was that you said Prime Minister?
It was meant to sound like some of
those intimate details that are recorded in magazines
that supposedly carry true confessions. There was the
Norwegian Prime Minster Jens Stoltenberg telling President
Rajapaksa that statements made by the now retired head
of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission did not reflect
the views of his government.
No wonder Colombo seized on that and
issued a press release on the Rajapaksa-Stoltenberg
meeting in New York where both were attending the UN
General Assembly sessions.
| Norwegian Prime Minster Jens
Well it seems there was an official
release. Otherwise it is rather difficult to comprehend
how the government-run Daily News and another daily
reported the meeting in exactly the same words- unless,
of course, great minds agree even unto to the last diphthong,
as it were.
Pardon the resort to an archaic preposition
such as “unto”. It is perhaps a hangover
from the past during my days in Sri Lanka when politicians
attempted, as the media then called it and perhaps still
do, a fast unto death. I remember covering the so-called
death fasts of F.R. Jayasuriya, K.M.P. Rajaratne and
some Federal Party chaps.
As far as I remember none of them
died-not from fasting anyway. Perhaps the newspaper
references to some of these antics which, publicly at
least, were premature efforts to enter the next world,
as “fast unto death” probably elevated them
above the mundane of simple death fasts.
Such media coverage and the resort
to old English gave those who wished to die something
to live for, helped, no doubt, by large doses of glucose
in their glasses of water.
Or perhaps it was the sudden influence
of Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar’s use of
the archaic as he did when writing a rather terse letter
to a local daily some weeks ago taking umbrage at the
assertion that the Norwegians had a hand in trying to
push through an anti-Sri Lankan resolution in the European
But I digress and for that a thousand
apologies. I was on this question of what I believe
was an official Sri Lanka Government statement issued
after President Rajapaksa and Norwegian Prime Minister
Jens Stoltenberg had discussions in New York.
Among other things the statement said
that President Rajapaksa expressed concerns over recent
statements attributed to Major-General Ulf Henricsson,
the former head of the Nordic truce-monitoring mission.
Henricsson recently accused government forces of massacring
17 civilian workers employed by a French relief organisation.
“Jens Stoltenberg assured President
Rajapaksa that Henricsson’s statements did not
reflect the views of his government.”
No wonder Colombo was eager to get
this out to the world for Henricsson’s departing
report formed the basis for some harsh words against
Sri Lanka from some governments and human rights organisations.
One does not know of course whether
President Rajapaksa pursued this Norwegian assurance
to its logical conclusion and asked the prime minister
which of Henricsson’s particular statements did
not reflect Oslo’s position.
Perhaps Rajapaksa was too polite to
ask the prime minister to expand on that.
But if I were Rajapaksa-which of course,
I am not- I would have wanted Stoltenberg to expatiate
in case there was some misunderstanding later. After
all it was only days before that his cabinet colleague
and special peace envoy Erik Solheim had told the so-called
Co-chairs that the government and LTTE had agreed to
unconditional talks, later denied by both sides.
So it was only fair by all parties
to have had the air cleared.
Perhaps it is my media background
but personally it is difficult to accept because this
general statement leaves a lot of loose ends and is
not in the least conclusive. One would have hoped that
the media, particularly those who accompanied the president
and his particularly massive entourage, had asked the
president whether the Norwegian prime minister mentioned
any specific statements with which he and his government
were not in agreement.
If the occasion for such questioning
did not arise or the president was playing it close
to his chest and did not wish to reveal any more, surely
this should have been pursued in Colombo through the
As I said it was not too long ago
that Ambassador Brattskar was waxing eloquently about
not revealing sources and how decency demanded that
his embassy be asked to comment on matters that affected
So the time has come, as the tortoise
told the carpenter, to talk of many things, especially
all those statements that Ulf Henricsson made which
did not square with Norwegian government thinking.
Let us consider some of the most important
issues raised by Henricsson in his final report. Had
any undergraduate submitted such a superficial, unsubstantiated
piece of work, he would have been torn apart by his
This chap Henricsson was even paid
for such shoddy work which the “international
community”, whatever that is, appears to have
accepted without question.
That alone shows that this international
community-and that includes the all-froth-and-no-beer
self publicists such as Amnesty International that has
fallen today from the great heights it once occupied-
has lost the sense of inquiry and scrutiny it should
exercise in situations such as this anywhere in the
There is not a single concrete piece
of corroborative evidence that Henricsson cites to support
the conclusion he draws with regard to the killing of
the aid workers. Why has he not stated what some of
the persons he interviewed actually said that led him
to conclude the army was responsible for the massacre?
If he really had such vital information would he have
excluded them from the report even though he was in
a hurry to write his valedictory denunciation of Sri
Lanka? Surely not, for Henricsson must have known that
such evidence would only strengthen his conclusions
not detract from them.
Is it not surprising that the international
community, especially those from the west that preach
about the rule of law, has not asked itself these questions
and sought hard evidence before damning a nation.
Another intriguing question is whether
Norway and its agents had a hand in making most of the
Henricsson report to make the EU believe that they were
wrong to declare the LTTE a terrorist organisation and
influence a rethink in policy.
It is in the light of all this that
Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s remark cries out
for clarification and definition.
It is now for Sri Lanka and its media
to seek this from the Norwegian embassy or those peace-makers
like Erik Solheim and Jan Hanssen-Bauer that turn up
so often as though on some Nordic expedition. Stoltenberg
might be prime minister of Norway. But he has an obligation
to the people of Sri Lanka to make explicit his remark
and state clearly which statements of Ulf Henricssen
he and his government do not go along with.
If he dissociates himself and his
administration from some or many of Henricssen’s
statements do they include critical parts of his report.
Or is he referring to some passing remarks that have
little or no significance.
Stoltenberg owes it not only to the
people of Sri Lanka but also to his own citizens who
are not all particularly enamoured of Norway’s
role in this so-called peace process.
The loquacious Ambassador Hans Brattskar
seems suddenly to have taken a vow of silence and let
our challenge to him two weeks ago pass unanswered.
Here is the opportunity for him to
say which of Ulf Henricssen’s scurrilous statements
fail to reflect the views of the Norwegian government.