Home International Spiking Sri Lanka peace pact will have ‘consequences’: Norway

Spiking Sri Lanka peace pact will have ‘consequences’: Norway

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

New Delhi : Sri Lanka’s decision to scrap its ceasefire agreement (CFA) with the Tamil Tigers will have “negative consequences” and only spark more violence, warned a Norwegian minister who helped broker the truce in 2002.

Minister of International Development Erik Solheim, who for years was Norway’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka and continues to oversee the now shattered peace process, added that Colombo’s move was “not totally unexpected”.

“This is indeed a sad development, particularly so as it has come on top of human rights abuses and killing of different people that have gone on despite the peace process,” Solheim told IANS over telephone from Oslo. “This will have negative consequences. It will only lead to further violence in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka announced late Wednesday after a cabinet meeting that it was abrogating the CFA, which then prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran signed amid fanfare in February 2002. The government has to formally convey the decision to Oslo, which helped bring about the CFA.

That path-breaking truce ended decades of fighting and brought about a semblance of peace in the island nation. But as the years rolled by, the ceasefire fell apart, with most of the blame for violating the CFA being heaped on the LTTE.

Solheim, who played a key role in putting together the agreement, was asked if he felt a personal sense of loss over its formal collapse.

“Yes, it is very saddening. But more than my personal felling, what is more important is what this means to Sri Lankans. They are the ones who will feel the problem,” he said.

Solheim added that he had seen the development coming.

“It is not totally unexpected. There were a lot of rumours. They have not got in touch with us formally, so we cannot say much. But this does not come as a complete surprise,” he said.

Solheim, however, added that Norway would continue to offer its services to the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE for the sake of peace, pointing out that both sides had broken the CFA repeatedly.

“We will continue our hard work as long as we have the confidence of the two parties,” he said. “(But) neither side has given us any indication that they are prepared for peace talks.”

The Norwegian minister echoed the widely held impression that war would never ultimately resolve Sri Lanka’s dragging ethnic conflict, which erupted in a major way in 1983 and has since claimed over 65,000 lives.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting. Large numbers have fled to India and the West to start life anew. Most victims have been Tamils though the Sinhalese and Muslims have also suffered.

“In the long run I am still optimistic,” Solheim added. “Very few outside Sri Lanka will believe that there is a military solution to this conflict. War will only cause a lot more pain and suffering.”

The Sri Lankan decision comes as the military, which last year drove away the LTTE from the eastern province of the country, prepares to launch a major offensive to take the rebel-held north where the Tigers are believed to be better entrenched.

Sri Lankan leaders have vowed to “liberate” the LTTE territory and kill its leaders, including Prabhakaran. In his annual speech in November, Prabhakaran pledged to keep fighting for an independent Tamil state.