ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47

Norway has lost credibility, it must go

By Chandani Kirinde

Falk Rovik, the founder of the Norwegians Against Terrorism (NAT) was in Colombo for a brief visit to address a seminar on “Norwegian Support for LTTE Terrorism”. He spoke to The Sunday Times and said the Norwegians should opt out of Sri Lanak’s peace process as they have lost credibility and convince the LTTE to accept a new facilitator. He also denied accusations that he was convicted for murder in 1997 and said he had been acquitted of the charges. He said the allegations were part of the Norwegian government’s campaign to discredit and silence him

= How does the LTTE operate in Norway?
= They are professional. They have many front organisations that provide services to the Tamil diaspora. These organisations are also used to raise funds. Norway has around 12,000 Tamils and of them I believe about 600 are committed to the LTTE.

= Is the Norwegian government directly funding the LTTE?
= We have information from the Foreign Office in Norway itself that millions of rupees have been given to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) and the LTTE Peace Secretariat and other LTTE front organisations. They are denying they support terrorism because they don’t regard the LTTE as a terrorist group. I don’t think they would deny they had provided this money.

= But the Norwegian Embassy says all its financed projects in Sri Lanka are reported and audited. Any comment?
=I think the Norwegian government is more or less correct on this issue. The TRO tries to provide complete accounting for their funding by sending receipts. But they also collect money from the diaspora and that goes to the LTTE. The LTTE uses a lot of money to buy arms and this money has to come from somewhere.

= What does Norway gain by supporting the LTTE?
=First Norway is trying hard to make a name for itself as an international peace broker. Secondly the Tamil diaspora is a strong voting bloc in Norway.12,000 may not sound like a lot but in Norway it is. The LTTE has been successful in selling the story that they are the sole representatives of the Tamils. All the atrocities they commit they deny and blame it on someone else.

= How important is Sri Lanka to Norway?
=Sri Lanka is important to Norway’s peace industry. We have a huge industry comprising many institutes who want a success story. They have been looking for a success story for the past 15 years, but they make the same mistakes over and over again. In Sri Lanka they have repeated the mistakes they made in Palestine.

= Has Norway overstepped its boundary as a facilitator?
= If Norway was involved only in peace facilitation, it wouldn’t be a problem. They should not be involved in funding and they should not facilitate the LTTE on propaganda trips.

=What should their role be as a facilitator?
= They should arrange meetings and help the parties to communicate. That is facilitation. If they had only been doing that nobody would have had any problem. They would have had credibility on all sides. Now they lack credibility so they cannot do the job.

= Is it time for them to quit their role in the Sri Lanka peace process?
= Yes I think so. I think they should try to convince the LTTE that since they have no credibility it is better for the LTTE to accept a new facilitator. Eric Solheim should be grown up enough to understand that he is doing more damage than good.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry refutes charges in TST story

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has addressed an open letter to the Editor of The Sunday Times refuting the allegations made by Norwegians Against Terrorism (NAT) organisation which was published in The Sunday Times of April 15.

Excerpts from the letter: Reference is made to an article in The Sunday Times on Sunday 15 April 2007 concerning totally unfounded claims that Norway was supporting terrorism by a Norwegian who calls himself Norwegians Against Terrorism. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to set the record straight on some of these allegations.

Norway has been invited by both the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the LTTE to act as facilitator in their efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict. Norway first accepted the role as facilitator in response to a request from President Kumaratunga and the LTTE in 2000, which has been renewed by successive governments of Sri Lanka. Norway’s role is to assist the GOSL and the LTTE in their efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict, not to impose any solutions on them. The role as facilitator requires close communication with both the GOSL and the LTTE, and involves assisting in activities in support of the peace process. Norway cannot resolve this conflict. Only the people of Sri Lanka can decide their own future and create a society founded on peace for all.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the following comments on the allegations reproduced in The Sunday Times article:

“Norway is funding TRO”

When the devastating tsunami hit the coast of Sri Lanka, Norway undertook to help the victims and assist in the reconstruction of the country. In the north and east, Norway provided funds for humanitarian tsunami assistance, among others through the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO).

Norway is an active proponent of international mine action and efforts to ban landmines.

Norway has provided assistance through a Norwegian non-governmental organisation for mine clearance in the north being carried out by the Humanitarian Demining Unit/TRO. Norway and other international actors have for many years been active supporters of demining activities carried out in the north and east.

“Norway is financing the LTTE”

After the GOSL and the LTTE signed the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002, both parties wished to set up their respective peace secretariats to assist the parties in the peace process. Both requested and were at that time given Norwegian support. The GOSL accepted that Norway as facilitator to the peace process would provide funding for the LTTE’s peace secretariat. Furthermore Norway has provided funding to the Muslim Peace Secretariat.

The work of the peace secretariats has included support for the participation of the parties in the peace process, including several rounds of meetings. The secretariats have been important points of contact for the civilian population, civil society, international actors, truce monitors and Norway as facilitator. The peace secretariats have also sought to build expertise in fields related to the peace process and to communicate information on issues related to this process to the public.

All Norwegian financing of projects in Sri Lanka is reported and audited according to Norwegian government regulations in order to ensure that the assistance is used for the humanitarian and development purposes for which it is intended.

“Norway has provided military training to the LTTE”

Norway has never provided any military training or military equipment to the LTTE. Such conduct would not only have been unethical, it would also have been in violation of Norwegian law.

Members of the LTTE’s political committee have visited the Rena Camp in Norway when visiting some of the Nordic countries. As clarified earlier by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the purpose of the visit was to present Norway’s involvement and role in peace operations around the world, and did not involve any training.

It is unfortunate that these false allegations are being reproduced and disseminated in Sri Lanka, especially by a respected media outlet. This information is being disseminated on behalf of the so-called Norwegians Against Terrorism (NAT). NAT is not a registered organisation in Norway. It has only one known member, and there is no indication of any other Norwegian membership base.

By Roy Freddy Andersen, Head of Information

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.