Norwegian politicians express concern on humanitarian access, media coverage

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 October 2008, 15:08 GMT]
Norwegian politicians and activists who addressed the participants of a Eelam Tamil diaspora organised rally and a fasting awareness campaign on Monday and Tuesday in front of the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo, criticized the expulsion of International NGOs from Vanni and urged the International Community, including the Norwegian Government, to do their maximum to enable the International humanitarian agencies to be present with civilians in need of humanitarian assistance, and to enable access to media to visit the affected areas.

Jon Hanssen-Bauer, the Norwegian Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, receiving the appeal from the Norwegian Tamil diaspora activists.

Jan Bøhler, the leader of the Labour Party in Oslo, Akhtar Chaudhry a Socialist Left (SV) parliamentarian, Anders Røberg Larsen, the leader of Grorud township committee, Trond Jensrud from the Oslo Council, Ingjald Ørbeck Sørheim, a senior lawyer, Erling Folkvord of the Red party and Sissel Thorsdalen from Forum For Women and Development were among those who addresed the rally and the participants of the fasting campaign on Monday and Tuesday.

Diaspora Tamil activists visited the Foreing Ministry of Norway and the embassies of the remaining member states of the Co-Chairs and the High Commission of India. Norwegian Special Envoy for Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, received the appeal at the Foreign Ministry when the participants who rallied in front of the Norwegian parliament marched towards the Foreign Ministry to hand over their appeal on Tuesday.

Jan Bøhler who received an appeal from the participants of the hunger-strike in his brief address to the participants said the fasting campaign carried out by Tamils opposite the Norwegian Parliament on Monday and Tuesday carried a significant message.

"I am sad to be a witness to the plight of Tamils, through my many years of interaction with the Tamils here in Norway. There was optimism when a ceasefire was declared and peace negations commenced. But, lately, all the positiveness of the Tamils have been turned away," he said adding that it was "terrible to see that the civilians are subjected to bomb attacks for days," and added: "I have read the stories of NGO workers who felt disturbed by the expulsion at a time the civilians needed them most."

All the concerned, the parties to the conflict, the International Community and the Norwegian Government have to act to safeguard the civilians, he said.

He was especially concerned of the investment laid in the work of reconstruction of the war and Tsunami ravaged areas, de-mining work and all the energy spent for a better future, that could be destroyed in the war.

Erling Folkvord from the Red criticised the Norwegian government. He said the Sri Lankan government's argumentation that the security of the NGO workers could not be guaranteed was false. The real intention of the Sri Lankan government was to remove all possible foreign eyewitnesses to easily carry out a campaign of terror on the civilian population. By succumbing to the Sri Lankan agenda, the NGOs and the humanitarian agencies have betrayed the internally displaced civilians, he said. The Norwegian government, which has the foremost knowledge and prerequisites to openly come out with condemnations on the Sri Lankan state, is also betraying by being silent, he charged.

Senior Lawyer Ingjald Ørbeck Sørheim addressing the gathering said:

"You must not tolerate so well the unjust that doesn't harm yourself, is the words of Poet Arnulf Øverland, who inspired the Norwegian freedom struggle."

"Those of us who passively accept the sufferings of others, will face an oppressor one day. The world is a destiny of collective fate. Injustice and oppression, if allowed, would spread."

"We learn very little about the fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka. It is because the doors are closed for independent media people in that country, as are the humanitarian organisations. The oppression will be stepped up when there are no witnesses to report. We read about untraceable disappearances, it is often another term for systematic killings.

"Norway, as the mediator and facilitator in the Sri Lankan peace process that tragically stopped, has a special responsibility."

"We cannot accept the barrier wall against information from Sri Lanka. Our authorities must exert pressure to bring out the truth, insight and to reach out the victims who are in need of humanitarian help."

"The Tamils in Norway, despite coming from a war-ravaged country, have contributed positively to the Norwegian society. They deserve freedom and self-rule for their people in their homeland. No body can deny it."

"The right to freedom and self-determination cannot be denied for any people in the world."

While the fasting campaign was taking place outside the Parliament, a Tamil woman activist, representing the Tamil Student Association, participated in a meeting and a debate on women's rights in war affected societies. Despite the existence of Internaitonal covenents to protect against the violence on women in war torn countries, it is very rare that state actors who systematically violate these, get punished, said S. Sangeetha who took part in the debate. However, one hoped that the record of violence over a long period of time, such as that in Sri Lanka, would one day be used against the Sri Lankan state, she said referring to the cases of rape against Tamil women by the Sri Lankan soldiers.

A Norwegian policitician expressing solidarity with the Tamils who were on a fasting campaign [Left] and Erling Folkvord of the Red party addressing the participants.
Participants of the fasting campaign
Senior Lawyer Ingjald Ørbeck Sørheim talking to the participants of the campaign
More than one thousand Tamils took part at the concluding rally and the march towards Norwegian Foreign Ministry
Akhtar Chaudhry a Socialist Left (SV) parliamentarian [right] receiving the appeal
Anders Røberg Larsen, the leader of Grorud township committee addressing the participants of the awareness campaign
Jan Bøhler, the leader of the Labour Party in Oslo [left] and Sissel Thorsdalen from Forum For Women and Development.



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