18 September, 2019

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Political Machinations: The Norwegian Need For Transparency

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP

I have long had faith in the Norwegian government and its representatives in Sri Lanka, even though – as I have always made clear to them – I thought that Eric Solheim was a shifty character and should not have been trusted. However, though he was not I think an honest broker as far as the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement and the negotiations that followed were concerned, I believe the Norwegian Mission here more than made up for his lapses.

At least I believe that is true after the initial period, when Jon Westbord was Ambassador. He was unlike Solheim however in that his motives were misplaced idealism, rather than personal advancement. Westborg had after all been in Sri Lanka in the eighties, when elements in the Jayewardene government, led by Cyril Mathew, had encouraged and indeed participated in attacks on Tamils, and his mindset was governed therefore by total sympathy for the Tamil cause.

Even in the eighties he had been what might be termed an activist, in that he had supported a lot of colonization in the Vanni by Tamils of Indian origin. I don’t think he saw this as a deliberate attempt to influence the demographics of the area, but rather as providing solace to those who had been attacked in their homes. After all it was the Indian Tamils who suffered most in both 1977 and 1981, despite the fact that Mr Thondaman was solidly behind the government by the latter date.

That indeed is why I have found false – as well as unacceptable, which it certainly is – the claim of Mathew apologists that the Tamils deserved what they got because they had espoused separatism and they did not speak out against this. The Indian Tamils supported government, but they still suffered, making it clear that the perpetrators of violence were simply vicious thugs.

I should note that this violence – and Mr Westborg’s sympathy – did contribute to demographic change in the Vanni. While I believe it would be totally wrong for government to engage in colonization schemes now to settle Sinhalese in the North, they should certainly develop a better recording system of the numbers of those of Indian origin who did settle in the North in the seventies and eighties. This would make it clear that sponsored colonization has been an ongoing process, and to blame only government for such activities is erroneous.

I say this because I was astonished to find so many who spoke Sinhalese in Manik Farm in 2009. The explanation was that they had come from the Hill Country. I still come across many such now in my meetings at Divisional Secretariats, and I find that they are particularly affected by land problems, given that they did not get title deeds when they moved to the Vanni during that period. They should certainly be provided with land security now, having spent so much time there, but it should also be made clear that using them in order to make claims about traditional homelands is just plain nonsense.

Westborg, as I have explained, had his own agenda, but his successors were I believe balanced in their approach, as was the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which scrupulously recorded all violations of the Cease Fire Agreement, making it clear that it was the LTTE that was predominantly guilty. Though some younger members – as their seniors explained to me – came out with erroneously ideal notions, they soon learned the truth about the LTTE. And most of them did their job honestly, as was shown for instance when they found the weapons on the ship that the then government had wanted the navy to set free, when they were trying to have it searched.

Mr Brattskar, whom I met only briefly, most memorably when he came back from the Vanni to brief Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and myself on his last visit to the Tigers, was one reason I think the Tigers withdrew from the talks, because he made it clear that the Sri Lankan government had every right to raise the issue of child recruitment. The Wickremesinghe government had not raised any issues itself, a habit that Prof G L Peiris brought into negotiations with the TNA too, a sure recipe for disaster. But the Rajapaksa government, at least in those days, was made of sterner stuff, and the Tigers realized that they would not have an easy ride in discussions, with the Norwegians also making it clear that they could not simply rule complaints out.

Mr Brattskar too it was who told us what we already knew, but which the aid agencies then working in the North had kept scrupulously quiet about, namely that the Tigers had been recruiting one member from each family, and were beginning to demand a second. It was clear from his despair that he realized they were intransigent, and that the Peace Process was dead, though it was only formally abrogated a few months later, after the SLMM had made one more attempt to persuade the LTTE Peace Secretariat to talk to us.

Brattskar’s successor inherited a difficult situation, but handled it well, as did his successor, who had the merit of having been his Deputy, so she understood the situation thoroughly. However it seems to have been during their time that the association with the Bodhu Bala Sena, which Wimal Weerawansa has highlighted, began.

The explanation we have now been given is that there was simply an effort to engage with monks who had been hostile to the Norwegians, and that is why contacts were initiated. But, given that this engagement involved sponsorship for a visit to Norway, one can’t help feeling that further enticements might have been made available if a suitable response was forthcoming. I hope therefore that the Norwegians will ensure that a full inquiry is made into what happened, and whether any funds were provided by any Norwegian source, to the BBS or individual members of it.

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    Rajiva Wijesinghe, RE: The Norwegian BBS

    “The explanation we have now been given is that there was simply an effort to engage with monks who had been hostile to the Norwegians, and that is why contacts were initiated. But, given that this engagement involved sponsorship for a visit to Norway, one can’t help feeling that further enticements might have been made available if a suitable response was forthcoming. I hope therefore that the Norwegians will ensure that a full inquiry is made into what happened, and whether any funds were provided by any Norwegian source, to the BBS or individual members of it.”

    Absolutely.

    A Full accounting, and report down to the last Rupee, Lat Norwegian Kroner and Last Dollar or Euro the BBS And their henchmen were getting must be requested and demanded.

    Who funded BBS on the USA visit as well.

    Who is paying for the expenses.

    Who is behind, what the strategy is and why is needed.

    Who are the Suspects? Who gains? Pick your selections?

    1. Norwegians?
    2. LTTE, Tamil Global Forum,
    3. Jatika Hela Urumaya, JHU, and Jatika Harak Urumaya
    4. Sinhala Ravya
    5. Maras

    6. USA
    7. UK
    8. EU
    9. The Christian Fundamentalists
    10. The Catholic Church

    11. Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhist Traders and Businessmen
    12. The Indians
    13. The Chinese
    14. The Wahhabis
    15. Any others you can think of?

    DeJa Vu…….

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    “ I thought that Eric Solheim was a shifty character and should not have been trusted.” – Wow – what height of eloquence from an English Prof and how so becoming of a diplomat! Well done Rajiva – I am sure you make the country, and MR in particular, very proud.

    Besides that, somehow this statement bring to mind that famous quote about the “pot and the kettle”!!

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    Has this fellow lost his marbles? why is this chronicle important..must be to distract from the issues that actually need mention and debate.

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      I believe the good Professor has very cleverly challenged the Norwegians and the BBS to come clean with their relationship, if any, and whether there is a hidden agenda. Yes, after the ‘Grease Yakka’ incidents, the major issues today involves the BBS and what they are really up to?

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    Hi Professori,

    Can you ask your leader to show some transparency in his plan to solve the ethnic problem in the country?

    I strongly suspect the man has no plans other than to sinhalise, militarise and impose a Chief Minister on the northern province by hook or crook.

    I call Rajapaksa a shifty character par excellence.

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      YO.. Man.. There is no ethnic problem in the country only a separatist problem. The country’s territorial integrity is intact and it’s not negotiable.
      The country should not only encourage people to settle in the NOTH and the EAST but also should give incentives as long as we are not colonizing Tamil Nadu.

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    Blah blah blah blah, get lost man.

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    Not true Rajiva.
    The Peace Process was killed off by the hawkish and duplicitous Rajapaksa regime committed to the Mahinda Chintanaya that never honoured the Memorandum of Understanding or complied with any undertaking in the six rounds of peace talks. Whilst unleashing the paramilitaries on the Tamil people and instigating violence, the regime wanted the LTTE to lay down its arms, when there was no Southern consensus on any power sharing mechanism. Earlier although the LTTE gave up its separatist plea and presented an interim proposal (ISGA) the Southern politicians were undermining each other in a power struggle and no effort was made to consider the ISGA or a federal system. Mahinda used the ‘war on terror’ as a means to demonise the LTTE, not only building his war chest and amassing weapons from all quarters but finding international allies from both sides of the spectrum-India and US on one side and China, Russia, Iran, Libya and Pakistan on the other – forming an unholy alliance that froze into inaction to stop him, even when he was killing tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. Mahinda did nothing to contribute to help the peace process move forward, instructing the SL delegates to cite the constitution to undermine the peace process. Even the Norwegians and Eric Solheim fell into the trap and did nothing; so did India. Now an evil autocrat and his wayward brothers with more teeth and claws are let loose on the Tamils with no defense.

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      Not true Usha. The Professor is correct and your attempt to demonise the Rajapakse regime and defend the LTTE brutality, is really pathetic. At least try to be grateful for the rescue of around 300000 Tamil hostages, ending suicide bombings, child abductions, laying mines, genocide of non-Tamils, distruction of economy etc. It is time to stop falsifying the actual history of this conflict, which we have been spared of since 2009.

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      Usha you sound like an LTTE supporter who is very bitter about their demise. Tamils too have a responsibility to figure out what happened and how one man was able to follow a path of terrrorism in the name of liberation. Rajapaksa regime may have problems but they gave plenty of opportunities for LTTE to abandon the terrorist war. Do you truly beleive LTTE was genuine about the ISGA? Think again!

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    The anti Rajapakse people are so blinded by hatred that they are unable to analyse anything dispassionately. They just become abusive or spit out what THEY think the truth ‘ought to be’. This site is fast becoming just another forum to express mutual hatred.

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    Colonization of Vanni by estate sector Tamils was initiated by TULF with the promise of Land to create a buffer zone.
    Ghandiyam movement was responsible with S.A.David planning a system similar to the Kibutz settlement in Israel.

    I believe, most of the vanni Tamils are estate sector Tamils of Indian origin.

    Peace process mooted by Ranil was killed by LTTE and Sri Skandarajas in anticipation of all or nothing principle.
    Mahinda chinthanaya issue commenced with Mavil Aru, Usha……..

    Its now gone too far to discuss these topics and the LTTE downfall was their greed & miscalculations and hence missed opportunities.
    Do not layment now.

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    Colonization of Vanni by estate sector Tamils was initiated by TULF with the promise of Land to create a buffer zone.
    Ghandiyam movement was responsible with S.A.David planning a system similar to the Kibutz settlement in Israel.

    I believe, most of the vanni Tamils are estate sector Tamils of Indian origin.

    Peace process mooted by Ranil was killed by LTTE and Sri Skandarajas in anticipation of all or nothing principle.
    Mahinda chinthanaya issue commenced with Mavil Aru, Usha……..

    Its now gone too far to discuss these topics and the LTTE downfall was their greed & miscalculations and hence missed opportunities.
    Do not layment now.

    WHAT IS REQUIRED NOW IS TO BUILD A HOME GROWN MUTUAL TRUST SANS OUTSIDE INFLUENCE.

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