Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Norwegian role in Sri Lanka through the eyes of a foreign service officer




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Peaceful Intervention in intra-state conflicts: Norwegian Involvement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process thoroughly examined the circumstances leading to Eelam War IV in 2006.

Foreign Service officer, Dr. Chanaka Talpahewa, dealt with a range of contentious issues, including the finalization of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in February, 2002, under controversial circumstances, the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in early August, 2005, as well as secret negotiations between the government and the LTTE meant to facilitate LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham’s evacuation from Sri Lanka.. Dr. Talpahewa discussed Norway’s pathetic failure in Sri Lanka due to multiple reasons.. The serving foreign service officer explained that the personal affinity, between the Norwegians and the LTTE leadership, had a significant impact on the peace process.

There is absolutely no doubt Peaceful Intervention in intra-state conflicts: Norwegian Involvement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process addressed a long felt need to examine the disputed Norwegian role.

The war-winning Rajapaksa government neglected its responsibility to commission a comprehensive study, soon after the conclusion of the Vanni offensive, on the morning of May 19, 2009. Instead, the previous government squandered massive sums of taxpayers’ money on expensive US public relations firms to discourage the Obama administration from moving a resolution in Geneva. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) lacked the required mandate to conduct a comprehensive study, though some aspects of the Norwegian role were examined.

Dr. Talpahewa should be commended for his courageous no-holds-barred approach in examining an extremely sensitive issue. The author received access to those who had been involved in the Norwegian peace process, as well as a range of classified and confidential documents, hence a thorough examination of foreign intervention and a gamut of related issues. Dr. Talpahewa’s study should be made available in parliament as well as Sri Lankan diplomatic missions.

Dr. Talpahewa launched Peaceful Intervention in intra-state conflicts: Norwegian Involvement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process in early 2015 during his brief tenure as Sri Lanka’s Acting HC in the UK.

The previous government had moved Dr. Talpahewa to London, from the Maldives, where he held the Deputy High Commissioner’s post in the wake of Dr. Chris Nonis resigning over the then Monitoring MP of the External Affairs Ministry, Sajin Vass Gunawardene, assaulting him in New York, in late September, 2014. Dr. Nonis reacted furiously to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s failure to take appropriate action against MP Gunewardene, a member of the then President’s personal’s entourage.

In addition to the Maldives, attorney-at-law Dr. Talpahewa had served Sri Lankan missions in New York and Turkey.

Dr. Talpahewa received an invitation to join the launch of former BBC correspondent Mark Salter’s To End A Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka, in late October, 2015, at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) of the London University School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Organizers invited Erik Solheim (former Norwegian Development Minster and the main figure in the Norwegian facilitation effort in Sri Lanka), Vidar Helgesen (former Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister, now Minister for Europe), Suthaharan Nadaraj (ex-Advisor to LTTE theoretician and British national Anton Balasingham) and Dr Talpahewa as panelists at the book launch., However, Dr. Talpahewa, didn’t attend the event.

The Norwegian embassy, in London, held a reception. Salter has undertaken the challenging task on the request of Helgesen, another key player in Norway’s Sri Lanka team.

After having served the British High Commission, in Colombo, Balasingham received British nationality. The LTTE exploited Balasingham’s British nationality to its advantage. Dr. Talpahewa dealt expertly with the failed Norwegian facilitated secret negotiations between the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s government and the LTTE to facilitate Balasingham leaving the country for treatment overseas. Having rejected President Kumaratunga’s bid to secure battlefield concessions in return for allowing Balasingham to leave safely, the LTTE smuggled Balasingham out on January 23, 1999. It would have been pertinent to examine the exploitation of Balasingham’s British nationality by the LTTE, even after the UK reluctantly prohibited the group. Dr. Talpahewa missed an opportunity to have a vital part of the LTTE strategy probed. In fact, none of those who had examined the foreign intervention here surprisingly failed to probe that aspect. Imagine a terrorist group proscribed by the US, EU, UK and India having a British theoretician.

Norway had absolutely no qualms about accommodating Balasingham in Norwegian medical facility in spite of his acknowledged involvement with a terrorist group, proscribed in India, for the assassination of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Unfortunately, those who had been at the helm never realized the Norwegian agenda. Those who had been involved in the Norwegian exercise are still trying to restore their image severely damaged due to the failed peace process.

As regards the Norwegian role, Dr. Talpahewa and Salter provided sharply contradictory opinion. Let me quote Dr. Talpahewa verbatim: "According to research findings, in facilitating the negotiations, Norway performed a role that exceeded facilitation....(Norwegian declaration) to withdraw from the third party role until the restoration of political stability subsequent to the taking over of three key ministries by the President. Interestingly, these tactics appeared rather selective, with Norway failing to use manipulative tactics to arrest the subsequent deterioration of the peace process due to the intransigence of the LTTE. The research findings also show that Norway did not, in many instances, use the leverage it had over the LTTE to ensure that the organization adhered to its undertakings."

Peaceful Intervention in intra-state conflicts: Norwegian Involvement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process and To End A Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka (both launched during 2015) should be compared with Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009, an official Norwegian study. Norway released the report, in late, 2011, over two years after the conclusion of the war, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. Interestingly, the launch of To End A Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka took place at the London University SOAS, which teamed up with Norway’s Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) to produce Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009.

By and large, Peaceful Intervention in intra-state conflicts: Norwegian Involvement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process exposed shortcomings in the Norwegian-led project. It should certainly occupy the shelf of every student of politics, history and conflict resolution. It should also stimulate the intellectual appetite of those who wish to learn of the Norwegian intervention during this phase of contemporary history. On the basis named and unnamed sources, Dr. Talpahewa asserted that the peace process failed primarily due to the shortcomings on the part of the Norwegians.

Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009 revealed the Norwegian team, tasked with spearheading the peace project, reaching wrong conclusions in respect of some critically important matters at a crucial time of the conflict. Unfortunately, Dr. Talpahewa hadn’t examined the Norwegian report as well as Wiki Leaks cables pertaining to Sri Lanka. Had Dr. Talpahewa studied them, he would have been certainly benefited. The author could have used the Norwegian report and Wiki Leaks to confirm some of his arguments.

The Norwegian report dealt with an internal strategy session with the then Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stores, in May, 2007. The Norwegians clearly ignored the Sri Lankan military rapidly closing in on the remaining LTTE bases in the Eastern Province, the damaging split, in the LTTE, caused by Karuna Amman, as well as the Army opening up a new front, west of Vavuniya, threatening LTTE superiority in the Vanni. On the basis of reports/assessments made available by its diplomatic mission, in Colombo, as well as other sources, including a section of the media, the Norwegians believed the LTTE couldn’t be overwhelmed militarily under any circumstances. The relevant section from the CMI-SOAS report (page 63): "All observers think that this is a conflict that cannot be won by military means and most believe that the government cannot beat the LTTE militarily." Moreover, the group concludes: "International pressure does not seem to have any positive influence, but rather to contribute to locking the military strategies of the parties. Strategic thinking thus tends to hinge on the premise that at some point a new stalemate may emerge, either because the LTTE rolls back the front line (as it did several times in the past), or resorts to guerrilla style tactics to avert defeat. In hindsight the Norwegian team underestimates the Sri Lankan government’s strength, both militarily and politically. The team considers a wide range of likely and less likely scenarios, but (like most observers at that time), it does not reckon with the sequence of events that is to follow: a strong SLFP-led coalition and a military victory."

The then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had told the writer, on several occasions, during the war, that the LTTE could be defeated. The Gajaba Regiment veteran stressed that the LTTE would be defeated. Obviously, the Norwegians didn’t take Rajapaksa’s resolve seriously. The Norwegian also made crucial mistake in asserting that the LTTE waged war seeking solutions to ethnic and political problems. The Norwegian report (page 58) revealed the Norwegians meeting Defence Secretary Rajapaksa on April 6, 2006, to discuss the ground situation. "On April 6, 2006, Hanssen-Baur and Brattskar have a tense meeting with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In response to a question about whether the ethnic and political problems in Sri Lanka could be solved by military means, Gotabhaya answers, ‘yes.’ The meeting took place about three weeks before the LTTE made an abortive bid to assassinate Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the army headquarters.

Canada-based veteran journalist Jeyaraj, in late Dec. 2008, predicted the LTTE rolling back the Army on the Vanni east front. Jeyaraj, who had been with The Island at the time this writer joined the editorial, as a trainee, in June, 1987, claimed that powerful LTTE battle group would inflict a massive defeat on the Army thereby reversing the government campaign. Within days, after Jeyaraj’s claim, Task Force I (58 Division) and 57 Division liberated Kilinochchi. Even after the Kilinochchi debacle and a series of battlefield defeats on the Vanni east front, the Norwegians believed in arranging an organized surrender of the LTTE. Regrettably, Dr. Talpahewa didn’t examine the US-backed Norwegian efforts to facilitate the surrender of top LTTE leaders as well as ordinary cadres. The author also ignored Norwegian failure to persuade the LTTE to release well over 200,000 civilians, held at gunpoint, in an area rapidly shrinking due to relentless ground operations. Perhaps, Dr. Talpahewa purposely left out certain issues.

A brief missive sent by war time Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, Tore Hattrem, to the then National List MP and presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa revealed halfhearted Norwegian bid to secure the release of civilians held by the LTTE. The following is the text of the letter headlined Offer/proposal to the LTTE dated Feb. 16, 2009: "I refer to our telephone conversation today. The proposal to the LTTE on how to release the civilian population now trapped in the LTTE controlled area has been transmitted to the LTTE through several channels. So far there has been regrettably no response from the LTTE and it doe not seem to be likely that the LTTE will agree to this in the near future." Norway never pushed the influential Tamil Diaspora, in Norway, to pressure the LTTE leadership to give up its meaningless resistance. Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world knows the ICRC believed the Army could have finished off the LTTE much faster if it didn’t take the civilian factor into consideration on the Vanni east front.

As Ambassador Hattrem predicted, the LTTE refused to release civilians in spite of repeated appeals. Interestingly, the Tamil National Alliance never urged the LTTE to give up ‘human shields.’ The TNA remained steadfastly committed to Velupillai Prabhakaran macabre cause until the very end.

Dr. Talpahewa’s book proved that Norway couldn’t absolve itself of responsibility in pursuing an agenda inimical to Sri Lanka. The author dealt with the significant LTTE presence in Norway. The LTTE was accused of using Norway for drug trafficking, extortion and the smuggling of Tamils into Norway. Dr. Talpahewa also delved into the relationship between Norwegian politicians and the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. Norway’s backing for the LTTE’s cause cannot be different from the UK throwing a lifeline to the sinking LTTE in April 2009. Exposure of a classified US diplomatic cable originating from its London mission revealed the Labour Party going out of its way to appease the Diaspora due to domestic political reasons. Norwegians bent backwards to protest Prabhakaran’s interests. Another US diplomatic cable leaked by Wiki leaks revealed shocking Norwegian request to the US not to inform the Sri Lankan government of its decision to send a secret letter dated August 16, 2005.

The letter had been relayed to Prabakaran through the UK-based Balasingham. The then Norwegian Foreign Minister Petersen and Deputy FM Helgesen met Anton Balasingham, in London, on August 17, 2005, in the wake of the LTTE assassinating Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar..

Letter from Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs


Mr. Velupillai Prabhakaran


Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Oslo, 16 August 2005

Dear Mr. Prabhakaran

As I am sure you realize, the peace process is now in a critical situation. The killings and counter-killings over the last few months have been watched with mounting concern by Norway and the international community. Along with the continued recruitment of children to the LTTE, this has created distrust about the LTTE´s intentions as regards the peace process.

The assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has exacerbated the situation. It is not up to Norway to draw conclusions about the criminal investigations now under way in Colombo, or on any other judicial matter in relation with the killings. However, public perception both in Sri Lanka and internationally is that the LTTE is responsible. This public perception is a political reality. The LTTE needs to respond to this situation in a way that demonstrates continued commitment to the peace process.

I see it as my obligation to make clear to you the political choice now facing the LTTE. If the LTTE does not take a positive step forward at this critical juncture, the international reaction could be severe. Against this backdrop I would ask you urgently to consider the following steps:

 1. To accept the Norwegian Government´s invitation to participate in a review of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement in order to find practical ways of ensuring full compliance by both parties.

2. To establish direct communications between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army in the east, in order to improve security.

3. To accept without delay the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission proposal for transportation of LTTE cadres.

4. To collaborate in a practical way with government initiatives to speed up reconstruction in the north and east. The LTTE´s continued commitment to the P-TOMS agreement is vital in this regard.

5. To take effective steps to halt killings and to cease the recruitment of underage combatants. I trust that you appreciate the gravity of the present situation and will take steps to demonstrate to the international community that the LTTE is committed to the peace process.

Yours sincerely,

Jan Petersen

End Text

Eelam War IV could have been averted if the international community took concrete measures against the LTTE in the wake of Kadirgamar assassination. Instead, they continued to mollycoddle terrorists, while warning the Sri Lankan government not to take military action against Prabhakaran. The LTTE continued to receive special treatment until the Sri Lankan military finished off the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A NATO role in failed Norwegian peace bid and costly propaganda projects



Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, launched Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009 in Nov. 2011. The team comprised Gunnar Sorbo, Prof. Jonathan Goodhand, Bart Klem, Ada Elisabeth Nissen, Hilde Selbervik. The Norad-funded report asserted that India strongly backed Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE though New Delhi worked closely with Norway and Peace Co-Chairs namely US, EU, Japan and Norway. The report also highlighted crucial US and Indian intelligence making a significant contribution to the war effort, as well as China and India throwing their weight behind Sri Lanka, simultaneously. The report revealed wrong assessments made by Norway in respect of crucial matters, such as the capabilities of the Sri Lankan military. Unfortunately, the previous government didn’t even bother to peruse the best foreign evaluation of the 2001-2009 period.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Successive Norwegian governments spent lavishly in support of their peace efforts in various countries, including Sri Lanka.

The Norwegians believed decision making process, as well as the public opinion in any conflict-affected country, could be influenced through well-funded propaganda projects.

Sri Lanka experienced a series of such projects during the conflict, particularly in the wake of the Feb. 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

The failure of costly propaganda projects, also, immensely contributed to the collapse of the Norwegian project in Sri Lanka. An ambitious Norwegian peace initiative suffered an irreparable setback due to their inaccurate assessment of the ground situation. Norway operated on the premise that the Sri Lankan government lacked the wherewithal to defeat the LTTE militarily (Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) page 63.

Those who had been receiving Norwegian funding, in addition large sums of money made available by various other countries, and international NGOs, turned a blind eye to what was happening on the ground. They painted a rosy picture in spite of the LTTE causing mayhem.

The then UNP-led United National Front (UNF) suppressed the media in a bid to prevent the reportage of the actual ground situation. The government directed Army Headquarters not to issue daily situation reports. Subsequently, the government explored the possibility of issuing situation reports through the Norway-funded Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). The project was meant to cover up LTTE activities inimical to the peace initiative (Incidents continue in east but no situation report-The Island of April 5, 2002). The LTTE prohibited the distribution of Thinamurasu, a newspaper published by the rival Eelam People’s Democratic Party as it flexed its muscles (LTTE bans EPDP’s Thinamurasu-The Island of April 5, 2002). The Norwegians failed to take tangible measures to discourage the LTTE from causing trouble. Then, much to the dismay of the military the government also closed down Wanni Sevaya, a special Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) managed radio station situated in Vavuniya that catered to the military (Wanni Sevaya closed down-The Island of April 7, 2002). The government ignored requests made by the military to restore the special SLBC service (Military wants Wanni Sevaya restored-The Island of April 19, 2002).

On the one hand Norwegian-funded NGOs engaged in a propaganda blitz in support of the CFA and on the other hand the government suppressed reportage of incidents which it considered could undermined the peace process.

The degree of Norwegian funding came to light over two years after the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009. Unfortunately, successive governments, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s war-winning administration, lacked the foresight to closely examine foreign-funded projects.

Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) discussed the contentious issue of Oslo funding in support of various peace initiatives. Norway released its evaluation in September 2011. It would be pertinent to study the funding factor in the wake of the recent launch of Mark Salter’s To end a civil war: Norway’s peace engagement in Sri Lanka in Colombo. Salter’s response (http://www.island.lk/index.php? page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=142225) to The Island report ‘Failed Norwegian peace bid in SL: Different perspectives, glaring omissions’ (http://www.island.lk/index.php? page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=141647) in March 9 edition on the book launch at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICEC) was carried in the March 19 edition of The Island.

When Norway called for tenders from prospective persons/organizations to examine her wartime role in Sri Lanka, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry revealed that of about NOK 2.5 bn development aid made available during the 1997-2009 period, NOK 100mn had been allocated for projects in support of the peace process. The recipients of Norwegian funding included the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), comprising five Nordic countries, as well as Peace Secretariats of the government, as well as the LTTE.

Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) dealt with the issue of funding in a chapter titled Norwegian Peace Diplomacy. Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim: "The policy of engagement includes development policy, humanitarian aid, peace and reconciliation efforts and international work to promote human rights and democracy. This is significant, not only because of the steady increasing share of Norwegian aid, provided in politically challenging contexts, but also because humanitarian and other aid funds have been used in a targeted and flexible fashion, often quite lavishly, to support peace diplomacy."

Having squandered Norwegian taxpayers’ money here, Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) acknowledged the futility of the exercise. "During the peace process aid was simultaneously used by donors as a vehicle to promote peace and economic liberalization, in the belief that the two were mutually reinforcing. However, in practice, the pursuit of such policies in tandem proved inimical to peace. Aid had very limited leverage and it proved impossible to short circuit complex political processes through the provision of economic incentives,"(page 137)

The authors of Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) discussed pro-peace projects undertaken by various members of the civil society on behalf of Norway and several other countries (page 89). The National Peace Council (NPC), the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) and the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) had been key players in the Oslo-led projects. The report credited Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, UK, Switzerland and the US for setting up what the report called dedicated programmes and activities to shore up the Norwegian effort. The Berghof Foundation and the Foundation for Co-Existence played pivotal roles in the overall campaign. They had been tasked with having dialogue with relevant parties, peace advocacy as well as conflict early warning systems. The report revealed the role played by one-time darling of the Norwegians, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, in a failed attempt to secure the support of the Sinhalese. Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim: "The funding for the Foundation for Co-Existence and the National Anti-War Front, both led by Kumar Rupesinghe, constituted a deliberate attempt by Norway to support an individual and wider organization that could engage with Sinhala politics and society." The report also dealt with projects undertaken by One-Text initiative, the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation (FLICT), UNDP and USAID. However, such projects had failed to achieve desired results in spite of foreign donors lavishly spending millions of USD here.

The Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) identified Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe as the largest recipient of Norwegian finding during 2001-2004 period (page 113). Colombo-based NGO community had received a staggering NOK 210 mn (approximately USD 28mn) during this period. However, the report named Kumar Rupesinghe as the largest recipient of Norwegian funding during the 2004-2008 period to the tune of NOK 35 mn (USD 6 mn).

Rupesinghe earned the wrath of Norway for switching his allegiance to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the onset of eelam war IV after having received Norwegian funds. Although, the report identified all major NGOs benefited by Norwegian grants, the report conveniently refrained from naming individuals. Among those named recipients are Milinda Moragoda Institute, Sarvodaya, Sewalanka, the Sareeram Sri Lanka National Foundation, Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce CPA, the Forum of Federations and the People’s Peace Front. Milinda Moragoda Institute received Norwegian funding for de-mining operations to facilitate resettlement of the displaced. Moragoda’s initiative brought relief to war-weary communities. Norway should be commended for funding mine clearing operations carried out by Indian firms, Horizon and Sarvatra.

Norway also provided funds to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) affiliated to the LTTE. The TRO funding was in addition to funds received by the LTTE Peace Secretariat. The Norwegian peace team obviously believed that the LTTE’s support could be secured by providing large cash grants. Norway had no way of examining how various recipients spent monies received. Other donors, too, experienced the same problem.

Over six years, after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still unaware of the total amount of funds received by various NGOs during the war. Parliament was recently informed of the unavailability of records pertaining to funds received by various NGOs. Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages, Mano Ganesan, recently revealed that the National Secretariat for NGOs hadn’t received the required information for 2000-2010 period.

The Minister was responding to a query raised by UPFA Matara District MP Dallas Alahapperuma.

The former Minister sought details as regards funds received by NGOs since 2000.

Minister Ganeshan said: "Records pertaining to funds received by NGOs since 2000 haven’t been submitted. Only the records from the year 2011 to 2013 are available."

The NGOs received Rs. 13.9 bn (Rs 13,926,619,942) in 2011, Rs. 11. 4 bn (Rs.11,488,308,761) in 2012 and Rs. 10.8 bn (Rs.10,840,293,929) in 2013.

The Minister said that there were 1,065 NGOs and 381 International Non Governmental Organizations (INGOs) registered in the Sri Lanka as of Jan. 1, 2015.

The role played by Norway in installing a FM radio station, in LTTE-held Kilinochchi, in late 2002, or early 2003, highlighted Oslo bending backwards to appease LTTE terrorists. Bradman Weerakoon revealed in an article titled Initiating and Sustaining the Peace Process: Origins and Challenges Norwegians with the knowledge of the then government using diplomatic privilege to import radio equipment, including FM transmitter, back-up transmitter and FM antenna, on behalf of the LTTE. Having imported the equipment, the Norwegians had handed them over to the SCOPP for onward transfer to the LTTE. Subsequent to the transfer of equipment, the SCOPP became liable to the payment of duty to the tune of Rs 3 mn. The SCOPP utilized funds made available by Norway to pay the duty. Weerakoon placed the annual Norwegian grant received by SCOPP at Rs 12 mn. Interestingly, Weerakoon’s essay was included in Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka: Efforts, Failures and Lessons (Volume II) edited by Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe. Dr. Rupesinghe’s effort had been funded by the Norwegian government, Foreign Ministry and the Berghof Foundation. The NGO guru launched the book in February 2006 amidst rapidly deteriorating situation. At the height of eelam war, Oslo suspended financial support to Dr Kumar Rupesinghe over serious differences with him. An irate Rupesinghe made an abortive bid to move the District Court of Colombo against Norway with the support of the then President Rajapaksa though he lacked the External Affairs Ministry support.

Plaintiff Dr. Rupesinghe accused Norway of violating a tripartite agreement involving his Foundation for Co-Existence, Norway and the UK. Rupesinghe alleged Norway owed him funds to the of millions of rupees.

The then Norwegian Ambassador Tore Hattrem had signed the agreement on behalf of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tom Owen–Edmunds, Head of Political and Development Section of the British High Commission, on behalf of British High Commission in Colombo and Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, on behalf of the Foundation for Co-Existence.

Under the agreement, the Foundation for Co-Existence was to implement projects in support of the peace process with funds received from Norway and the UK. The agreement was finalized at the height of the war on the Vanni front. There hasn’t been any previous case similar to the legal dispute involving a local NGO and its foreign partners.

Interestingly, Norway was to fund the project to the tune of 75 percent with the remaining funding from the UK.

Having made some payments, in accordance with the agreement, Norway suspended further payments, in early, May 2009, just weeks ahead of the conclusion of the conflict. However, the UK met its full commitment in keeping with the agreement.

Although various interested parties portrayed Norway as a lightweight facilitator spearheading the peace process in Sri Lanka, it had the backing of the world’s solitary superpower, the US, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009) confirmed the US readiness to deploy landing vessels to evacuate LTTE cadres, trapped on the Vanni east front, to Trincomalee. The US naval deployment was in support of the Norwegian effort to work out a four-point plan to arrange an organized LTTE surrender. (page 66). The report also revealed Norwegian envoy Hanssen-Bauer urging EU to apply pressure on Sri Lanka in October, 2008 against the backdrop of some EU member states calling for suspension of preferential trade agreement with Sri Lanka (GSP plus) (page 66). Tremendous pressure was brought on Sri Lanka as the army surrounded Kilinochchi. However, Western powers couldn’t derail the offensive until the LTTE was brought to heel in May 2009. Finally, the EU withdrew suspended GSP plus in February 2010. The lightweight facilitator obviously had the wherewithal to take punitive action. Furious Western powers, during 2009, made an abortive attempt to block the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from rescuing the Rajapaksa administration with USD 2.6 stand-by-arrangement. Western powers sought to plunge Sri Lanka to financial turmoil in the post-war period.

The much touted assertion that NATO member Norway is a lightweight facilitator does not hold water.

Recently, an expert on Norwegian initiative here sought an explanation when the writer referred to the Norwegians involving NATO in their project here. Obviously, the expert hadn’t perused Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009). According to the report, as the five-nation Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) had received intelligence from NATO, it didn’t require intelligence provided by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) (page 100). It would be pertinent to examine the level of NATO support to the Norwegian-led mission. Obviously both the Sri Lankan military as well as the LTTE had been under NATO scrutiny. The report quoted the Head of the SLMM as having said that the mission could never fully trust Indian intelligence as they reached the Nordic mission only through informal channels. The HOM said: "They were not giving it to us to be nice. We would always ask ourselves: why do they want us to know this? Intelligence provided by NATO only confirmed what they already knew."

NATO intelligence would have had a significant impact on the decision making process. Norway’s participation in the US led bombing of Libya, several years ago, highlighted her military capability amidst peace efforts in various parts of the world.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Fonseka zero in on ‘white flag’ killings, clears Army of war crimes up to second week of May, 2009



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Parliament was told last Thursday that the proposed war crimes investigation should focus on fighting on the Vanni east front during the third week of May, 2009.

The declaration was made by no less a person than Field Marshal Fonseka, leader of the Democratic Party (DP). Sri Lanka’s most successful Army Chief was delivering his inaugural speech in parliament after having been accommodated on the UNP National List last month.

The tough talking strategist also called for foreign participation in the proposed judicial inquiry. The Field Marshal declared his readiness to face the forthcoming investigation.

Having strongly denied accusations against his army in respect of operations conducted in the Eastern and Northern theaters of war (August 2006-May second week 2009), Field Marshal Fonseka alleged that the ongoing controversy surrounds certain incidents, including ‘white flag’ killings which allegedly took place while he was overseas during the third week of May 2009. The Sinha Regiment veteran called for a fresh investigation into the ‘white flag’ killings, a reference to alleged execution of surrendering LTTE cadres as well as their families by troops of the celebrated 58 Division.

Field Marshal Fonseka castigated the Rajapaksas for causing mayhem during his absence. In addition to accusations in respect of alleged atrocities committed during the third week of May, 2009, the war hero accused Basil Rajapaksa of facilitating Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory at the Nov. 2005 presidential polls by influencing an LTTE instigated polls boycott. The war hero alleged that Basil Rajapaksa had paid $ 2 mn to the LTTE to secure its support. The LTTE deprived UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe of an anticipated northern Tamil block vote, thereby paving the way for Rajapaksa’s victory. Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa told The Island that there was absolutely no basis for Field Marshal Fonseka’s allegation that he transferred $ 2 mn to the LTTE in the run-up to the presidential polls.

However, none of those who had accused Mahinda Rajapaksa of winning the presidential poll, with LTTE’s help, dared to explain why Prabhakaran resumed landmine attacks, less than two weeks after Rajapaksa took oaths. They had been also silent on the role played by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the alleged conspiracy to ensure Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory at the expense of Ranil Wickremesinghe. A case in point is former BBC correspondent Mark Salter’s "To end a civil war: Norway’s peace engagement in Sri Lanka", recently launched in Colombo. Salter never bothered to verify the TNA’s role in sordid operations of the LTTE though he interviewed scores of people in various parts of the world. A shocking omission, indeed.

The LTTE made an abortive bid to assassinate Fonseka, on the afternoon of April 25, 2006, at army headquarters. An attempt on the life of the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was made on the morning of Dec 1, 2006.

The combined security forces offensive, launched in September, 2006, continued until the war was brought to a successful conclusion on the morning of May 19, 2009. Now that Field Marshal Fonseka, in his former capacity as the Commander of the Army, had taken responsibility for all ground operations, except the events during the last week of the offensive, the focus of the proposed investigation should be on that period. Field Marshal Fonseka cleared the army of human rights violations during the nearly three-year campaign, except the final week. Interestingly, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, had been away in Jordan during the last week of the offensive though he returned on May 17, 2007, two days before the Army finished off the LTTE, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. The then SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena had functioned as the Acting Defence Minister during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brief absence.

Field Marshal Fonseka also called for thorough investigations into several assassinations, including that of The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga on January 8, 2009.

Field Marshal Fonseka’s assertion that battlefield atrocities could have taken place, only during his absence, should be examined against the backdrop of accusation as regards systematic annihilation of the Tamil community in the Vanni during the eelam war IV. Field Marshal Fonseka had dealt a devastating blow to ongoing efforts to portray Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE as a campaign against the Tamil community.

Field Marshal Fonseka’s onslaught certainly undermined those hell-bent on hauling Sri Lanka’s previous political and military leadership before a hybrid war crimes investigation mechanism over charges of systematic crimes against Tamil speaking people over a period of three years. The Maxwell Paranagama Commission, too, strongly recommended international technical expertise as well as observers in case the government of Sri Lanka decided against having foreign judges. The Paranagama Commission, appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, received the blessings of President Maithripala Sirisena. The writer, too, is of the firm belief that international participation in the proposed process should be acceptable to the leaders of the previous administration. It would be pertinent to keep in mind that the report on the Second Mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Into Complaints of Abductions and Disappearances received the backing of an international expert team, led by Sir Desmond de Silva, QC. Therefore, no one should find fault with Field Marshal Fonseka for throwing his weight behind the move.

Those who cannot stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism will definitely find the former Chief of Defence Staff’s stand an obstacle to their efforts on the human rights front. Although, no final decision has been reached on the proposed judicial mechanism, Field Marshal Fonseka will be among those certainly to be summoned before the court. The Sinha Regiment veteran will defend the army during the entire eelam war, except the third week of May, 2009.

Field Marshal Fonseka contradicted the REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S PANEL OF EXPERTS (POE) ON ACCOUNTABILITY IN SRI LANKA in respect of all three allegations, namely indiscriminate use of artillery fire directed at civilians, artillery assaults on hospitals and other humanitarian locations and, finally, denial of humanitarian assistance to the Vanni population.

The POE estimated the number of civilian deaths caused by the then Lt. Gen. Fonseka’s Army at over 40,000. The report, dated March 31, 2011, accused the Army of indiscriminate, as well as, deliberate targeting of civilians on the Vanni east front and then subjecting them to untold hardships following the end of the offensive. Let me reproduce the relevant section from the report verbatim: "In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths (POE Report 137 paragraph)

Having accused the Army of massacring over 40,000 civilians on the basis of information provided by 2,300 persons (POE Report 17 paragraph), the three-member inquiry team declared that accusations cannot be verified for a period of 20 years (until March 31, 2031) and even then a declassification review is required.

Six months later the release of the POE report, the Amnesty International in a special report titled ‘WHEN WILL THEY GET JUSTICE? FAILURES OF SRI LANKA’S LEARNT AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION’ estimated the number of civilians killed, due to military action, at 10,000. London headquartered Amnesty International based its much touted report on eyewitnesses, as well as, local and international aid workers.

The previous government never bothered to examine the vast discrepancy in figures quoted by the POE and Amnesty International in respect of civilian deaths though The Island repeatedly highlighted the matter. The External Affairs Ministry struggled in the wake of the international onslaught. Both POE and Amnesty International conveniently refrained from asserting the period the killings took place. They propagated that killings took place during the final phase of the offensive.

There cannot be a better person than Field Marshal Fonseka to respond to the POE as well as Amnesty International. In fact, international participation in the proposed judicial process should pave the way for members of the POE comprising, Marduk Darusman (Chairman), Stevan R. Ratner and Yasmin Sooka, and the author of Amnesty International, to be cross examined as regards allegations made by them.

Field Marshal Fonseka will find a still classified UN document mentioned in the POE report extremely useful in his defence of the Army though he’ll not intervene on behalf of those who had been allegedly involved in atrocities, if any, during the third week of May, 2009. The UN report, which dealt with the period from August 2008 to May 13, 2009, placed the number of deaths in the Vanni at 7,721. The UN didn’t differentiate between civilians and those perished while fighting for the LTTE. The report placed the number of wounded at 18,479. The project carried out on the instructions from the UN in New York, is widely believed to be the most accurate, due it being prepared with information obtained from local and foreign NGOs, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), clergy as well as health authorities, based in the Vanni, during the war. Perhaps, the Yahapalana government should request the UN to release the report without further delay. In fact, the UN report prepared, without the previous government’s knowledge, proves that the Army never engaged in mass scale slaughter as alleged by various interested parties. The UN report dealt with the situation, in both the Vanni west and east, for a period of ten months, whereas the POE and Amnesty International placed the number of civilian deaths at over 40,000 and 10,000, respectively. The two organizations didn’t estimate the number of deaths among LTTE cadres. Interestingly, none of those who propagate the number of civilian deaths during eelam war IV are silent on losses suffered by the LTTE. But of the 7,721 deaths estimated by the UN at least over a half are believed to be members of the LTTE. The Army lost over 5,000 officers and men during operations on the Vanni front (March 2007-May 19, 2009).

Now that Field Marshal Fonseka has, in no uncertain terms, denied systematic battle-field atrocities committed by his troops up to second week of May 2009, he cannot ignore unsubstantiated accusation made by British Labour Party MP Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) during a debate on ‘Human Rights in the Indian Sub-continent’ in the House of Commons, on Sept. 2011.

Alleging that Sri Lanka’s civil war had been one of the regions most dreadful conflicts of recent times, MP McDonagh alleged that in its last five months alone (January 1-May 19, 2009) 100,000 people were killed, 40,000 of them civilians. The MP reiterated that war crimes took place.

Members representing the two largest parties at Westminster – Labour and the Conservatives – called for justice for all people in Sri Lanka and the establishment of an independent, credible and thorough investigation into the allegations of war crimes committed by the Government and the LTTE during the final phase of the fighting.

The previous government didn’t even take up the issue with the British. When The Island inquired from the British High Commission in Colombo regarding the claim, the writer was asked to contact MP McDonagh. She didn’t respond to the writer’s emails. An attempt to reach her through the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF), too, failed.

The British is the only one so far to specify the final phase of the Sri Lankan offensive as the period between January 1-May 19, 2009.

The British should be requested to provide evidence before the proposed war crimes inquiry. Field Marshal Fonseka’s declaration, in parliament, strongly countered the findings of a high profile inquiry conducted by Ms Sandra Beidas. The Beidas report presented to Geneva, last September, alleged that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes were committed by all parties during the period under investigation. Indeed, if established before a court of law, many of these allegations would amount, depending on the circumstances, to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity".

There couldn’t be any ambiguity as regards the killing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the morning of May 19, 2009 by then the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Fonseka was back in the country following less than a week long visit to Beijing. During last Thursday’s speech, in Parliament, Field Marshal Fonseka ridiculed the then President Rajapaksa for declaring victory over the LTTE on May 19 soon after returning from Jordan. Fonseka resumed operational command immediately after returning from Beijing.

Field Marshal Fonseka has thrown his weight behind the call to thoroughly investigate the ‘white flag’ killings, as fighting on the Vanni east front drew to a close. The POE, as well as the Maxwell Paranagama Commission, and many other organizations, commented on white flag killings, therefore Sri Lanka cannot side-step the issue. However, a statement made by a US embassy staffer in June 2011, regarding ‘white flag’ killings, should also be inquired into. US Defence Attache in Colombo, Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith, is on record as having denied surrender of LTTE personnel and their families as alleged in the ‘white flags’ killings case. The State Department responded to the writer’s exclusive report that dealt with the US embassy staffer’s statement on the front-page of The Island. Instead of denying he report, the State Department asserted that the officer was not speaking on behalf of the US. The Defence Attache was at the inaugural defence seminar organized by the Army in Colombo. Lt. Colonel Smith was responding to questions retired IPKF officer Maj. General Ashok Mehtha posed to Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva whose troops were accused of ‘white flag’ killings.

Lt. Colonel Smith: "Hello, may I say something to a couple of questions raised. I’ve been the defence attache here at the US Embassy, since June, 2008. Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict – from what I was privileged to hear and to see, the offers to surrender that I am aware of, seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE. So their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.

"And I think the same is true for the version of events. It’s not so uncommon in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various commanders at various levels that the stories don’t seem to all quite match up.

But I can say that the version presented here so far in this is what I heard as I was here during that time. And I think I better leave it at that before I get into trouble."

Lt. Colonel Smith can shed light on the actual situation. The proposed judicial inquiry can call for his evidence. As the US Defence Attache, the former officer must have had access to entire gamut of intelligence obtained from various sources. Most importantly, he was making the statement over two years after the conclusion of the war.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Failed Norwegian peace bid in SL: Different perspectives, glaring omissions



(L-R) Dr. Jehan Perera, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Mark Salter (pic by Jude Denzil Pathiraja)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former BBC journalist and analyst, Mark Salter, recently declared in Colombo that a meeting of Co-Chairs of Sri Lankan donors - the US, EU, Japan and Norway - in Washington, on April 14, 2003 led to the collapse of the Norway-led peace initiative.

Salter categorized the Washington confab as the primary reason for the failure of the peace process. He was addressing a gathering at the International Center for Ethnic Studies (ICES) at Kynsey Terrace, Colombo, at the launch of To End a Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka.

According to Salter, the Washington meet deprived the LTTE of equal treatment, hence it undermined the entire peace process. The LTTE was left out of the Washington meet due to it being on the US list of proscribed organizations.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the National Peace Council (NPC) and the ICES backed Slater’s project.

Salter described the rejection of the LTTE’s ISGA (International Self-Governing Authority) proposal as well as failure to implement P-TOMS (Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure) as lost opportunities. The writer emphasized that the LTTE unveiled the ISGA proposal on Nov 1, 2003 in response to a longstanding government request. The then government and the LTTE reached an agreement on P-TOMS, on June 24, 2005. However, the JVP successfully moved the Supreme Court against P-TOMS. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on July 15, 2005.

Salter asserted that Sri Lanka failed to realize the importance of the LTTE agreeing to work with the government of Sri Lanka in accordance with P-TOMS.

Salter recalled the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination, close on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling on P-TOMS. The 73-year-old National List MP was sniped at his residence, at No 36, Bullers Lane.

Executive Director of the NPC, Dr. Jehan Perera, who had been a panelist at Salter’s book launch in a statement issued immediately after the Kadirgamar’s assassination on behalf primarily Norway funded NGO declared the killing was tragic but inevitable.

Interestingly, LTTE ideologue, Anton Balasingham, too, blamed the exclusion of the group from the Washington meet as the main reason for its decision to quit the negotiating table, on April 21, 2003. In a hard hitting letter, dated April 21, 2003, addressed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Balasingham explained their decision. Balasingham, a former employee of the British High Commission, and a British national, also pointed out the failure on the part of the government to fully implement the CFA.

Recollecting the circumstances under which the UNP sabotaged President Kumaratunga’s proposal for a new constituent assembly, in August 2000, Salter asserted that the Norwegian initiative suffered due to the absence of bi-partisan political support.

Obviously, Salter didn’t find fault with the LTTE for the collapse of the Norwegian effort. The writer is on record as having said that he undertook to examine the Norwegian role, in Sri Lanka, on the request of Norwegian Vidar Helgesen, a key player in Oslo’s Sri Lanka team. The request that had been made in 2012 was backed by Erik Solheim, who spearheaded the effort. Helgesen had been the Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the Norwegian initiative in Sri Lanka. Consequent to the collapse of the much publicized Oslo project, Helgesen received the appointment as Secretary-General of International IDEA, a Stockholm-based inter-governmental organization. Salter, too, had been there at that time as a Senior Programme Officer responsible for a reconciliation programme. Salter’s responsibilities included Sri Lanka. Although, Salter had quit the Institute, in 2010, to go freelance, Helgesen remained there until his return to government following the Conservative-led coalition’s victory in the 2014 elections.

It would be pertinent to mention that Salter’s services had been sought in the wake of Norway launching Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka (1997-2009). Most probably, some of those who had been engaged in the high profile Sri Lanka project weren’t satisfied with the official version, launched in September, 2011. Chr. Michelsen Institute and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, jointly put out the report. The team responsible for the official version comprised Gunnar Sørbø, Jonathan Goodhand, Bart Klem, Ada Elisabeth Nissen and Hilde Selbervik.

There is absolutely no basis for Salter’s assertion that the Norwegian arranged CFA had been very much similar to the text of the agreement between President Kumaratunga and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, finalized on January 5, 1995. The government and the LTTE exchanged what was called the formal declaration of cession of hostilities through the LTTE on January 6, 1995. The 1995 agreement had been a mere declaration of cessation of hostlities to be supervised jointly by special five member committees, comprising government and LTTE representatives (two each) under the leadership of foreigners. The CFA of February 2002 recognized a specific area in the temporarily-merged Northern and Eastern regions under LTTE control while paving the way for the group to operate in areas under military control in the guise of being engaged in political work. The CFA also compelled the government to disarm Tamil groups opposed to the LTTE. The move helped the LTTE to further consolidate its power.

The CBK-Prabhakaran agreement and the CFA should be examined against the backdrop of the ground situation during January, 1995, and February 2002. The LTTE held the Jaffna peninsula though the military maintained isolated bases at Elephant Pass and Palaly-Kankesanthurai sector. The LTTE felt that an agreement on cessation of hostilities would facilitate its efforts to dislodge the military from Pooneryn to pave the way for easy access to and from the Jaffna peninsula through the Jaffna lagoon. In other words, the LTTE strategy had been especially meant to overcome a crippling military - imposed embargo on the Jaffna peninsula. By the time Norway finalized the CFA, in February 2002, the LTTE had been driven out of Jaffna and was entrenched in the Vanni region with substantial presence in the Eastern Province.

Dr. Perera essentially praised the Norwegian effort. Perera, formerly of Sarvodaya, didn’t offer anything contrary to what Salter said.

However, panelist Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka disagreed with Salter in respect of the three main contributory factors for the collapse of the Norwegian initiative, leading to the eelam war IV, in August 2006.

Having said that Salter’s book indispensable, Sri Lanka’s former Permanent Representative in Geneva discussed failures and shortcomings that caused irreparable damage to the Oslo project. Dr. Jayatilleka stressed that the author shed light not only on the past but present and possible future as well. Declaring that he didn’t repeat the opinion of those who lauded the Norwegian bid or condemned them, the veteran analyst said that his was nothing but a critique not neo-liberal or neo-conservative. Dr. Jayatilleke expressed the opinion that the Norwegian failure here could have been avoided had they been cautious in their approach. The outspoken former ambassador warned the Norwegians unless they recognized failures here similar strategies could be repeated in other parts of the world and even here, in post-war situation, much to the disappointment of those who genuinely value reconciliation.

Dr. Jayatilleke asserted that Norway’s failure to seek Indian expertise as the primary reason for their failure to sustain the peace initiative. Describing the Norwegian project as conceptually ill founded, Dr. Jayatilleka asserted that had the Norwegians adopted an efficient strategy, in consultation with New Delhi, the situation today would have been different even if war erupted. Norway could have avoided dismal failure had they examined India’s efforts to settle Sri Lanka’s national issue.

Dr. Jayatilleke explained India’s efforts with the focus on New Delhi bending backwards to appease the LTTE. "Tigers were treated very well by the Indians. Those who lived through that, such as myself, remember the first interim administration in which Velupillai Prabhakaran’s LTTE was given seven out of the 12 seats, including the chairmanship. And they walked out of the deal."

India’s decision to airlift Prabhakaran, in 1986, for talks in Bangalore underscored the absurdity of the situation.

Asserting that the Norwegian strategy, or model, meant to bring talks between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE had been a total failure, Dr. Jayatilleka blamed Norway for not consulting Hardeep Singh Puri who had been attached to the Indian High Commission, in Colombo, in early 80s. Dr. Jayatilleka said that Puri, who later functioned as India’s Permanent Representatives in New York could have facilitated the Norwegian project. Puri had been in direct contact with Prabhakaran in the run-up to the finalization of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 29, 1987. "Nobody bothered to talk to him. Indians were kept in the loop but nobody asked them. The most sensible voices, I read in this book, are the voices of the Indians."

Salter’s book conveniently ignored India’s despicable role in sponsoring terrorism here. Unfortunately, the expert panel at the ICES launch refrained from at least referring to Indian military intervention here. Puri’s expertise in dealing with Prabhakaran here should be examined against the backdrop of him calling for an investigation, in April, 2013, into alleged atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan military during the final phase of the Vanni offensive. Puri called for an investigation into what he called specific allegations of war crimes during the last 100 days of military operations. Puri also alleged that the Ramprakash wanted to do away with the Provincial Council system. Having funded half a dozen terrorist groups, India finally established Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to protect the then EPRLF provincial administration installed through fraudulent means. The formation of the TNA took place as India commenced gradual withdrawal of troops from Sri Lanka in late 1989.

Puri’s call for war crimes investigation in April 2013 prompted the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to castigate the Indian who had dealt with the man responsible for the assassination of one-time Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (Gotabhaya reminds former Indian UN rep of his role in Colombo during 80 - The Island of April 11, 2013). Had the then Indian government acted with responsibility, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have experienced a 30-year war, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa asserted. People of all communities would have been still suffering horrors of war, if not for the eradication of terrorism in May 2009, following a three-year combined security forces campaign, the Defence Secretary said, noting that India could never absolve itself of the responsibility for creating terrorism here, though some of those directly involved in subverting Sri Lanka were blaming the Rajapaksa administration for the plight of Tamil speaking people here.

War veteran Rajapaksa reminded Puri of Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists making an attempt to seize power in the Maldives in early November 1988. India could never absolve itself of destabilizing a friendly country, Rajapaksa declared.

Norway wouldn’t have had to depend on Puri or his wife Lakshmi, who was also stationed in Colombo at that time to realize the LTTE was not interested in a negotiated settlement. India paid a very heavy price for sponsoring terrorist groups in Sri Lanka. The Indian projected nearly cost the then Maldivian President his life. Successive Sri Lankan governments, including the war winning Rajapaksa administration pathetically failed to examine the national problem. Many interested in ethnic issue had read J. N. Dixit’s Assignment Colombo. But I believe Dixit’s memoirs titled Makers of Indian’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun Roy to Yashwant Sinha explained New Delhi’s intervention here. Let me quote Dixit verbatim: "India’s involvement in Sri Lanka, in my assessment, was unavoidable not only due to the possible ramifications of the Sri Lankan government’s oppressive and discriminating policies against its Tamil citizens but also in terms of India’s national concerns due to the Sri Lankan government’s evolving security connections with the US, Pakistan and Israel."(page 144).

Today, Israel is one of India’s major armaments suppliers and India-US relations achieved unprecedented high. Sri Lanka is facing a hybrid war crimes investigation thanks to US and its allies hell-bent on teaching the war winning Rajapaksas a lesson.

"It would be relevant to analyze India’s motivations and actions vis-a-vis Sri Lanka in the larger perspective of the international and regional strategic environment obtaining between 1980 and 1984."(page 144).

The international community, well-funded NGOs and various civil society organizations didn’t take notice of Dixit’s opinion. Dixit blamed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for New Delhi’s decision to intervene here. Dixit said: "Indira Gandhi redefined the ideology of nonalignment more preciously in terms of the interests of developing countries. The two foreign policy decisions on which she could be faulted are: her ambiguous response to the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan and her giving active support to Sri Lankan Tamil militants. Whatever the criticism about these decisions, it cannot be denied that she took them on the basis of her assessments about India’s national interests. Her logic was that she could not openly alienate the former Soviet Union when India was so dependent on that country for defense supplies and technologies. Similarly, she could not afford the emergence of Tamil separatism in India by refusing to support the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils. These aspirations were legitimate in the context of nearly fifty years of Sinhalese discrimination against Sri Lankan Tamils."(page 147)

Dr. Jayatilleka blamed the Norwegians for not having consultations with Puri. Salter, however, assured that the Norwegians, during their project here, closely worked with India and promised to establish the actual situation in respect of Norway-Puri contacts during his forthcoming visit to New Delhi for the book launch.

Referring to Chapter 8 of To End a Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka, the writer queried Salter whether he spoke to TNA leader R. Sampanthan or any other TNA representative in respect of allegations that the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had bribed the LTTE to prevent Northerners from exercising their franchise at November, 2005 presidential poll. Salter admitted that he hadn’t been able to speak with TNA leaders in this regard. The writer pointed out that Sampanthan as the person who had announced the LTTE directive on November 9, 2005 to boycott the election should know whether Rajapaksa bribed the LTTE. Perhaps, Salter should talk to the TNA, at least now, to establish the truth. Culpability of the TNA in this matter cannot be ignored.

Did the LTTE help Rajapaksa to win believing he could be overwhelmed on the battlefield? If not for the polls boycott, UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe would have certainly emerged the winner.

Salter’s failure to interview TNA leaders is astonishing. If Dr. Jayatilleke felt that Norwegians could have understood the LTTE on the basis of information provided by Puri, anyone examining the events leading to eelam war IV and post-war situation should talk to the TNA. Several years before the outbreak of the final war, the TNA declared the LTTE as the sole reprsentative of the Tamil speaking people and worked closely with the group until the very end. Their relationship had been strong with the TNA parliamentary group receiving direct instructions from Kilinochchi until the military cornered the LTTE on the Vanni east front.