moment, Mr. Solheim seems sometimes an enigma wrapped in a riddle, particularly because the media itself seems to be puzzled about whether Mr. Solheim is coming or going, both figuratively and otherwise. It's been a long time, and it's somehow time Mr. Solheim became unwrapped. Who exactly then is Mr. Solheim the man behind this façade? 


Men and methods

The JVP's cost-of-living protest, whether it was of the fire and brimstone traditional JVP variety or otherwise, was one that was at least rested on a very firm principles. There isn't one person in the country, save perhaps for members of the Cabinet, who is not complaining about the rising prices. The JVP protest was legitimate, but it's its method that called for the water cannon, say the pundits. Whatever the truth my be, there is something that is sinister about having at least no compunctions about the fact that a rally opposing rising costs had to be teargassed. If security concerns called for it, it was incumbent on the powers that be to express the exact circumstances in which the teargas was called for. 

Protests are the safety valve in a pressure cooker economy of spiralling costs. When the safety procedure is itself short circuited by teargas, it should not be done casually, particularly when nobody in the country will have a quarrel with the rationale for the protest. If the attitude of the powers-that-be is "gas them first and ask questions later,'' that approach may be as incendiary as the rising prices of gas and gasoline.

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