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SL-Norway ties take a dive

Attack despite security presence

Request for extra security ignored

All out to discredit SL

TNA meets Narayanan

 

The recent attack on the Sri Lanka Embassy in Norway, by a group of pro-LTTErs, delivered a heavy blow to the already strained relations between the Governments of Sri Lanka and Norway.

The Lankan Embassy is located on the fifth floor of a building in a high security zone called Nord Wallgate in the Nordic country’s capital, Oslo. The Kazakhstan Embassy is located on the second floor of the same building. The foremost question in the minds of Lankans living in Norway is why the security personnel guarding the Kazakhstan Embassy and the building, turned the proverbial blind eye, while the vandals were blatantly attacking the Lankan Embassy. They wonder whether they looked the other way on purpose.

As the attack took place on a Sunday, April 12, the Embassy was closed. If the incident had taken place on a weekday, the Embassy staff would have had to face the consequences of the violence unleashed on the Embassy property. The pro-Tiger group had entered the premises after breaking down the door at the main entrance. The glass panels of the entrance had been shattered to smithereens and office equipment, including computers, had been smashed on the floor.

The pro-Tiger group had videoed the entire episode and posted it on the internet, with the intention of showcasing their ‘heroic’ act before the entire world.

The pro-LTTErs in Norway had been conducting protest campaigns opposite the Norwegian Parliament for days in support of the Tamil Tiger terrorists in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Embassy is located in close proximity to the Norwegian Parliament. Although the atmosphere was quite tense, following the protests, the fact that, the Norwegian government did not proceed to provide additional security to the Embassy, is a matter questioned by Lankans living in Norway.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Ambassador to Norway Esala Weerakoon had told The BBC that, he had made a request for additional security to the Embassy, only a few days before the attack took place.

According to Article 22(2) of the Vienna Convention of 1961, it is obligatory of the host country to provide adequate security to foreign diplomatic missions to both its property and personnel. What is apparent from this incident is that, the Norwegian Government had failed to fulfil this obligation, when it came to the Sri Lankan Mission in Oslo.

Despite the fact that, the identity of the attackers is easily discernible in the video, that they themselves had made, the Norwegian authorities have so far failed to take any action to apprehend the culprits. The Norwegian Police have said they had made one arrest, but later released the suspect.

There are a countless number of occasions, where there have been protests and rallies opposite diplomatic missions around the world. But this could very well be the only instance, where a group of hooligans have entered a mission premises to damage its properties. This attack unleashed on the Sri Lankan Mission in Norway is also the first of its kind in the history of diplomatic relations.

Immediately after the incident, Sri Lankan Ambassador to Norway, Esala Weerakoon was summoned to their Foreign Affairs Ministry. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr had personally extended his apologies for the incident. Gahr had also vowed to hold discussions with the Norwegian Justice Minister and the Police Chief, on how to conduct investigations to apprehend those behind the attack.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Ministry in Colombo, on the advice of Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, summoned the Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo to the Ministry last Monday (13). There the Ambassador was conveyed with the Lankan Government’s protest and deep displeasure regarding the pro-Tiger group’s attack on the Lankan Embassy in Oslo.
(In the box is the letter handed over to the Norwegian Government detailing the position of the Sri Lankan Government on the incident)

When taking a retrospective glance at the actions of the Norwegian Government, it is clear that, they have always acted with the LTTE’s best interest in their heart.

It has now been proven that, it was in fact, the Norwegian Government that provided the LTTE with state-of-the-art transmission equipment to telecast their propaganda programmes around the world, during the time when the 2002 Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) was in effect.

According to the conditions laid out in the CFA, Norway acted as the facilitator in the negotiation process, to bring peace to the country. The Sri Lankan Government made a statement last Monday (13), to the effect that, Norway would be relieved of that role henceforth. The statement noted that, given the prevalent circumstances, the Norwegian Government is unfit to perform the role of the facilitator.

However, former Norwegian Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, responded to this statement saying that, Norway’s role as facilitator in Sri Lanka’s peace process, has been suspended since 2006.

Be that as it may, it is no secret that Norway has been continuing its role as facilitator to the LTTE. It was Norwegian Minister of Environment and Development Cooperation, Eric Solheim, who facilitated the telephone discussion between UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, and LTTE chief for cross border terrorist activities, Kumaran Padmanadan, alias ‘KP.’

Also, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr recently met with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, and discussed matters pertaining to the conflict in Sri Lanka. It was after this meeting that Gahr and Clinton issued a joint statement noting that, the Sri Lanka military had violated the agreement arrived at with the US, to ensure the safety of the Tamil civilians trapped in the Wanni region. It also states that, the military is using unconventional weapons in their offensive against the LTTE in the Wanni.

This shows that, the Norwegian Government is carrying out a major campaign to discredit and corner Sri Lanka before the international community.

Following the attack on the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo, the criticism against Norway which has been dormant in the minds of the Sri Lankans for sometimes has yet again started raising its head. Many political parties, religious leaders and civil society organisations here have vehemently condemned the blatant attack.

National Freedom Front Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa, while condemning the attack, urged to sever diplomatic relations with Norway immediately.

Although Norway has been having diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka for quite a long time, it had not provided Lanka with any significant development assistance. It is true that, they have helped the fisheries industry through the Cey-Nor Foundation. But judging from the number of boats owned by the Sea Tigers, it is no secret to whom the majority of the funds have reached. On the other hand, Norway had only given aid to the Non-Governmental Organisations operating in the country.

It is speculated by many that, Norway’s relentless pursuit to safeguard the interests of the LTTE is motivated by the oil deposits in the northern territorial waters of Sri Lanka. They allege that, the primary motivation behind Norway’s attempt to help the LTTE, to establish a separate State in the northern parts of Sri Lanka, is to rob the valuable oil deposits, as a trade off for their efforts.

Members of two Sri Lankan political parties, on two separate occasions, met with India’s National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan in New Delhi recently.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan, and MPs Suresh Premachandran, Mavai Senthirajah and Selvam Adaikkalanathan had a meeting with Narayanan last Thursday (16) and discussed at length the problems faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils.

It was in early April, that Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon extended an invitation to the TNA to take part in a discussion in New Delhi.

Yet, the TNA membership was unable to reach a consensus whether to accept the invitation or not. The pro-LTTE elements within the party insisted on rejecting the invitation, while the others were willing to accept it.

However, during the April 7 Parliamentary Group Meeting it was decided that the majority opinion in favour of the Indian invitation, should be adopted.

“For the past few months we have been requesting an opportunity to discuss the conflict in Sri Lanka with Indian officials. But they never gave us a chance. Now that Indian Lok Sabha elections are just around the corner, they want us in New Delhi to discuss the Lankan issue. We do not want to go for discussions at this juncture and let the Congress reap political opportunities out of it,” TNA Leader Sampanthan had told the media.

Yet, many started hurling accusations at the TNA, for it appeared that by rejecting the Indian invitation the party had lost the valuable opportunity to inform India of the difficulties faced by the thousands of civilians trapped inside the No Fire Zone, and how the military offensive challenges their safety. The TNA then had to inform the Indian Government that they were willing to come for discussions.

Once in New Delhi, the TNA delegation emphasised that India should urge the Sri Lankan Government to immediately halt the military offensive in the Wanni, in order to free the civilians who are inside the No Fire Zone. They pointed out that a large number of civilian deaths have been reported in these offensives. They also requested Narayanan to inform the Sri Lankan authorities, that if the government was unable to free the trapped civilians, India would intervene on their behalf.
The Sri Lankan authorities have said in public, even in Parliament, that India is supportive of the military offensive taking place in the Wanni region. The TNA delegation expressed their disappointment over the fact that neither the Indian Government nor the Indian High Commission in Colombo made any attempt to counter this claim.

On the same day (16), the delegation also met with Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) led by its leader G. Gnanasekaram, held a discussion with Narayanan in New Delhi last Monday (13). They have requested India to send a Peace Keeping Force to the Wanni, and take steps to remove the military personnel who are engaged in the final battle in the north, from the region.

In a memorandum requesting immediate Indian intervention, among other matters, ENDLF submitted the following proposals:

  • Immediate direct Indian intervention, to bring about a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing fighting in northern Sri Lanka to be supervised by an Indian Peace Keeping Force;

  • Rehabilitation of the internally displaced Tamil civilians presently trapped in Mullaitivu in the Wanni itself, or in other parts of northern Sri Lanka of their choice under the direct control and supervision of India or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);

  • Closing down the camps set up by the Sri Lankan Government to house the internally displaced persons from the Wanni who have escaped into government territory, and transferring the inmates into rehabilitation centres to be organised and supervised by India or UNHCR;

  • Removal of all control and access to the internally displaced Tamil civilians exercised by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Police;

  • Peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and a unified Eelam Tamil leadership chaired by India, which should be concluded within a fixed time frame to find a final settlement of the Tamil problem;

  • Arrangements for the disengagement of the LTTE from armed conflict as part of a permanent settlement;

  • Permanent rehabilitation of all people in the north east displaced in the conflict in their original places of abode and residence.

In the discussion that lasted for an hour, ENDLF delegation said the Sri Lankan conflict has now reached a decisive stage, and provides a final opportunity for India to intervene directly to ensure that the just and reasonable demands of the Sri Lankan Tamils are fulfilled.

Government condemns terror attack on Lankan Mission in Oslo

The Government of Sri Lanka vehemently condemns the violent attack by operatives belonging to the international terror network of the LTTE on the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oslo on Sunday, April 12, 2009.

On the advice of Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Tore Hattrem was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on April 13 2009, and an official protest lodged. The following matters were brought to the attention of the Ambassador in connection with the attack on the Sri Lankan Mission in the Norwegian capital yesterday.

* The Sri Lanka Government strongly condemns the premeditated attack on the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oslo on Sunday, April 12, 2009 by operatives of the international terror network of the LTTE.

* In the recent past, there have been a number of demonstrations organised by the LTTE’s international network across the globe. On this particular day (April 12) too, a demonstration was held with the permission of the Norwegian Government. The said attack was subsequent to this demonstration.

* The Norwegian Government, being fully cognizant of the modus operandi of the LTTE and in constant contact with its international network as well as its leadership in the North of Sri Lanka, ought to have ensured the provision of adequate security to the diplomatic premises and agents of the Sri Lankan Government as obligated by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961. Article 22(2) of the Convention casts a special duty on the receiving State “to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.”

* Furthermore, requests for adequate security for the Mission had been made repeatedly by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Norway, who had been informed by the authorities that since the Norwegian Security Service was maintaining a constant surveillance of the mission, they did not perceive the necessity to place a static guard to provide security cover.

* In this context, the Government of Sri Lanka deplores the failure of the Norwegian Government in fulfilling its obligations under international law, consequent to its sheer neglect in the provision of adequate security to the Sri Lanka Mission in Oslo.

* Quite in contrast, the Government of Sri Lanka has been continuously providing security to Norway’s diplomatic representation in Sri Lanka at all times, notwithstanding the constraints of manpower and other resources on the Police and security agencies,

* It was fortunate that none of the staff of the Sri Lanka Embassy came to harm due to their absence from the diplomatic premises, when this vicious and violent attack on the Mission took place.

* It is deplorable that this act of terror took place within hours of the presidential directive to the armed forces to restrict their operations to those of a defensive nature, in order to give the civilian population entrapped as hostages by the LTTE, the opportunity to celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in a suitable atmosphere and have uninhibited freedom of movement from the No Fire Zone to the cleared areas.

* This outrageous act of terror committed by the LTTE in Oslo, the capital of Norway which they feel is a secure location due the moral backing available locally, should demonstrate to the Norwegian Government, the true character of the LTTE.

* Further, it displays that repeated concessions made by the Sri Lanka Government have been treated only with contempt by the LTTE.

* In these circumstances, the Government of Sri Lanka perceives that it is no longer feasible for Norway to act as facilitator in its engagement with Sri Lanka in the current context.

* The Government of Sri Lanka strongly urges the Norwegian Government to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack on its Embassy in Oslo and bring them to justice immediately.

In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka also expects the Norwegian authorities to act swiftly to provide adequate security for the Sri Lanka Mission, as well as for the staff of the Mission, in keeping with Norway’s international obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and also ensure that there is no recurrence of such incidents in the future.

The violent conduct of LTTE elements conducting various demonstrations elsewhere abroad, amounting to glorification of terrorism, should at least now convince the international community of the absolute intransigence of the LTTE and its callous disregard for international law and civilised norms of behaviour.


 

 


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