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Norway peace evaluation comes ahead of LLRC report

Norway peace evaluation comes ahead of LLRC report

2011 Nov 10

The Norwegian report comes ahead of the scheduled release of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) findings scheduled to be handed over to President Mahinda Rajapaksa next week.

Moragoda, now the Opposition Leader of the Colombo Municipal Council, will represent Sri Lanka as one of the those officials, who had been deeply involved in the last of the Oslo-led peace efforts, which collapsed in April 2003, when the LTTE quit the negotiating table during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Premier.

Authoritative sources told The Island that the Sri Lankan government wouldn’t be represented at the presentation.

The then Norwegian peace envoy, Erik Solheim, the current minister for environment and development will address the gathering.

Armitage played a key role in the Norwegian-led peace process during the Feb 2002-2005 period, though the US failed to persuade the LTTE to return to the negotiating table.

Norway initially planned to unveil the final report in the first week of April 2011, ahead of UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s unsubstantiated ‘war crimes’ report.

Government sources told The Island that in view of a spate of revelations made by WikiLeaks with regard to the Norwegian-led peace process since February 2002 those still supportive of the LTTE’s eelam project would not be able to manipulate the Norwegian evaluation.

July massacre carried out by 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, son of a retired Norwegian diplomat couldn’t have come at a worse time for those behind the peace evaluation. International news agencies quoted Norwegian authorities as having said that the assassin’s primary grouse had been the failure on the part of Europe to tackle illegal migration.

Norway in supporting the LTTE went to the extent of providing secret passage to wanted Sri Lankans to reach Norway.

The Norwegian report is expected to shed light on some key issues, including the LTTE walking away from the negotiating table during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister, assassination of the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and an attempt to save the lives of top LTTE commanders and their families.

Discrepancies between the Norwegian report and the UNSG’s panel on the final phase of the war on the Vanni east front could place those targeting Sri Lanka on the human rights front in an embarrassing position, sources said.

Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) based in Bergen, a major recipient of Norwegian funds, led the evaluation of four separate peace efforts by Norway from 1997 to 2009. A nine-member evaluation team comprised CMI’s Gunnar Sorbo, Jonathan Goodhand of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and seven others, including four Sri Lankans. The identities of all members are not yet known. SOAS is part of London University (UK).

The joint bid by the CMI and SOAS was chosen out of six international ones.

The CMI receives funding through Research Council of Norway (NFR), which in turn is funded by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

Gunnar M. Sorbo, who had held several positions in several Norwegian institutions, including NFR and the Agency for International Development now heads the CMI.

The evaluating team interviewed European, US and Indian officials and Sri Lankans. Although the Sri Lankan government declined to assist in the Norwegian inquiry, the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met Sorbo in Oslo several months ago.

As much as all four Norwegian attempts were inter-connected, the focus of the evaluation was on the third bid (2002 to 2006) supported by the "Tokyo Co-Chairs", comprising the US, EU, Japan and Norway.

According to the tender document calling for the evaluation of the Norwegian role, the total Norwegian development cooperation with Sri Lanka amounted to approximately NOK 2.5 billion from 1997 – 2009. Out of this, approximately NOK 100 million was allocated to activities aimed at directly supporting the peace process, including the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and the peace secretariats of the parties, meaning the LTTE received a substantial amount of funds.

The Norwegians have divided their engagement here into four phases: 1997-1999, 1999-2002, 2002- 2006 and 2006-2009.

According to the Norwegian tender document, in the first phase, from 1997 to 1999, an agreement was made between the Norwegian and the Sri Lankan government that Norwegian development cooperation should support a negotiated solution to the conflict. Norway had quiet contact with the parties to the conflict.

In the second phase, from 1999 to 2002, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government requested Norway to be the facilitator. A ceasefire agreement was negotiated. The Nordic civilian monitoring group, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), was established under Norwegian leadership.

In the third phase, from 2002 to 2006, Norway was the facilitator between the parties in six rounds of negotiations, which among others resulted in the parties agreeing to explore a federal solution within a united Sri Lanka.

The long awaited evaluation of the Norwegian peace process in Sri Lanka will be presented at Litteraturhuset, Wergelandssalen tomorrow (11), with the participation of one-time US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Lee Armitage, the then peace negotiator, Milinda Moragoda and top Indian journalist, M. R. Narayan Swamy. Moragoda’s negotiating team included, Prof. G. L. Peiris, present External Affairs Minister and Rauf Hakeem, currently the Justice Minister.

In the fourth phase, from 2006 to 2009, the escalation of the war put an end to an active Norwegian facilitator role.

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