In a way, it compares with the Sri Lankan Government reluctantly deciding on the setting up of the LLRC on the home-front, and reiterating its resolve to publicise the report, when submitted, and also acting on it. The comparison should however stop with the commonality of Sri Lanka, though the latter as a Government had not sought or played a third-nation role, what with the Norwegian engagement instead having an inevitable impact on the course of the ethnic war, though not the post-war scenario, per se.
One can assume that the intention of the Norwegian Government was not to find scapegoats for its failure in Sri Lanka but that is what the report reads like. Minister Eric Solheim too has not done much service to the credibility attached to the report. Launching the report in Oslo, he who was the mainstay of the Norwegian peace effort spoke about a secret meeting between India and the LTTE, instead, during the run-up to the cease-fire agreement (CFA), that his nation had brokered in 2002. It sounded more deflective than reflective.
The report, “Pawns of Peace”, seeks to promote the existing idea that the Norwegian efforts failed not because of its approach and attitude but because of the uncompromising positions of the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. Long before the Norwegians entered the scene, that was the situation, and it was expected that their strategy and attitude would wean away the stake-holders in Sri Lanka to think and do otherwise.
Norway had the experience of India to study and amend. Norway also had the advantage of the post-9/11 mood of global governments, making things difficult for the LTTE to operate in the international arena in every way. The Scandinavia-manned Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) too failed the CFA. As the three-year long ‘Eelam War IV’ showed that both the Government and the LTTE were after all preparing for a military showdown, after all.
Success has many fathers but when the CFA floundered and finally failed, Norway was made to hold the baby all alone. The enthusiasm with which the Donor Nations acted when the CFA was on board was markedly absent when the Norwegian effort began drifting three years later. Whether they thought and acted in tandem with Norway at that crucial hour is also unclear. It is equally possible that they had begun reading the writing on the wall, and were under no pressure or compulsion to work a scheme whose inherent contradictions had begun showing after a time.
In pages after pages, the study outlines what was wrong with the Norwegian effort. Yet, in conclusion, it has failed to fix responsibility where it should have rested. The fact however is that the Norwegians, accustomed to academic approaches in peace-building, again mostly gained from their own experience elsewhere, adopted a ‘template, text-book model’ in Sri Lanka. Little did they acknowledge, or possibly even realised, the human, cultural and historic elements that differed from case to case in matters of internal conflicts and peace-building.
There were clear indications after President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over in November 2005 that “this man would finish off the LTTE, and on his terms, in three years”. The Norwegian consultations on war and peace however stopped with like-minded elements in Sri Lanka. Together, they began drawing solace and sustenance from external factors like ‘economic crisis’ hopefully stalling the Government’s war-efforts. After a time, defending the self-perpetuated beliefs and positions became a pre-occupation.
For the Norwegians, the spirit of the study as much as the contents of the report could guide them on undertaking future peace effort and on the processes involved. For future facilitators of the kind in Sri Lanka, where the US seems to be topping the list at the moment, it is a lesson that needs to be learnt before venturing out farther, considering that the Indian neigbhour’s experience earlier was no different from the later-day Norwegian expertise -- not to leave out Japan and EU, who too made some false moves before withdrawing in haste but possibly with grace.
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