The Trajectory of Norwegian peace-building:Sri Lanka, LTTE and the job experience of Mr. Solheim

LTTE chief negotiator S. P. Tamilselvan,Sri Lanka Government chief representative Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim.Photo/AsianTribune

LTTE chief negotiator S. P. Tamilselvan,Sri Lanka Government chief representative Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim.
Photo/AsianTribune

In 2001 Norway brokered a truce between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist army of LTTE. The mission of the Nordic country is to negotiate with the parties. In an interview with BBC, the Norwegian envoy Mr Solheim justified the efforts of his country out of pure compassion: “Security policy for the 21st century: if you want a peaceful Norway, you need a peaceful world.” A a safer place for our children.1

Praiseworthy.

It is our evil nature to investigate the good deeds and we discover a coincidence: the very same year a Norwegian company, TGS-Nopec started seismic survey in the Mannar Basin in search of oil. From 2001 to 2006, the company amassed very promising data. The press release are nothing less than enthusiastic.

LTTE's leader Prabhakaran with Norway's envoy Mr Solheim.Photo/Tamilnet

LTTE’s leader Prabhakaran with Norway’s envoy Mr Solheim.
Photo/Tamilnet

We don’t want to draw unnecessary conclusions. In scientific thinking you need to be very careful of two facts happening in the same time. Imposing causality or correlation could be in the eyes of the beholder. We see a strong effort by Norway to support the independence claim of a group of rebels. It is important to distinguish between LTTE and Tamil nationalism. The legitimacy of Tamil independence is not the subject. The debate concerns the fairness of giving such support to an organization that committed many heinous crimes. The Sri Lankan state is equally responsible of atrocities, with aggravating circumstances of being a governmental entity. The point is that Norway made a bold decision.

At the same time it is important to recall that Norway is a powerhouse in offshore drilling, with a first class expertise in the field. The Mannar Basin in Sri Lanka presents matchable conditions.

The peace process run in parallel with the oil exploration. And when the peace talks collapsed, so did the survey campaign.

Erik Solheim with workers of the oil sector

Erik Solheim with workers of the oil sector

Erik Solheim, the man sent by Norway to negotiate the peace, was first a special envoy. In 2005 he was promoted Minister for International Development, with responsibility of leading the Oil for Development program, Norad2. In this job he visited Ghana3 Sudan4, Angola5 with the clear purpose of consulting, advising, lobbying the oil sector for Norway. The Norwegian model of development is one of the most advanced, ethical and sustainable, so they are giving recommendations from a fair perspective. Yet, they are advising also on their own interest, to promote the Norwegian oil industry. This is the game of a governmental organization and it is neither good, nor bad. If your actions will cause harm, it will be negative. Positive otherwise.

Anti-Norway protest in Colombo.Photo AP

Anti-Norway protest in Colombo.
Photo AP

The only anomaly in this series is the role of Sri Lanka: the Norwegian envoy is clearly working with an agenda driven by oil. But in Sri Lanka they allegedly acted as mere neutral observers with a only humanitarian purpose. I’m sure that Norway is advocating transparency and good practices in all the countries it is visiting in its oil for development programme. Therefore I’m sure that they welcome this insight about this activity,they forget to mention. An accidental omission. I consider this quite important for two reasons. First: was the role of Norway dispassionate? Were they working to bring peace amongst Sinhalese and Tamils or their priority was to get their hands on the oil? Their strategy to support the Tamil separatism was for the good of the Tamils or just to have a privileged partnership with a newly created state, which owned everything to them?

The second is that oil is a factor in Sri Lanka. Maybe it is only a secondary one. Yet nobody is discussing it. In the case of Norway, oil probably played a big part. Then it is our duty to investigate more about the connection of oil in the Mannar Basin with the IV Eelam War. Follow us and remember: you heard here for the first time.

1http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-nkX22BQ20

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