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The peace that disappeared

Analysis: This week has shown that Norway's defeat in the peace process in Sri Lanka can be a victory for Tamils ​​and Sinhalese.


[new times] Monday 4. In December, something special happened in Sri Lanka: Norway's peacekeepers complied with the Sri Lankan government's failure to meet the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

"We have been told not to visit the LTTE until there has been a government meeting," a Norwegian ambassador to the Indian newspaper The Hindu explained. On Wednesday, the Sri Lankan government had a meeting to decide the way forward against the terror-stamped guerrilla movement in the north.

The prestigious Norwegian-led peace process, which started with current Minister of Development Erik Solheim's visit to LTTE's headquarters in Vanni on the 31. October 2000, may thus seem at the end. Or rather, Sri Lanka is now at a crucial juncture, where Norway is getting less and less to say. The choice is between war, peace or a continuing state of war with peaceful rhetoric as a sham.

It was not just last week's suicide bombing on Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapakse, when three people were killed, which was another nail in the coffin for the last years peace process between Tamils ​​and Sinhalese. This was just one of many attacks that the Tamil Tigers are believed to be behind. Since the peace agreement between LTTE and the Sri Lankan government was signed 22. February 2002, the guerrilla has broken an estimated 95 percent of conditions.

Only in the past year has 3500 human lives been lost in fighting between LTTE and Sri Lanka's government forces. Most of the victims are civilian Tamils, with unknown sympathy for the Tamil tigers.

Requires state

In short: There has been regular war in Sri Lanka in recent years. It has only been smaller in scope than the 1990 number. And it has been easy to overlook since a peace treaty was signed. But it is now becoming more evident that the peace of winter 2002 could not last. The conditions for a lasting peace were not present. The criticism of Norway in international media is getting stronger. Not least after LTTE's leader through 30 years, the Interpol-named dictator Vullupillai Prabhakaran, in his speech on his birthday, "Heroes Day" on 27. November, emphatically rejected any further dialogue with the Sri Lankan government. Instead of accepting a high degree of inner self-government, the LTTE leader said he had "no choice but to advocate for an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam".

In practice, a pure declaration of war. Again.

We may also notice that that conclusion came just after he said in his speech: “My beloved people. It has been a long time since we, with the help of Norway, embarked on this journey for peace. ”

It is no secret that the Tamil tigers have in recent years been looking with a keen eye on Norway, the country where the guerrillas also have many Tamil supporters who contribute financially. While both the EU, India, the US and Canada have labeled the LTTE as a terrorist organization, Norway has not done the same. Not without reason is the LTTE that in recent years has been the party that has most clearly required Norway to be present on the island. But beyond a limited and often forced LTTE support among some Tamils, who make up 18 percent of Sri Lanka's population, the intimacy between the guerrilla and Norway relations is becoming more and more frequently questioned.

- Norway has failed

Here is what Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was elected last fall, recently stated to The Hindu, on questions about LTTE leader Prabhakaran's speech 27. November:

"After Prabhakaran again spoke of a separate state in his Heroes' Day speech, your Colombo spokesman referred to Norway's role. What is Norway's role today? Rajapaksa: I have to find out from Norway. I can't understand their ... what they want to come up with. We must thank Norway for the efforts to facilitate this peace process. They have also tried to solve this for so many years, but they have failed terribly. "

The President of Sri Lanka thus sums up quite precisely how the situation is perceived among connoisseurs outside the Tamil Tigers and / or Norwegian circles. Not many doubt Norway's possible good intentions, but it is the wrong consequences that are now being criticized. One main criticism is that the Norwegian peace brokers gave too much power to the guerrilla LTTE. They were made representatives of the Tamils, instead of including more peaceful Tamil organizations – which the LTTE has done its best to gag. And other minority groups were left out of the peace talks, such as the LTTE-displaced Muslims.

Just over a week ago, LTTE defender V. Muralitharan, also known as General Karuna, appeared in the Daily News with very strong charges against Norwegian peacemakers' financial agreements with Tamil Tiger leader Prabhakaran in 2002. The Norwegian embassy has responded swiftly and dismissively back in Sinhalese newspapers. But similar accusations and disclosures will come more from the future. Not just because Norway is now more and more put on the sidelines. But also because the growing Tamil opposition to the violent methods of the Tamil Tigers is now rising in strength across much of the world.

The Karuna interview in the Daily News resulted in Canada's opposition leader sending traces of his request for scrutiny to both the Norwegian prime minister, the parliamentary parties and VG journalists. The LTTE-critical newspaper Asian Tribune publishes a steady stream of similar cases. And Swedish authorities have now granted the Asian Tribune permission to start broadcasting EuroAsian Radio. This 24-hour radio channel aims to hit back at the otherwise tamiltiger-embossed information that has otherwise been widespread. In this way, Scandinavia can become a very important battleground for the "truth" about Sri Lanka: LTTE critics in Sweden against LTTE sympathizers in Norway.

Blair takes over

It is worth noting that Norway recently condemned the LTTE terrorist attacks together, including the EU and Japan. But then it was already clear that the UK is increasingly trying to get the process back on track. In August, President Rajapaksa met in Tony Blair's private residence. The result was that Blair sent Paul Murphy himself to Colombo in November. It was Murphy who, in 1998, supported the Nobel Prize-winning Good Friday Agreement, which made the IRA drop its weapons and Ireland became a more peaceful island. In Sri Lanka, many have interpreted it as if the government is trying to change the negotiating model: from the criticized and failed Norwegian-Palestine solution to the more inclusive and Protestant-Catholic solution in Northern Ireland.

How to end the ring: Ironically, it was the detachment of the British Empire in 1948 that laid the foundation for today's conflict between Tamils ​​and Sinhalese. Tamil protests started after socialist nationalist Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who in 1960 became the world's first elected female prime minister, dropped English as the official language in favor of the majority language Sinhalese. After the extremist Prabhakaran seized weapons in 1972 and his increasingly Marxist LTTE was founded in 1976, there was no turning back. 65.000 human lives have so far been lost.

What everyone needs now is a fresh start.


■ Sri Lanka has 20 million inhabitants. 74 percent are Sinhalese, 18 percent Tamils, who are most in the north.

■ Tamils ​​are mainly Hindus, Sinhalese mostly Buddhists, but the distinction is in language, not religion.

■ The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Tamil Tigers) has been fighting for a separate state north of the island since 1976. 65.000 people have been killed.

■ 22. February 2002 signed a peace agreement between LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lanka has now reached a crucial junction

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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