In a strong response to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s charge that Norway and he funded the LTTE, Norway’s key facilitator of the Colombo-Tigers Peace process, Erik Solheim, has said Norway financed neither the LTTE in general nor its military operations in particular.
Solheim, a former minister of international development, added Rajapaksa was fully aware of Norway’s entire engagement with the Tamil rebels, and had even requested him to communicate with the Tigers.
In a statement on Monday, an advance copy of which is available with HT, Solheim has said Norway made “economic resources available to the LTTE peace secretariat in order to assist them in engaging more fully with the ongoing peace process”.
This included a radio transmitter but this was done with the “full knowledge of the Government of Sri Lanka under different leaders, including during the period when Mahinda Rajapaksa was prime minister”.
Solheim added transparency with respect to Colombo was “total” as with all of Norway’s peace efforts in the island nation.
Solheim added he had met Rajapaksa “dozens of times” before he became president and kept him “fully informed of all elements of the peace process”.
Rajapaksa had also been — as a minister and then PM — “fully supportive of our peace aims” and even asked Norway to continue its efforts.
After the 2005 presidential election, he did so “publicly” and invited “me personally to visit Sri Lanka”, said Solheim.
Rajapaksa, the Norwegian leader claimed, had also made a number of political requests he asked him to convey on his behalf to LTTE leader V Prabhakaran. “All these messages were duly communicated on to the LTTE leadership, and the killings ceased for a period.”
According to Solheim, Rajapaksa had expressed his gratitude for this both to Norway and him.
“When we last met in 2010, President Rajapaksa as a recognition of Norway’s peace efforts invited me to come back to Sri Lanka, visit the country and experience the peace.”
Solheim said further details on all these issues would be made public in spring 2015 in a book detailing the Norwegian peace engagement in Sri Lanka.
In the context of the enquiry initiated by the UN Human Rights Council, Solheim reiterated he considered it the duty of all with relevant information to provide the best possible knowledge, in full honesty, “regarding war crimes allegedly committed by both the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka”.
Rajapaksa had expressed anger that Solheim was “planning to give evidence against us in Geneva”.