Feature Article

LTTE losing, SL winning was Norway failing: Norway report team leader

[TamilNet, Sunday, 13 November 2011, 18:46 GMT]
While releasing the evaluation report on Norway’s failed peace process in Sri Lanka on Friday, the team leader of the evaluation panel, Gunnar M. Sørbø, outlining the main findings of the report said “The collapse of talks and the subsequent military victory were as much a story of the LTTE ‘losing’, as of the government ‘winning’, or the Norwegians ‘failing’. The social anthropologist also came out with a profound reality the nation of Eezham Tamils were encountering for ages but hardly realized by the outsiders, when he said that apart from the other factors that failed the peace facilitation, “there were also patterns and structures and some of them were ‘old tricks in the Sri Lankan book’, so there was no excuse for not anticipating them, or for lacking a strategy to deal with them.”

Gunnar Sørbø
Gunnar Sørbø
“I think there is a difference though between the unfolding of unpredictable events that could not be foreseen, and, on the other hand, long-term features of the Sri Lankan political system, or the economy, or the role of NGOs in Sri Lankan society, for example, where knowledge is and was available and where we would expect that a facilitator or anybody else intervening in Sri Lankan affairs would command such knowledge as the basis for making hopefully sound judgments,” Sørbø said.

He was arguing in favour of Norway withdrawing from the peace process at an earlier stage.

“Norwegian withdrawal as official facilitator would not have changed events in any major way. But it would have clarified the situation and sent a clear signal to domestic and international parties,” he said.

Sørbø cited a statement of Erik Solheim that was not followed in practice.

In April 2001, Erik Solheim pronounced that “If one day we become convinced that one side or both are not serious and only use our efforts as a cover for fooling the world, we will discontinue our efforts.”

Erik Solheim was the minister in charge of Sri Lanka peace process in 2009.

Sørbø said that ethical issues should have been in the forefront of a Norwegian discussion on withdrawal, as peace efforts are about life and death.

“The Ministry has communicated to us that such issues were indeed on the table continuously, but this is not much reflected in the (rich) archives nor from the interviews we held,” the evaluation team leader said.

Mr. Erik Solheim has also often gone on record in the post-war times in saying that there was a political solution on the table but the LTTE missed it.

Explaining the title of the report, “Pawns of Peace,” which paints a picture of Norway as a victim, Sørbø said the metaphor of the chess piece could be interpreted in two ways: first that external interveners are never neutral referees but active players in a peace process and second, pawns tend to be minor (rather than game changing players), but they can also become significant players at certain moments in the game, when power is evenly balanced – they can tip the game in one direction or another.

“Another meaning of the term is someone being used to further the purposes of others,” Sørbø said.

Earlier in his speech, Sørbø said, “Norway became increasingly exposed, used as a pawn in domestic politics but also by external players who found it convenient for Norway to continue its role while silently accepting that the Sri Lankan government pursued “war for peace”.

Sørbø concluded saying, “peace must be made primarily by domestic actors who take the risks and bear the costs of peacemaking.”

Is it a new strategy for washing hands of the responsibilities to Eezham Tamils victimized by Norway’s peace facilitation, for normalizing relationship with genocidal Sri Lanka and for providing silent abetment to Sri Lanka’s furtherance of structural genocide or is it a naive way of accepting the fact that ‘peace’ in united Sri Lanka is not possible, wonder Eezham Tamils.

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