Feature Article

'Norway finances humiliation of Tamils'

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 November 2009, 03:18 GMT]
Norway is up to appease Colombo as the Tamil Tigers are out of the picture and the only way to do this is abetting Colombo’s discrimination of Tamils in the line of Iran, Burma and China, writes Professor Řivind Fuglerud of the University of Oslo adding that a revealing cue comes from Norway insensitively sponsoring a Buddhist organisation to conduct a music festival on 27th November in Galle, timed to humiliate Tamils on the Heroes' Day. Norway sat silently like a mouse in the final phase of the war. Now its ‘humanitarian’ aid helps the internment camps of captivity and death. In future Norway’s aid may be integral to Colombo’s military complex cum Buddhist temple infrastructure to dominate Tamil areas, he further says. Not surprisingly, Norway's leading news agency, NTB, on Monday came out with biased reporting on the first ever democratically elected council of diaspora Tamils.

The implied message of the reporting is that in whatever democratic ways Tamil polity is organised and aspirations are expressed, such efforts would be branded as ‘terrorism’ and as ‘LTTE projects’, as long as they don’t tally with the designs of the Establishments, however defective and unrealistic their designs could be. The designs of the so-called ‘reconciliation’ are lopsided, insinuating to mobilise only collaborators, said Tamil circles in Norway.

It is exactly for this reason, proposed country councils in all countries and the transnational government have to be formed with absolute independence and commitment of the Eezham Tamil nation and have to be orientated to strengthen the hands of democratic forces inside each and every state, for right decisions to emerge, Tamil circles said.

For more than 60 years now a federal solution couldn’t be worked out in the island either by the Sri Lankan state or by India or by the international community. Those who now advocate for it or claim that they had such a solution under their sleeves have to prove its feasibility by enacting such, if they can, before asking Tamils to get rid of their nationalism. Otherwise, as events took place and are taking place in the island and in the international scenario, Tamils can’t help thinking that what the international community is up to is the easiest solution – total genocide of Tamils, Norwegian Tamil circles further said.

To what extent abetting militarised ultranationalism of one nation but not recognising the democratic aspiration of another nation in the island amounts to professing reconciliation, is the question of Eezham Tamils.

English translation of the feature article by Řivind Fuglerrud, Professor of Anthropology, University of Oslo, appeared in Dagbladet on Sunday, follows:

Sri Lanka and Norway
– half a year after

Řivind Fuglerud, Professor, University of Oslo

Professor Řivind Fuglerud
Professor Řivind Fuglerud
ON 17TH MAY 2009, while most of the people in Norway were preoccupied with having sausage and ice-cream [Editor's note: 17th May is the national day of Norway], one of the longest running and certainly the most bloodiest civil war in Asia, the civil war in Sri Lanka, came to a sudden and brutal end.

The remaining of the entire leadership of the liberation movement, the Tamil Tigers, succumbed to rain of bombs on the beaches outside the village of Mullaithivu in the north-eastern part of the country, together with thousands of civilians, many of them sympathisers and family members of active freedom fighters, others scared and traumatised victims of war held back as hostages by the Tamil Tigers.

Many courses of actions that occurred during the final days of the war are still unclear; how many civilians lost their lives in reality, how did some of the leaders of the liberation movement die, which rules of engagement in the war and in the treatment of civilians were breached by the parties. Reliable assertions have been put forward claiming that at least 20 000 civilians have lost their lives during the last months of the war, mainly due to government army's barrage of areas, which they themselves had defined as 'secure', and whether key political leaders of the Tigers were executed after they had surrendered, both the claims denied by the government.

WHAT IS NOT UNCERTAIN is that the civilians who got away during the last weeks of the war and those who remained inside when the weapons were silenced, totalling between 280,000 and 300,000 people, were interned behind gigantic barbed-wire camps under military administration, remotely from Vavuniya. Yet, rounding almost six months, they are still interned there, without the possibility of being freed or being let to reunite with their families.

The government soldiers shot at a group of people, who attempted to flee one of the camps, at the end of September. The situation at the camps is miserable with shortage of food, water, and unsatisfactory lavatory conditions. The British newspaper TimesOnline reported on July 10 this year that the mortality rate at that time was 1400 per week. Persons who were suspected of sympathising with the Tamil Tigers were identified with the help of paramilitary enemies of the Tigers and removed from the camps to undeclared locations and their fate remain unknown. Some of the arrested are found dead. Former minister Mangala Samaraweera claimed on September 22 in the Parliament that 40 civilians were being reported as missing from the camps, weekly. Allegations of systematic sexual violence against the female captives by the military guard personnel have surfaced. Journalists are denied access to the IDP camps, and humanitarian organisations are provided access to the camps with a precondition that they don't criticise the prevailing conditions or the general politics of the government, reports Uthayan daily.

The government has come with announcements that the IDPs would be returned to their homes due to the pressure from the International Community. The Sri Lankan paper, Sunday Times, on October 25, reported that a group of interned people were transported back to the camp after being photographed and getting portrayed to the international press as being "released". Meanwhile, representatives of the Norwegian organisations who work in the country have revealed to the author that the captives who have earlier been portrayed as "freed" were only transferred to other closed camps.

DEVELOPMENT MINISTER Erik Solheim, the Norwegian facilitator of the Sri Lankan peace process between the period from 2002 and 2008, is on record having been quoted by NRK journalist Sverre Tom Radřy as saying that "Sri Lanka is the country where Norway has played its most significant role since the times of the Vikings." This could not be believed today, roughly two years after the ceasefire agreement, which he contributed to be negotiated towards, was annulled. In the final phase of the war, while the Western countries – certainly due to their poor ability and unable to gain any success – attempted to find a solution that could save the lives of civilians, but Norway sat silently like a mouse.

Today, while a massive international pressure is mounting against the Sri Lankan government's handling of the interned, while EU is considering to withdraw the trade privileges due to Sri Lanka's breach of human rights, and while USA is demanding an investigation of the war crimes by the parties in the last phase of the war, Norway is totally absent in the international news-picture when it comes to the opinion on the situation in Sri Lanka.

Norway contents itself by assisting the financing of the internment camps through UN-organisations and the private Norwegian organisations that have been provided access to operate there. The situation of the internally displaced is being described on the same lines as that of a consequence of a natural catastrophe in the government documents of Norway. For example, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, in its 2010 budget forecast (Prop. 1 S) page 69, says, "Norway would maintain a meaningful humanitarian and political engagement to improve the situation of the internally displaced."

THE TRUTH IS THAT Norway, certainly together with the UN and other individual states, , through its "humanitarian" work, is heavily financing and managing the camps where a considerable number of the Tamil minority people are being held in captivity and dying. The Sri Lankan government has budgeted the maintenance of the camps for the next year with 225 million dollars from the international donors. Probably, the stream of money the camps are generating is a major reason for the displaced still being kept under captivity.

Another reason is presumably that the Sri Lankan government, through the establishment of military complexes and Buddhist temples, is preparing a massive, Sinhalese military and religious dominance in the Tamil areas that have been emptied of inhabitants. It will not be surprising if the Norwegian aid in future is also incorporated into infrastructure-efforts related to this project. Officials in the Foreign Ministry, in informal conversation with the author, have revealed that the Norwegian authorities are up to appeasing the Sri Lankan government, now that the Tamil Tigers are out of the picture. The only way of doing this is to abet the discrimination of the minorities – together with Sri Lanka's other friends Iran, Burma and China.

A minor but an exposing example how this is taking place, in practice, is Norway's cultural cooperation through Concerts Norway (Rikskosertene) with the Buddhist organisation Sewalanka. One of the projects in the cooperation is conduct of a music festival in the town of Galle on 27 November this year. Those who are familiar with Sri Lanka would be aware that the date November 27 is not an arbitrary choice, it is the date when the Tamil Tigers mark their fallen heroes and the day has been observed as the national day of Tamils, throughout the war. The music festival, this year, is part of the Sri Lankan government's celebration of its victory over these heroes, and is a part of the continued humiliation of the Tamil minority - paid by Norwegian tax money.


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