Friday, 29 April 2011,
Norway’s former peace facilitator to the island of Sri Lanka, Mr. Erik Solheim, speaking to Norwegian state owned media NRK (Dagsnytt 18) on Wednesday, argued against any immediate international investigation on the war crimes in the island and said that it is only correct and fair to expect the Sri Lankan authorities to domestically investigate the UN panel material.
According to him, this is what the ‘broader international community’ including nearly all the Western countries want. Solheim defended Ban Ki Moon, as his situation is difficult, accused the Tigers for not listening to his surrender call since five months before the end of the war, and suggested a new principle for international law that since Tiger leaders are now eliminated, domestic handling should be given a chance than ‘one-sided’ international indictment of Sri Lankan state.
Erik Solheim speaking to NRK on Wednesday
Responding, the diaspora Tamil circles said that they were not surprised at such opinion and even practical course of action, as long as Ban Ki Moon and Vijay Nambiar of the UN, Robert Blake of the US State Department, Shiv Shankar Menon of the Indian establishment and Erik Solheim of Norway who were a party to all what had happened continue to deal with the outcome.
The diaspora Tamil circles also pointed out to a British Foreign Office statement Wednesday that had said nothing on international investigation but had vaguely called for independent and credible investigation without specifying who should conduct it.
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Speaking to NRK, Erik Solheim said that the UN panel report only confirmed what many had believing for the last two years, but it got a different weight when it came in the form of a UN report.
“It is a very strong report, I have not managed to read its details yet,” he said.
Solheim first dodged direct answer to the question by the interviewer whether an independent international investigation should be conducted immediately. He said that the UN Secretary General had requested Sri Lanka to undertake investigations, and added, “there are many dilemmas here.”
The Tamil Tigers were also responsible for very serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. But almost all have died. So, any indictment for all practical purposes therefore becomes one-sided against the Sri Lankan state leaders, while both parties have committed the war crimes. So, the demand of the UN Secretary General as well as what the international community has expressed support to, is that Sri Lanka itself should show that it could deal with it. If that didn’t happen, then we need to consider what we should be doing, Solheim said.
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When the NRK journalist asked “What do you think would take place in practice,” Mr. Solheim responded by saying that “It is my view that Sri Lankan authorities should investigate this [UN Panel] material, that had come with strong accusations against them. It is correct and fair [to expect] that a such [domestic] process takes place”.
When he was confronted again with the question “how credible is a such domestic investigation in Sri Lanka”, the minister said: “It depends on the composition [of investigation] and what material comes out [of such domestic investigation]. But, what the broader international community demands, nearly all Western countries, is that Sri Lanka itself should conduct such investigations. If it doesn’t happen, we will need to consider what we have to do.”
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At this point Solheim added that Norway has a difficult role here, “because even though we didn’t play any central role, the series of events that had been covered in the report involves us as a party.”
Solheim continued: “Tamil Tiger leaders Nadesan and Puleedevan made phone calls to Norway on 17 May, two years ago, when I was talking to various people in Sri Lanka throughout the whole day, and they said they were now prepared to surrender. They asked us what we think that they could do. We said that it was too late to organise any surrender. We have taken this up [your surrender] with you for five months, but you have always refused to do so. The only thing we can suggest is to raise a white flag and find a speaker to shout aloud that you are willing to surrender. So, we and the Red Cross and others contacted Sri Lanka’s top leaders and said that these leaders are willing to surrender so that it could happen in an organised way. And the following day, we received the message that they [who surrendered] have died. What happened in the meantime, how they were killed, we don’t know. ”
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Solheim defended the UN Secretary General when the NRK journalist pointed out at the Human Rights Watch criticism that the UN was not exerting enough pressure on Sri Lanka.
The UN Secretary General finds himself in a difficult situation, Solheim said.
“The opinion is divided among the superpowers. China and Russia have an opinion positive to Sri Lankan government, while the Western countries are basically more critical towards it. So, Ban ki Moon is moving in a difficult terrain. The demand is directed towards the Sri Lankan government that they conduct a credible investigation. This is not different from [other situations where] we have war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against many other countries, and we always demand that the country [of the subject] itself should conduct the investigations. It is only that if it doesn’t take place, then the International Community should opt to do it.”
When a question was asked why he was not saying his own opinion on the UN’s failure during and after the war, Solheim dodged, citing the contents in the report and said: “Because, we [Norway] are in a very different situation from any other areas where Norway is engaging. When I express anything on the situation of any country, I can do it to a purely Norwegian audience [domestically]. But, everything I say to you, here and now, would come on the first pages of the newspapers in Sri Lanka, if anyone wants to pick up on this and make trouble out of it. We are not in the same situation on the issues regarding any other countries in the world.”
Solheim refused to enter into any debate on his views with anyone.
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The NRK also interviewed a Sinhala expatriate lady, who defended the position of the Sri Lanka government, and an Eezham Tamil, Mr. Majoran Vivekananthan, who is the editor of a Norwegian biweekly, The Utrop.
Mr. Vivekananthan came out with critical remarks on Solheim’s approach, and said that it was cowardice on the part Mr. Solheim for not daring to debate the issue with the stakeholders.
“Not that Mr. Erik Solheim doesn’t know the track record of the current LLRC Commission or of all the other domestic deceits in the history of Sri Lanka,” said Mr. Vivekananthan, when contacted by TamilNet on Thursday.
If Mr. Solheim for five months was asking for the surrender of the LTTE, why he couldn’t arrange a third party guaranteed surrender, which is the minimum a ‘peace facilitator’ should have done, and why he didn’t openly tell the world and the hundreds of thousands of diaspora Eezham Tamils on the streets demanding the end of war that he had nothing up in his sleeves to prevent Colombo and its abettors ending the war in a genocide, ask the Norwegian Eezham Tamils.
The Norway government has conducted its own study on the failed peace process. Why the report of the study that has already been completed is yet to become public, and why the final report of the SLMM is yet to be released, are the other questions asked by the Norwegian Eezham Tamils.
They also said that the Norwegian Foreign Ministry is obliged to tell the Norwegian Eezham Tamils whether the line of thinking of Mr. Erik Solheim is its official policy towards the question of international justice between Eezham Tamils and Colombo government in the island.
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Eezham Tamil political analysts came out with the following comments:
As the only remaining side of the crimes – of which at least a small fraction has now been internationally recognized – the avenues are limited to Mahinda Rajapaksa and Co.
Either it has to commit suicide, or commit political suicide of conceding the country of Eezham Tamils to bargain just its escape, or commit more and more crimes to justify its crimes by involving the Sinhala masses and negotiating its survival by conceding the entire island as a playground for the powers.
It is logical for Mahinda Rajapaksa and Co. to opt for the third course of action.
But why some international diplomats should commit them to further crimes in the island is the question.
Governments behind them should realise the need of a fresh approach.
The only possible way of coming out of the vicious circle is international action to divide the island to save the nation of the victims from the chronic genocidal state.
Obviously there will be power equations that will make this logical solution difficult. Russia and China may be cited as excuses. Russia and China may also think of using this opportunity to create special difficulties to discredit the powers that are traditionally involved in the island.
But, if consensual international action is not possible, India, the USA and the bloc of countries that are tagged behind the USA, that were particularly responsible for the mess in the island may have to jointly put a full stop to the vicious circle. Secession is the only option at this stage.
Eezham Tamils in the island are gagged and they will continue to be gagged if the trend continues. The diaspora, people of Tamil Nadu and the other global Tamils should know what to demand, from whom to demand and how to demand. If they don’t know they lose again.
Sinhala analysts are quick in recognising that the Tamils have once again got their bargaining power after the UN panel report. But many Tamil circles seem to have not realised it.