Solheim responds to allegations targeting Norway at LLRC
In SL lies are used for political gains or to taint someone’s reputation’
Karuna reiterates call for probe on Tiger revenue sources



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Deputy Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan says Sri Lanka should investigate the role played by Norwegian Development and Environment Minister Erik Solheim in the peace process launched in 2002, particularly his alleged involvement in financial transactions with the LTTE on behalf of the Norwegian government.


He was responding to a statement attributed to Minister Solheim in the Norwegian media subsequent to the former LTTE commander’s recent evidence before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). National List MP Muralitharan told the LLRC that the LTTE utilized money received from Norway to procure armaments.


Minister Solheim told the Norwegian media that Minister Muralitharan’s charge was absurd. The former Norwegian peace facilitator alleged that Minister Muralitharan was making ‘totally absurd’ claims. Solheim said: "In Sri Lanka lies are used for political gains, to taint someone’s reputation or to seek attention. What the case is here, I do not know."


An irate Muralitharan said that a thorough inquiry should be launched to establish the amount of funds received by the LTTE not only from the Norwegian government but other donors as well.


According to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) document calling for open invitation-for-tender for evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka from 1997 to 2009, Norway had allocated approximately NOK 100 million for the peace process,


including the Scandinavian truce monitoring mission and the Peace Secretariats set up by Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The NORAD said that NOK 100 million had been included in NOR 2.5 billion categorized as Norwegian development cooperation for 1997-2009 period.


Minister Muralitharan said now that Norway had acknowledged it spent NOK 100 million on the peace process and a part of it given to the LTTE Peace Secretariat, it should be able to provide a breakdown of the allocation.


Sources close to the failed peace process told The Island that even one and half years after the LTTE collapse, the government was yet to initiate an inquiry into financial transactions involving the LTTE. Sources alleged that international funds had been used to procure arms, ammunition and equipment, in some instances with the knowledge of the then UNF government.


Bradman Weerakoon, the then Secretary to Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, contributed a revealing piece to ‘Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka’-volume II funded by Norway and the Berghof Foundation, in which he discussed Norway using its diplomatic privilege to import radio equipment worth $ 93,265 bought by the LTTE in Singapore and then transferring it to the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat to be handed over to the LTTE Peace Secretariat. Weerakoon said: "Since duty would become payable as soon as ‘diplomatic goods’were transferred to Sri Lankan non-government hands, the SL Peace Secretariat became liable to the payment of about Rs 3 million as duty. This payment which was effected by the SL peace Secretariat was duly set off against the grant of around Rs 12 million which the Norwegian government annually gave the SL Peace Secretariat for its running."


Former SL Peace Secretariat Chief and UPFA National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha told The Island (on the day he testified before the LLRC) that a thorough inquiry was needed to establish the amount of funds received by the LTTE and various other so-called peace organizations, which exploited the Norwegian initiative to their advantage. Among the donors were UN agencies.


According to records at the now defunct SL Peace Secretariat, under an agreement signed on Dec. 19, 2003 (LTTE quit the negotiating process in April 2003) the LTTE Peace Secretariat received a Rs. 20 million grant from the UNDP. It was part of a Rs. 60 million project, of which over a third was for the LTTE Peace Secretariat meant for ‘goods’ and ‘services.’


Prof. Wijesinha is on record as saying that before the UNDP-funded high-flying project to strengthen the LTTE Peace Secretariat had ground to a halt, it received $ 133,000 worth of goods and services.


Sources said that former US Ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake, in a classified diplomatic cable sent on June 12, 2007 had explained LTTE fund raising operations targeting foreign donors, including UN agencies. The missive captioned Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers siphon off part of international relief funds, Blake had discussed how the LTTE forced UN agencies (UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP) to work with its front organization. Responding to a query by The Island, sources said that the international community and so-called civil society organizations had been silent on LTTE actions. Sources pointed out that Blake in his June 12, 2007 cable had said that the LTTE’s internal revenues were likely minuscule compared with what it raised abroad from the Tamil Diaspora. "It is probably these overseas revenues that are used to purchase arms for import into the Vanni," Blake said.


Intelligence sources said that some major overseas funding sources could be still intact, though the LTTE lost its conventional military capability in May last year. Sources said that the LTTE rump (the Global Tamil Forum and British Tamil Forum) had exploited President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to the UK early this month to raise money in the guise of moving court to arrest the Sri Lankan leader on ‘war crime’ charges.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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