12th July 1998
Ms. Jansz acted professionally in her dealings with me- Norwegian Ambassador
The Norwegian Ambas sador in Sri Lanka Mr. Jon Westborg answered the following questions for the Sunday Times. The questions ensue from the article " IA rattled by Eelam Octopus" of June 21st which followed the earlier article "Eelam Octopus in Norway '' which was carried on May 31st. Fredrica Jansz who wrote the first article that appeared (On May 31st) was asked to leave International Alert, the organistion she worked for, after her article was published in the Sunday Tmes.
The Norwegian ambassador insited that the questions be given to him in writing, which is why we have not had the opportunity of putting any counter questions to him. The Ambassador figured in the May 31st article, and subsequently the conversation between IA's Tris Bartlett and Fredrica Jansz which appeared on June 21st. This interview was solicited in this context. We carry the ambassadors answers in full, along with the Editor's comment.
Q 1: I presume you have read the article in The Sunady Times last week titled "IA rattled by Eelam Octopus". The article spoke of the termination of employment of Ms. Fredrica Jansz, a Sunday Times contributor, by International Alert. We understand that the IA is funded by Norway. We also understand that the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has taken a strong view on the issue, and said in the same article that he deplores the stand of IA regarding the situation and IA's apparent support to the LTTE. Since the Foreign Minister's intervention obviously impinges on Norway-Sri Lankan relations as well, what is the Norwegian reaction to the situation?
A: Yes, I have read the above mentioned article. Since the misconception time and again surface in the press, let me first clarify that IA is not a Norwegian organisation but an organisation registered in the UK, with headquarters in London, and a consultative status with United Nations.
Let me further clarify that Ms. Jansz in contacting me presented herself as a representative of The Sunday Times. What other engagements she might have, had no relationship to the issue in question. It would therefore be incorrect of me to comment on a matter between Ms. Jansz and any of her employers.
It is correct that Norway has supported IA financially. So, however, does several other countries, and to a larger extent. I do therefore have difficulties in understanding your interpretations of the Honourable Minister's statement, and can not see that he implicates any country in the article referred to.
Q 2: The Norwegian Government is reported to have disapproved of the article by Ms. Jansz as well. Is this true?
A: I notice that such has been reported. However, as mentioned above the journalist presented herself as representing The Sunday Times. In her dealings with me she further acted professionally. Therefore there was no reason neither for me nor for my government to contact IA, nor criticise the journalist for her work on this article. The statement that Kumar Rupasinghe should have talked to me during my stay in Oslo, and any statement concerning Norwegian Government reaction to the article is not founded on reality. It is, however, correct that we have been informed by IA of the action taken by the organisation towards Ms. Jansz. This we regard as a matter between IA and Ms. Jansz.
That The Sunday Times has been unfortunate in editing the material in such a manner that it can be interpreted as conveying a negative image of my country and government is a matter which I naturally regret. With more than twenty years of excellent relationship between our governments and with large groups of the Sri Lankan people all over the country, I feel confident that the article will not be read in such a light.
With reference to your article ''Fredrica talks to Tris Bartlett" of June 21, I should, however, use the opportunity to correct the impression that the reason for having to process a hypothetical application from Velupillai Prabhakaran was that Norway did "not regard the LTTE as a terrorist organisation." This is not correct. The question concerning Prabhakaran-highlighted in the article of May 31 - was put to me in connection with providing information on the laws and regulations of my country, and the work of our immigration authorities. The content of my reply was that even in a case as that of Prabhakaran, an application would under our laws have to be processed, and processed under the same laws and regulations.
Q 3: The Sri Lankan people would not perhaps approve of a Norwegian funded organisation "bending over backwards to please the LTTE". The issue of Ms. Jansz may be a personal issue, but it has political implications. Can Norway be seen to be backing IA in this context, or even funding IA without offending our Foreign Minister, or offending Sri Lanka.
A: As mentioned earlier I do not find it appropriate to comment on assumptions based on a newspaper article quoting the Honourable Minister.
Q 4: Norway is known as a peacemaker. Is Norway working with IA to make peace in Sri Lanka - and if so what is the credibility of IA and the Norwegian efforts to mediate in this context.
A: It is extremely important to clarify that the experience of my government is that only the conflicting parties can work out solutions necessary for lasting peace. My government does therefore not lay any claim to being a peacemaker, nor has it had any intentions of being a mediator in Sri Lanka. Our role, as that of many other countries, have been to provide support to those working for reconciliation and peace. We are honoured that the Government of Sri Lanka as well as private institutions have found they are able to use our support in this respect. We have in other areas of conflict been able to act as a facilitator of a process of dialogue between conflicting parties. It is well known that we also are willing to do so in the Sri Lankan context, but only if the parties concerned should find this useful.
As far as IA is concerned we have provided financial assistance for its general work on peace and reconciliation, as well as specific project support in some countries. We do not provide project support for their activities related to Sri Lanka.
The credibility of my country as a supporter of efforts concerning reconciliation and peace is an issue that must be judged by others.
Mr. Ambassador, you say the article on LTTE activities in Norway has been edited in a way to give a negative picture of your country. The negative picture arises not due to our editing but due to your country's negative approach to our troubles.
This has been commented upon in one of our editorials today. Frederica Jansz who researched and wrote the article 'LTTE rides high in Norway as Lanka gets torn apart' (May 31) deals with two aspects that require a response arising from your answers.She says;
"When the final draft of the article was faxed to ambassador Westborg (who was by that time in Norway) he phoned me back to Colombo, thanking me saying the article was fine by him. I told him that the article was yet subject to being edited. Mr. Westborg replied that this was okay as long as the direct quotes attributed to him were not tampered with in any way. If that was done, he said he would lodge a protest in writing to the editor.
I assured him that the quotes would not be changed but that any other part of the article was subject to being edited. He agreed that this was editorial freedom and he had no problems with this. Neither has he complained about his quotes then or now.
To the question 'Are the LTTE perceived as a terrorist organisation in Norway?', Mr. Westborg's reply which is on record was: "We have no legal structure identifying an organisation as this or that. So we have no structure like what they have in the United States and certain other countries where they categorise and put organisations on a specific list. And therefore, since we do not have the legal structure along those lines, the question does not arise. If the individual is doing something which is against our Norwegian law, then Norwegian authorities will deal with this. We are working with the structure of international agreements. Which also means that we are cooperating with INTERPOL. And in the cases of people who have committed crimes which are registered with INTERPOL then we will naturally cooperate with the police in other countries in order to make sure that such a person is apprehended.
My next question was: "So, even if Prabhakaran were to apply for entry into Norway, his application would be considered?"
Mr. Westborg: His application would most certainly be considered."
Only a tug boat
Most Sri Lankans would have been in their deep slumber last Wednesday night, when the telephones of the high and the mighty went busy.
This was after news arrived in the City that a shipload of military hardware was being unloaded by the LTTE, somewhere in the international shipping lanes off the north east coast. At least one large ship and a small boat had been spotted by electronic devices.
A late night search by air and sea got under way.
It was soon found that there was no such activity. It was just the case of an Indian tug boat passing the area.
The panic was caused by more than one blip showing up on the screen in the electronic device.
Did anyone pinch a letter addressed to the Police Chief, W.B. Rajaguru, by the Ministry of Defence ?
Insiders say CID detectives have been called into investigate the matter after Mr. Rajaguru raised the issue at the highest levels. The letter, they say, related to the extension of his term of office as Inspector General of Police until August 31, this year.
Lion is a lion
Lionair, the private airline this week emerged as the operator of the largest number of flights to Jaffna, both military and civilian.
To cope with the increasing new demands that have arisen, the airline has now acquired a cargo/passenger transport version of the Russian built AN 26.
Coming second is another private airline which operates a flight a day barring a few interruptions.
One opposition Par liamentarian likened it to playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
Deputy Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, was not there to present the monthly motion in Parliament last Wednesday to extend the state of emergency. Instead it was done by Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.
Gen. Ratwatte is down with a minor bronchial ailment and is warded at a Colombo hospital, a very secluded one where visitors are not allowed.
Foreign Ministry offi cials heaved a sigh of relief when they had averted near diplomatic disaster last week. The head of an European diplomatic mission was north bound. The Foreign Ministry to which the application was made had in turn referred it to the Ministry of Defence for clearance which was promptly given.
But the message, Army Headquarters officials said, reached them somewhat late. But certainly in time to ensure the friendly dpl was not put on a return flight to Colombo.
Alls well that ends well remarked one senior Foreign Ministry official.
Senior officials are now trying to ascertain how two of a group of men recruited for a tough job died out of sheer exhaustion.
They were going through the rigours of training in a hilly area when dehydration hit them. The boss flew into a rage on hearing the news. Now a team is going into the matter.
All-party rule and double majority
By Ameen Izzadeen
BELFAST: It is testing time for Northern Ireland peace deal struck significantly and symbolically on Good Friday, April 10 this year.
The referendum was held on May 22 with 71 percent of the Northern Ireland voters backing the deal. The elections were held for the new all-community assembly on June 25 with the outcome pleasing many of those who voted 'yes' at the referendum. But all this optimism seems to be short lived with the marching season by the Protestant hardliners reaching its climax. (See box for story on the Orange parades)
After 3,600 deaths, many of them being civilian, in 30 years of sectarian violence, euphemistically called 'the troubles,' peace was at hand over Northern Ireland in the form of the April 10 agreement. A near-comprehensive document, it attempts to meet the aspirations of all the people of Northern Ireland.
All parties to the conflict had to shift their long-cherished positions and perceptions to strike this deal. The most significant shift was made by Sinn Fein and its military wing, the Irish Republican Army. The agreement fell far short of their ultimate goal - union with the Republic of Ireland or the southern part of the island of Ireland. But it provides for institutional links with the Irish Republic which is 95 percent Catholic. Sinn Fein and a majority of the Catholics believe the agreement would eventually pave the way for the unification of northern and southern Irelands.
Sinn Fein's political rival in the Catholic community, the Social Democratic and Labour Party led by John Hume, believes the agreement creates a form of politics which will desectorise Northern Ireland.
The Protestant majority-about 51 percent of the province's population -will not be able to ride roughshod over the 40 percent Catholic community. The agreement contains checks and balances to allay the fears of the minorities while it ensures proportionate power-sharing between the two communities.
The Unionists-those who want the province to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom-are divided over the agreement. About 55 percent of them voted 'yes' at the referendum.
The Democratic Unionist Party led by preacher-politician Ian Paisley, however, believes a majority of the Protestants voted 'no'.
The party's spokesman, St. Clair McAllister told me that a substantial number of Protestants did not vote at the referendum. "This means a majority of the Protestants do not approve the April 10 deal," Mr. McAllister said pointing out that the agreement should be called 'the Belfast agreement' and not 'Good Friday agreement.'
Calling different things differently is a social phenomenon in Northern Ireland.
The very name Northern Ireland is shunned by a majority of the Protestants who prefer to call the British-ruled province Ulster. For Protestants Derry is Londonderry and for Catholics Londonderry is Derry, one of Northern Ireland's politically volatile cities.
These divisions apart, for the Ulster Unionists Party led by David Trimble, the agreement was a risk worth taking. Mr. Trimble has now become the first minister in the new Northern Ireland assembly, but not before facing splits and severe criticism within the party. Some of his party stalwarts defied him and supported Dr. Paisley's DUP and other hardline Unionist parties such as the Ulster Democratic Party and the UK Unionists in the assembly elections.
Mr. Trimble shed his hardline image to give peace a chance. This week, in the face of the Orange march crisis, he was crying for help to save the agreement he and others, including Britain and Ireland, so meticulously hammered out in April. He was branded a traitor and the agreement a sell-out by Protestant extremists who saw the deal as a giant stride towards the Irish reunification.
But the agreement itself is a wonderful piece of document that would usher in peace and stability if the members of the new assembly work with a spirit to uphold it. If they don't, it may also spell doom.
However, there are enough safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community participate in the governance.
The new assembly would work like a committee system-something similar to the Donoughmore system. But in the Northern Ireland assembly, the committees and the cabinet (called the executive committee) are selected on a d'Hondt system- a proportionate representative system more representative than what is practised in Sri Lanka. In the d'Hondt system there is little room for any arithmetic jugglery in the formation of committees. The Sri Lankan history records how in the second State Council in 1936, Tamil councillors were outmanoeuvred to be excluded from the board of ministers.
In the Northern Ireland government, the cabinet and the committees are representative of all parties. In other words every party is a ruling party. The leader of the party with the largest number of seats becomes the first minister while the leader of the second largest party becomes the deputy first minister. The cabinet is presided over by both the first minister and the deputy first minister. Thus the system ensures that both Protestants and Catholics have a proportionate and equal share in the administration.
Another good balance is that any matter designated as a key issue would require what is called a double majority - it needs to be passed by both the Nationalists and the Unionists. Members are required to register themselves an identity as Nationalist, Unionist or other for this purpose, irrespective of their party line.
However, there is an inherent danger in the system. Upon a petition by any 30 members in the 108 seat assembly, any bill, however insignificant it may be, could become a key decision, requiring a double majority. Thus parties like the DUP and itd allies which have 28 assembly members could make the working of the new assembly difficult.
The agreement consists of three strands. The first strand deals with democratic institutions such as the legislature, the safeguards and the executive.
The second strand is about North-South Ministerial Council. The council brings together ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland. Such a council satisfies the aspirations of the Catholics who clamour for the ultimate Irish unification.
The third strand deals with two British-Irish bodies. The first, the British-Irish Council, will promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development for the peoples of the two islands. The second body, the British-Irish Inter-governmental Conference, will promote bilateral co-operation and meet as required at prime ministerial level. The third strand has been included to pacify the Unionists as well as the Nationalists as it gives Britain and Ireland a legitimate role in Northern Ireland affairs.
How to deal with three main areas of contention has also been stipulated in the agreement. They are decommissioning of paramilitary forces, policing and the release of prisoners. These three inter-connected issues remain still contentious.
Britain has introduced legislation to speed up the prisoner release but the Protestant political leadership demands that decommissioning of arms should take place before it.
According to the agreement, all parties should pledge a commitment to total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and within two years the decommissioning process should end. They also have to reaffirm their intention to co-operate with an independent arms commission headed by an ex-Canadian general.
In the political stand-off over decommissioning, Sinn Fein seeks the disarmament of Protestant paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in interviews has linked the decommissioning with demilitarisation of Northern Ireland. He also calls for laying down of arms by the British troops stationed there and the Royal Ulster Constabulary-the Northern Ireland police force-which is 90 percent Protestant. Sinn Fein sees the RUC and the British troops as forces of oppression. Even the moderate SDLP agrees with this view.
Alban Maginess, ex-Belfast mayor, told me that the RUC was a police force reflecting Unionist ethos.
"The important thing is not decommissioning but it is policing. We need a new police force with a new name,"he said.
Refuting these charges, RUC chief superintendent Cyrill Donnan told me that RUC's doors were open to all, irrespective of their religious identity. "Many Catholics want to join the RUC. But they fear adverse consequences because the Catholic militant groups would brand them as traitors and kill them."
Mr. Donnan said the IRA had still not totally given up its terrorist activities. Quoting Gerry Adams himself, Mr. Donnan said they (the IRA) had not gone away.
He also expressed concern over the activities of other Catholic militant groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army, the Real IRA and the continuity IRA -all breakaway groups of the Provisional IRA. These groups have not announced a ceasefire and many IRA members who oppose the peace deal are joining these extremist groups.
These disputes apart, under the agreement, a commission headed by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten has been set up to look into the restructuring of the RUC.
On the prisoner release, the agreement envisages amnesty for those members whose paramilitary organisations have declared an unequivocal ceasefire. But the Unionists say ceasefire alone is not enough. The militant organisations should decommission themselves before qualifying for amnesty, they say. But Sinn Fein does not agree with this, though it has promised to co-operate with the commission on decommissioning.
No side is willing to compromise on the dispute over the Drumcree Orange parade.
Usually, it is Catholic youth and the Royal Ulster Constabulary that clashed with each other. But this time, it is the RUC versus the Protestant Orange marchers. The stand-off and the clashes are centred on a parade commission decision to re-route the march.
It is the marching season in Northern Ireland. Generally, about 3,500 marches by the Orange Order take place. All but about 45 of them are peaceful. The marches that could spark troubles are referred to the independent parade commission, a product of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The commission ruled the Drumcree march, which is causing much tension in the Northern Ireland, should be re-routed.
This angered the Orange men who insisted on marching along the traditional route through Catholic areas (through Garvaghy Road. See map).
The controversial Drumcree march began from Portadown Orange Hall and proceeded to Drumcree Church. The return journey was to go through the Catholic Garvaghy Road -a route they have walked since 1807. In the recent past, however, this has become a flash point of violence.
Police have erected razor wire entanglements designed to prevent the Orangemen from going throu-gh the prohibited areas.
A leading Orangeman, David McNarry, threatened to "paralyse" Northern Ireland in a matter of hours unless they are given what they want.
But this may happen, as DUP leader Ian Paisley said in a BBC interview on Friday. Dr. Paisley foresees a massive show of strength today, July 12, the climax of the marching season. Latest reports say Orange men and Garvaghy Road residents are holding indirect talks to solve the crisis after British Prime Minsiter Tony Blair intervened.
The Orange Order, named in tribute to William of Orange, the Protestant king who defeated Britain's last Catholic monarch, James II on July 12, 1690, have been staging marches through Northern Ireland for more than 200 years. The battle took place near the River Boyne.
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