Opinion Article
2ND LEAD (Adds full report)

Norway ‘LLRC’ distributes blame, washes hands of victims after ‘victory’

[TamilNet, Friday, 11 November 2011, 11:11 GMT]
A report on Norway’s failed peace process in Sri Lanka, “Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009” was released in Oslo on Friday. Whether pawns of peace or ploys for genocide, Norway’s report distributed blame among all the actors. A deficiency the report finds in Norway was not its grave failure to warn the world about peace turning into genocide, but that Norway should have escaped from the scene at an earlier stage. The report admits that the peace process has only enhanced obstacles to peace now. But, even after the process facilitating internationally abetted genocide, the report subconsciously sees “victory” in the war and it now harps on “primacy of domestic politics,” to imply ways for solutions. Norway washes hands of its responsibilities to victims and the report now seeks lessons to learn for ’peacebuilding’ elsewhere.

The report was commissioned by the Evaluation Department (EVAL) of the Norwegian government development agency NORAD. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Norway was a main stakeholder in it.

According to the terms of reference of commissioning an independent panel to report, the sole purpose and objective of the evaluation and the intended use of the report were to “learn from the unique Norwegian experience as a facilitator in the peace process in Sri Lanka.”

The report attributed reasons for the failure of the peace process to the adherence of the SL government and the LTTE to their respective causes, nature of state structure in Sri Lanka, Karuna’s split from the LTTE, war on terror undermining Norway’s efforts, Sinhala nationalist reaction to internationalization of solution and Asian powers helping Rajapaksa regime.

The thrust of the report washes hands of the victims of the peace process turned genocide and harps on the importance of ‘domestic politics’ in the island.

The report implies Sri Lanka is a hopeless case for Norway’s soft power efforts as well as hard power exertions coming from outside as was in the case of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).

The total frustration expressed in the report on outside initiatives finding peace within united Sri Lanka only implies that the ultimate solution is either secession or total subjugation of Eezham Tamils. Which one a failed peace facilitator should choose in such circumstances is not clear in the report.

The main body of the report has many contentious findings and observations on ISGA proposals, diaspora-LTTE relationship, “war, victory and human disaster,” etc., and biases in shielding Norway’s pressures and tactics on Tamils, choice of evidence, authenticity of evidence etc.

However, the report also has come out with some substantial conclusions that are fundamentally positive to bring in paradigm changes, if understood in right perspectives and put into effective practice by Norway. The frustration aired in the report itself is a very positive beginning.

Two observations in the report in this regard are of great significance to the continued international players in the island and to the Eezham Tamils organizing their polity, as much as they are to Norway or perhaps even more than that to Norway.

Those are observations on aid and the observations on Sri Lanka setting a dangerous paradigm of an “Asian model of conflict resolution.”

* * *

The report categorically says, “Aid cannot be a substitute for politics.”

It is significant that the analysis comes from a country, the international perspectives and interests of which are entirely placed on aid and development for its leverage.

“Aid may play a supportive role in peace process, but cannot short-circuit complex political processes,” the report said, after perusal of Norway’s involvement in the island.

Between 1997 and 2009, Norway’s ‘development cooperation in the island amounted to around 2500 million NOK.

Of which only 100 million NOK, just 4 per cent of the total, was directly spent on facilitating the peace process, including on the expenditures of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and the peace secretariats.

Norwegian NGOs and SL government received the bulk.

Among the other 240 partners, Milinda Moragoda’s institution received more than 60 million NOK. The amount that went to the LTTE peace secretariat was a small fraction.

Norway at times had to ‘buy peace’ through aid, the report says and it advises “more modest but conflict sensitive role for aid in the context of peace processes” in future.

But even after the war, Norway was acting contrary to what is now said in the report. With no sight of political freedom, using the lure of funds Norway tried to persuade the diaspora to collaborate with chauvinistic Sinhala NGOs to work in the North and East. Norwegian Tamil diaspora resisted to it. But even in 2010, Norway provided funds to a Sinhala NGO of chauvinistic polity to work in the North and East, bringing some diaspora individuals from elsewhere to work under it in order to simulate participation of Tamil diaspora.

Whether Norway, other international donors and Tamil groups that think of development would learn from the report to give priority to the political cause is the question.

* * *

The other pertinent point of universal importance the report brings in is the possibility of global order following the Sri Lanka example.

“The Sri Lankan peace process reflects broader global changes. It began as an experiment in liberal peacebuilding and ended as a result of a very different ‘Asian model’ of conflict resolution,” the report says.

Building on Westphalian notions of sovereignty [by which the European nation states were formed and inspired the world of nationalism since 1648 AD] and non-interference, a strong developmental state, the military crushing of the ‘terrorism’, and the prevalence of order over dissent or political change are the features the report identifies as the problem.

“This global ‘eastward’ shift may have far-reaching implications for the possibilities of Norwegian-style mediation in the future,” the report cautions Norway.

The report tries to paint a “Clash of Civilization” picture.

But whether the Sri Lanka model is really ‘Asian’ or has it originated elsewhere for global implementation after experimenting it in Sri Lanka is the question of humanity watching events.

The Norwegian peace effort has started in the very year (1997), the USA notified the LTTE as a banned terrorist organization.

The report now discusses war on terrorism undermining Norway’s peace initiative, its doubt whether Norway could pursue peace facilitation anymore by aligning with war on terror and at the same time talking peace with ‘terrorists’ and the report advises that Norway in future should undertake peace facilitation by aligning with powers of leverage to the context. These can be interpreted in many ways.

* * *

Whatever the case may be, a serious lacuna in the report is its poor understanding of the old nations and the nature of their conflicts in Asia, especially even after seeing the peace process to keep the island united contributing to a genocidal blood feud of eternal memory.

In denouncing the Westphalian model the thinking in the West, coming from its new nations and the EU-model incorporations of the old nations of Europe, is not sensitive enough to the boundaries arbitrarily created in the former European colonies and the symbolic importance of sovereignty to such old nations. Sovereignty in this context is perceived in an altogether different sense compared to how it is perceived by today’s imperialists.

By thinking ‘development’ could do all the wonders in contemporary times, and orientating their international approach on it, even Norwegians have forgotten their secession from Sweden.

The report sees the conflict in the island only as a result of incomplete state formation (a phrase Sinhala elite often use to ‘complete’ it), exclusivist identity politics, dynastic rivalries, uneven development patterns and flawed mediation efforts.

The report also acknowledges that the Norwegian peace facilitation model was just mediating between state and non-state actors in conflicts. The model itself upholds existing states and ignores the aspirations of nations by harping on luring or coercing ‘actors’.

The report reveals that as early as in 1999, the Norwegian team concurred that a separate state for Tamils is ‘out of the question’.

Norway’s involvement in peace building ranged to 16 countries across the world. It went as the Lead Facilitator or one of the Lead Facilitators in the instances of Timor Leste, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Haiti/ Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Philippines.

East Timor and Sudan were successful cases as they ended up with the logical solution of secession.

But of all the cases, Sri Lanka is the most pertinent and chronic case of ancient nations needing separation. But, Norway failed to perceive it.

Those who steered Norway’s peace process, especially in the last stages, were either in a dream world or miscalculated on bringing in ‘peace’ of their perception by making one of the two nations surrender to the other. They not only failed the peace efforts but have also endangered the world order and Norway’s future prospects.

If Norway really worries about the dangers of ‘Asian model’ of conflict resolution, it is time for Norway to think of fresh strategies of peace building initiatives for its development paradigm by upholding the quest of nations without state to get their states. Norway could even inspire the entire west in this regard, and the independence of Eezham Tamils is a good beginning to set the record right.

* * *

Findings as summarized by TamilNet from the Executive Summary of the report:

The peace process failed because:

  1. Both the SL government and the LTTE entered into the peace process while staying committed to their cause
  2. Peace efforts were constrained by structural features of the Sri Lankan State and politics. Conflicts over territory are particularly resistant to negotiated settlements
  3. Window of opportunity was short, and even that was lost by the 2004 split in the LTTE (Karuna factor) and by policies of war on terror that without caring for the specifications of the Sri Lankan case undermined the process.
  4. The internationalization of the peace process by the UNF government (Ranil’s efforts) sparked Sinhala-nationalist backlash, used by Mahinda government to go for military solution with the help of Asian powers.

The failure of Norway could have been mitigated by:

  1. Better understanding of the domestic context, particularly about material symbolic effects of external intervention.
  2. By placing stronger parameters and minimal conditions on Norwegian involvement, rather than taking up a passive ownership-based model.
  3. By withdrawing from its roles as mediator and monitor at an earlier stage. Careful monitoring should have led to this.

Lessons learnt for peace-building elsewhere:

  1. Unforeseen and unintended consequences can come. Consequentialist ethics and precautionary principles are required.
  2. Norway as a soft power mediator, should avoid situations where it is weak and isolated. Need to think about the balance between hard and soft power. Sri Lanka is a weak case for peace where even hard power by external actors cannot override domestic political dynamics (reference to the IPKF of India).
  3. Mediators should attach firm conditions to their involvement, such as right to engage with all parties, preserve public communication to speak about malpractices and to have leverage in relation to the parties.
  4. Aid may play a supportive role in peace processes, but cannot short-circuit complex political processes. Aid cannot be a substitute for politics.
  5. Robust coordination needed in playing multiple roles. Norway was diplomatic broker, arbiter of the ceasefire and humanitarian cum development funder in Sri Lanka.
  6. In the context of war on terror, making a united front with the international players countering terrorism and simultaneously talking to ‘terrorists’ in order to bring in peace may not be possible for Norway that is used to the model of mediating between state and non-state actors.
  7. Sri Lanka outcome reflects broader global changes and it has far reaching implications for the future possibilities of Norwegian-style mediation, as the end was Asian model of conflict resolution and this model may serve as an inspiration for other countries in the region.

* * *

The evaluation project contract advertised by NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, which is a directorate under the Ministry of Foreign affairs), was awarded to Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) in Bergen, Norway, and to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.

The study for evaluation was undertaken by the following:

Gunnar M. Sørbø Social anthropologist, team leader
Jonathan Goodhand Development studies, deputy team leader
Bart Klem Geographer, conflict analysis, monitoring and mediation
Ada Elisabeth Nissen Historian, archival studies
Hilde Beate Selbervik Historian, overview of Norwegian aid to Sri Lanka

Goodland, Klem and Sørbø have produced the report.

According to the terms of reference of the evaluation commission, a conference like the one taking place at Oslo on Friday has to be organized in Sri Lanka too for the dissemination of the report.

* * *

The report mentions 84 names as people who have contributed to the evaluation study. The names of 34 in Sri Lanka are not mentioned for different reasons. The following are the names of Tamils or people based in Chennai contributed to the report:

  • Raja Balasingham as Tamil representative in Oslo
  • S.C. Chandrahasan
  • R. Hariharan (former intelligence official of India)
  • Ram Manikkalingam (former advisor to Chandrika)
  • Ramu Manivannan (University of Madras)
  • Suthakaran Nadarajah (former confidante of Anton Balasingham)
  • N. Ram (Editor, The Hindu)
  • B. Raman (former intelligence official of India)
  • V. Rudrakumaran (TGTE, the report wrongly records the name as ‘Transitional’ instead of Transnational government)
  • P. Sahadevan (JNU)
  • N. Sathiyamoorthy (Observer Research Foundation, funded by Reliance Group of India)
  • Nadarajah Shanmugaratnam (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)
  • Manuelpillai Soosaipillai
  • Subramaniam Swamy
  • Yuvi Thangarajah (former VC, Batticaloa)


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