The moral degradation of Erik Solheim - 1 September 2009

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The Government of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned about an article posted on Groundviews that purports to be a translation, 'using Google Translation tool', of a 'news report appearing in Aftenposten, on August 27.

The article claims that Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim 'requires that the UN investigating charges of war crimes in Sri Lanka'.

What seems to have excited the normally urbane Solheim is a video, shown on the British Channel 4, that 'allegedly shows how Government troops execute ten backbundne (whatever that might mean) and naked prisoners.

Solheim seems to think the footage is genuine, and gives as his reason for this that 'dozens of people have been killed and disappeared in Sri Lanka in recent years. And there is overwhelming evidence of structures within the state apparatus is behind many of these killings'.

It is difficult to believe that Solheim actually said these things, but since he has not come out with any refutation it would seem that he is indeed guilty of the extraordinarily low conduct of which several Sri Lankan commentators have accused him. He is also evidently guilty of low cunning, in that he has sedulously kept quiet about abuses he thinks have been going on for years, so that he could continue to present himself as the angel of peace in Sri Lanka.

Though he formally gave up his position as principal Facilitator of the Peace Process, to which the Sri Lankan Government had appointed the Royal Norwegian Government, he ensured the appointment instead of a gentleman called Jon Hanssen Bauer, who blindly followed the Solheim lead, and quite obviously, indeed endearingly, acknowledged Solheim as his Master in interactions with Sri Lankan Government officials.

He also took the lead in obsequious attentions to the Government, when it decided to abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement, after years in which the Norwegians had failed to persuade the LTTE to return to negotiations.

Not entirely because of Solheim's blandishments, but in recognition of the very different approach of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Government kept on the Norwegian Government as the facilitator.

It should be noted with gratitude that, though in early days, in terms of the Solheim doctrine, the embassy had avoided contact with democratic Tamil parties, the current Norwegian ambassador immediately on arrival in Sri Lanka opened discussions with them, and made it clear that peace was not to be the exclusive prerogative of terrorists.

Over the ensuing period Solheim continued silence about what he now thinks the abuses of recent years. This may have been due to the belief that his services would be useful in saving the Tigers from destruction, and certainly there is evidence that Norway actually induced the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to engage in discussions with a criminal wanted by Interpol, namely K. Pathmanathan.

The excuse for that little intervention was that it was designed to ensure release of the hostages held by the LTTE. Sadly, after the Government had released those hostages, and destroyed the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the Norwegians continued to privilege Pathmanathan.

They had the temerity to assert at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the Sri Lankan Government should now negotiate with him.

Thankfully the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo apologized for that lapse in asserting that the mention of Pathmanathan's name had been a mistake.

Nevertheless the insidious nature of a particular mindset in Norway became apparent with the leak of a memo in the Foreign Ministry designed to embarrass both the UN Secretary General and the Sri Lankan Government.

This has now been followed by what purports to be yet another outburst, suggesting that Hell hath no fury like a scorned Solheim. The final assertion that is reported - 'it happened when he won the election, was that the state began using guerilla movement's methods," said Solheim - is so preposterous that one hopes the Royal Norwegian Government will investigate Solheim's role as Facilitator and then Godfather, whether to Bauer or Prabhakaran or Pathmanathan.

If he really believed that, from the time the current Government was elected, the state began using whatever he means by guerilla movement's methods, surely he should have spoken out earlier.

If indeed this is part, as claimed, of the Norwegian Government's commitment to international law, which it now claims should apply to both parties, it is disgusting that the Facilitator did not make clear to a movement that unashamedly used not guerilla but terrorist views its moral perspective.

The fact that this moral fervour has developed after the destruction of the terrorist movement speaks for itself. If the Norwegian Government has an iota of moral self respect, it should seek an explanation from Solheim. If that explanation makes clear sustained hypocrisy over not four but rather eight years, it should insist on his resignation.

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