The Norwegian connection: CNN duped

National Peace Council (NPC) spokesman Jehan Perera on Thursday (9) assured the CNN that the ongoing peace process would succeed because the Norwegians were involved in the ‘peace bid.’

Perera whose NGO recently won a Rs 2. 8 million grant from the Japanese government to promote the Norwegian-mediated ‘peace process’, claimed that the only difference between the disastrous previous bid made by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the ongoing attempt, was the commitment of the Norwegians. In reply to a question posed by the CNN interviewer, Perera expressed the belief that the Norwegians were handling the ‘peace process’ extremely well.

I am surprised, Perera who has been involved in promoting ‘peace’ through third party mediation for a long a time was not aware of the Norwegian role in the abortive ‘peace bid’ in 1994-95 period. I am sure Perera, whose organisation receives Norwegian financial assistance for ‘peace work’ was aware of the way Oslo handled the PA’s futile bid. But then whey did he try to deceive the CNN viewers and/or the so-called international community?

The Norwegians had been involved in the fragile peace effort that ended on April 19, 1995 with the sinking by the LTTE of two of Sri Lanka’s precious Chinese built gunboats in Trincomalee. Norwegians were among the heads of Peace Monitoring Committees set up by jointly by the PA government and the LTTE to ensure the smooth implementation of the truce that came into operation on January 8 1995. Of the four committees, two were headed by Norwegians, Audun Holm and Johan Gabrielson. The remaining committees were headed by Dutchman, Colonel Paul Henri Horsting and Canadian Major General C. Milner.

They were also given the rare opportunity to meet with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the first week of February 1995. The meeting took place in Jaffna. Remember at that time, the LTTE held the town. They also met with President Chandrika Kumaratunga before flying to Jaffna in an SLAF flight.

But what did they do when the LTTE shattered the truce just ten weeks later with devastating attacks on gunboats? Nothing! They kept their mouths shut. Trincomalee attacks were followed by shoulder-fired heat seeking missile strikes on two Avros killing over 100 security forces officers and men. Planes were downed one after the other in quick succession.

I am sure Norwegian ambassador Jon Westborg, who was here before as a senior representative of an NGO which operated freely in areas held by the LTTE, would be able to refresh Perera’s memory.

I remember those who believed in the Norwegian mediation used to talk proudly about the way, Oslo succeeded in ending the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict nine years ago. That was before Palestinian terrorists assassinated the Israeli Tourism Minister (a retired general) forcing Israel to hit back fiercely. All know what was going on there with both sides carrying out tit-for-tat attacks. But where were the Norwegian diplomats who dealt with the peace process in the middle east?

However, some of the Norwegians, I am sure benefited by the calamitous middle east peace process. Here is one example:

Reuters in an Oslo datelined report on May Day, quoted the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen as saying that their ambassador in Tel Aviv Mona Juul and her Norwegian husband, Terje Roed Larsen (UN Middle East envoy) broke rules by failing to inform the government of receiving about $ 110,000 for ‘peace work.’

The duo had won cash prizes in 1999 for their role in the now-collapsed 1993 Oslo accords between the Israel and Palestine. Ironically, they were rewarded by a peace centre set up by Israeli Foreign Minister and one time Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

So much so for the Norwegian peace deals.
Shamindra Ferdinando