Tigers, Norwegians show their hands
Those who have harboured
suspicions of the real intentions of the LTTE in entering into peace
talks might feel elated that they have not been wrong. Still others
who were sceptical about the ability of the Norwegians to play a
neutral and objective role as facilitators or mediators in the peace
process might feel, like those who suspected the LTTE, that their
doubts have not been entirely misplaced.
It is perhaps
not entirely coincidental that a set of proposals from Major General
(rtd) Tryggve Tellefsen, the Norwegian head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM), happened to come almost at the same time as LTTE
spokesman Anton Balasingham's threat to boycott the donor-nation
talks due to be held in Japan in June.
There may not be any causal connection between them. But it would
make the Sri Lankan government that is totally committed to achieving
peace, think that the LTTE might be inveigled into attending the
Japan meeting if some of the main proposals set down by the head
of the SLMM are accepted.
proposals include creating a separate area of the sea in the north
and east in which the LTTE's naval arm, the Sea Tigers, would have
control and would be distinct from the territorial sea under the
jurisdiction of the Sri Lanka government and its navy. The Tellefsen
proposals are intended to prevent clashes at sea between the Sri
Lanka navy and the LTTE , preventing loss of life and material and
consequent damage to the on-going peace talks.
They seem well-intentioned
enough and the SLMM surely thought that they would be welcomed.
But in ancient times they thought the same of the Trojan horse.
"Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis", wrote
Virgil in the Aeneid. "Whatever it is", he said, "I
fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts".
Given the history
of Norwegian involvement in the north through non-governmental agencies
such as Redd Barna and its interest in the Sri Lankan conflict via
Oslo's Peace Research Institute and its apparent bias towards one
party in the conflict, Norway's role in the on-going peace talks
has been questioned by many.
They have not done so because of some inherent animosity toward
this Nordic country.
have been asked, for instance, about Norway's commitment to human
rights when its own Lutheran background and attachment to it denies
certain rights to non-Lutherans. Can a Scandinavian nation that
preaches human rights to others but denies some to its own people,
be taken seriously?
have forgotten how Norway came to be selected as the facilitator
of a dialogue between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE. When
the LTTE made overtures to the Chandrika Kumaratunga government
and vice versa, it was decided to allow a third country/organisation
to play the role of bringing the two sides together. President Kumaratunga
was asked to suggest the names of three countries/organisations,
two of which happened to be Norway and the Commonwealth Secretariat
The LTTE picked
Norway and understandably so. There was a sizeable Tamil refugee
population in Norway and Scandinavia as a whole, and Norway had
already shown some sympathy for the Tamil cause.
had been engaged secretly in promoting talks between Israel and
the Palestinians and the Oslo Accord that emerged was viewed as
a major step forward in resolving this long-standing conflict.
would also have known that her ex-brother-in-law Kumar Rupasinghe
of Jana Vegaya fame, had been closely associated with the Peace
Research Institute in Oslo which he headed at one time, and had
already done some work on trying to resolve the Sri Lanka conflict.
might have prompted the two sides to settle for Norway as the "facilitator",
as former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar liked to term it
-- and rightly so as it circumscribed Oslo's role.
But from Norway's
standpoint, Oslo needed to stake a claim elsewhere as a peacemaker
and somehow ensure a lasting result as the Accord on the Middle
East was coming unstuck.
as peacemaker made several knowledgeable Sri Lankans unhappy and
suspicious that Oslo's intentions as an impartial third party were
questionable. If they were only suspicions then there is proof today
that if Oslo entered the process with acceptable credentials it
has abandoned them.
I don't know
in which army Major General Tellefsen served. But right now it looks
like the Salvation Army and his only interest is the salvation of
the LTTE. Perhaps it is this Major General's ignorance of maritime
law, the laws governing territorial waters and other relevant treaties
and conventions that has led him to come up with such a proposal
that equates a sovereign country with its territorial waters and
an organisation with an illegal armed fleet.
looks at it, Major-General Tellefsen's highly inappropriate suggestion
would lead to a major calamity. What with the SLMM's curious and
laughable finding of a possible "third party", armed and
dangerous operating in our northeastern waters the monitoring mission
has made a serious omission. That is to nail the LTTE for sinking
the Chinese ship and killing its crew.
As a sea faring
nation, one would expect the Norwegians to be more sensible and
logical about the incident without being haunted by ghostly third
parties that appear to vanish as quickly as Tellefsen's reasoning.
The LTTE has
fared no better. It is peeved that it was not a participant at this
month's Washington meeting called by the American government. The
LTTE has nobody else to blame but itself. If the LTTE's own activities
led the US to ban it as a terrorist organisation surely the Tigers
cannot expect Washington to bend the law to allow the LTTE to participate.
The fact is that the LTTE is not welcome in the US. If the LTTE
wishes to become a legally acceptable organisation in the US then
it must publicly renounce terrorism and the use of violence.
is not that naïve that he does not know this. The LTTE cannot
have it both ways. It cannot reserve for itself the right to engage
in terrorist activities and unleash violence and be welcomed with
bouquets at the same time. One reason the LTTE cites for the suspension
of the talks and the boycott of the Japan meeting is that monies
pledged at the Oslo meeting by donors have not been disbursed by
the Sri Lanka government.
should know that the disbursement of foreign funds is not like running
a corner boutique at Wembley where money is immediately paid or
credit given for a month. Foreign funds take a long time in coming.
If that is one of the LTTE complaints then boycotting the Japan
meeting is as good as looking up and spitting. If that meeting is
postponed because of LTTE pique, then funds that might be committed
at that conference would take even longer reaching Sri Lanka. If
money is all that important, then the donor conference should be
held sooner not later.
But if this
suspension is to hold the Sri Lanka government to ransom and have
the international community pressure Colombo, Balasingham's slip
is showing. US ambassador Ashley Wills' statement should make the
LTTE sit up and think. It can no longer play the bully.