The Lanka Academic
May 24, 2019
Quaere Verum
Vol.19, No.144

Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day
Panama Beach East Coast
by: Dominic Sansoni

Letters to Mr. Erik Solheim

Q. Mr. Solheim, As you know the LTTE has historically proven that they participate in peace talks in order to regroup and replenish their forces. What repurcussions will the LTTE face if they resort to these tactics again? What guarantees do the Sri Lankan govenrment and people have that the LTTE is genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement? Thank You. - Rohitha Ganegoda, Pleasanton, CA USA

A. In peace processes there are very few guarantees. But we believe that both the LTTE and the government are serious in their search for a negotiated settlement. Many Singhalese of course believe that the LTTE fooled the government in the past. At the same time many Tamils believe that they were betrayed by different Singhalese governments. In order to assist the parties in finding a peaceful solutions, Norway try to focus on the future not on the bitter experiences so many people naturally bring with them from the history of Sri Lanka.

Q. Mr. Solheim. Thank you very much for your effort. My question is: The Liberation Tigers have extended the unilateral ceasfire of hostilities for the third time, where as the Sri Lankan government has done nothing so far towards this. Instead the govt is continuing with the war, with aerial bombing. Is there any progress at all? - Wijey Kulathungam, Toronto, Canada

A. There is some progress. As you write the LTTE has extended their unilateral ceasefires, which means there has been no attacks in the Sinhala south since our meeting with Mr. Prabhakaran in November. On the government side they have declared their dedication towards a negotiated settlement and indicated willingness to make more goods available inn the Vanni. We are cautious optimists. But the situation is fragile and vulnerable, and no efforts should be spared to move forward as rapidly as possible.

Q. What lessons have you & the protagonists learned from the Mid-Eastern Peace process and from previous, albeit failed, attempts in Sri Lanka? 2) How do you plan to negotiate those hurdles, if any? - anonymous, California

A. To be very frank. When I at the first time became involved with Sri Lanka, I had the idea that we could look to the Middle East and copy certain ideas from what have been done there or elsewhere. The more I have come to know the situation in Sri Lanka the more convinced I have been that all solutions must be found by he parties in a Sri Lankan context. The roots of the war in Sri Lanka stick deep into the islands soil. Norway is very reluctant to draw parallels to other conflicts. But we are of course studying the past failed efforts in Sri Lanka.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, The Sri Lankan government has said your role is that of a facilitator, not a mediator in the conflict. If and when the two parties to the conflict meet face to face, does your role end there, or do you see a continued role for your-self in any on-going negotiations? If yes, in what capacity? Thank you. - Priyantha Rathnayake, Canada

A. Norway is not imposing itself on Sri Lanka. We are assistisng the government and the LTTE based on their specific requests. It is entirely for the parties to decide upon which role Norway should play. We will assist to the extent the government and the LTTE find it useful. We will never do more. We will try not to disappoint anyone by doing less.

Q. Many people consider the LTTE is a terrorist movement and some governments have banned their organisation. What made you to think otherwise? - Daluwathumulle, Paris

A. Norway has not been giving any advice to the British government or other governments on the matter of proscription of the LTTE. We all know that the government of Sri Lanka has been advocating the ban, while the LTTE and most Tamil groups have opposed that. As an impartial third party we have consequently stayed out of the issue. But it would of course be impossible for the Norwegian government to play the role of the facilitator for the peace process, while at the same time proscribing one of the parties to the same conflict.

Q. Tamils signed two agreements with the sinhalese in the past,they were not implemented(Banda-selva &Dudly selva).If there is an agreement this time! who is going to make sure both parties going respect it? if sinhalese didn’t respect it what are the options for tamils? note:government can ask the western world more money and ban LTTE. - thamilmaran, canada

A. As I have replied to other people: Sri Lankan history is full of bitter experience by all groups. In order to find solutions we have to concentrate on the future. One big difference between the present efforts and some of the previous ones, is that in 2001 there is a neutral third party, asked by both sides to facilitate the contacts and pave the ground for talks. The Norwegian presence make it more difficult not to respect words which are given by one side to the other.

Q. if pirabakaran say yes to any agreement all the tamils will accept that(for sure u will agree with me on that).but if chandrika signed an agreement will the sinhalese say yes to that??? how can we tamils trust the next goverment is going to respect that?? ( look what is happening in west-bank & gaza) - Maniam, canada

A. We believe the president is in a strong position and will be able to carry her people with her if she decides to say yes to a future solution negotiated with the LTTE. But you are of course right that the support of other parties is crucial. That is exactly the reason why I have met Ranil Wickremasinghe on all my visits to Sri Lanka. The UNP leader will also visit Norway next week to make further discussions on the Sri Lankan situation possible. We believe the UNP has acted responsible and supportive towards our efforts. Norway is also willing to meet representatives of the JVP or any other political party in Sri Lanka.

Q. I don’t have any faith in Sri Lankan government will solve the Tamil issue. Do you have any faith of solving the issue? If you are going to solve the Tamil issue, is it going to be in the bases of Thimu Talks, which is agreed up by all Tamil party? - Karai Suntha, Canada

A. Norway can never solve the problems in Sri Lanka. That can only be done by the people living on the island - Singhalese, Tamils, Muslims and other. Our role is to try to assist the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in finding a solution. It is for the LTTE and the government to decide whether they will bring up the Thimbu principles.

Q. Thank you for your relentless effort to bring the warring parties together. If the upcoming talks reach an impasse would you continue to play a roll in mediating them? If so, what role would you play? Thanks, Jegan Markandu - Jegan Markandu, Ottawa, Ont. Canada

A. Norway will continue to assist as long as the parties find it useful. We are patient and understand that there are no quick fixes. We are prepared for a protracted process, but we are also ready to make a step aside if the parties believe they are better served by someone else.

Q. Dear Sir While appreciating your efforts in the ethnis conflict I would like to ask you the following question. If peace is attained does it mean that the L.T.T.E will have to give up its armed struggle and a truly democratic framework with appropriate human rights imbedded(in the whole country) will be initiated. “As long as there are two armies there will be no peace”. - Hiran Cooray, Brisbane

A. As I have indicated earlier the conflict in Sri Lanka is far too complicated to be sorted out by Norway channeling messages between the parties. The obvious aim of a peaceprocess is that both sides work out fair solutions at the negotiating table, rather than through armed struggle. It is up to the parties when or how they will discuss issues like human rights and the future of the LTTE armed forces.

Q. We the tamils of the world are indebtful that we have someone in the west like you, Eric. What proposals will be put in place to stop the terrorist Sinhalese government from continuing its colonization of indigenous tamil areas which has been systematically going on since independence? - Ungal Pillay, South Africa

A. Our Norwegian role is modest. We are helping the LTTE and the government establishing a basis for talks. It is for the parties to decide how the issues you are hinting at might be discussed in the future.

Q. There were a lot of moderate Jews who openly supported the Middle East peace process and backed the Israeli government at that time. They realized war against the Palestine is something that they can’t win and “Land for Peace” is something worthwhile exploring. Do you think that there are enough moderate Singhalese in Sri Lanka to openly support the Sri Lankan government despite the opposition from Sinhala fundamentalists, opposition political parties and the Buddhist monks ? - Political Observer, Ottawa

A. Yes we strongly believe that the vast majority of Singhalese and Tamils, as well as Muslims, long for a just peace. The war has cost so many lives and led to so much destruction and displacement of people. Among the many benefits coming from peace the possible increased economic growth is of course important. Foreign investment might increase, tourism pick up and more money be available for poverty reduction

Q. One of the major reasons behind Middle East Peace process’s success was the former Israeli prime minister and his dedication to peace. He was really committed to the peace process and he paid a heavy price for what he truly believed in. Do you think President Chandrika will commit to the peace process to the level former Israeli prime minister did, knowing that her father was killed by a Buddhist monk and her husband was killed by a Sinhala fundamentalist ? - David, Colombo, Sri Lanaka

A. Yes. We believe the president is absolutely committed to a peaceful settlement. We have the same impression of Mr. Prabhakaran. If Norway thought that either the government or the LTTE was not serious, we would not spend so much time on trying to assist the parties.

Q. Dear Sir,I belive Norway is going to burn its hand by trying to bring Ltte to negotiations.As ltte has done in past ltte leadership will attack goverment troops without any warning as they have done in the past all the time.My question(1)what kind of responsibity will Norway take if it happen as norway is responsible of bringing ltte to negotiations?(2)Has norway helped ltte in there so called strugle with military or monettary help, as norway has stopped selling military hardware to Srilankan Goverment troops? - Eddie Wijeyanayake, Toronto-Canada

A. Norway is of course not arming any party to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Norway is not providing arms to the LTTE, nor have we stopped selling weapons to the Sri Lankan government, since we were not doing that earlier. We believe LTTE is serious in their peace efforts, but we are not asking any of the parties to lower their guard at this stage. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and only through their practical behavior can each side convince the other that they mean business.

Q. Dear Sir, Do you know that our sinhalese politicians used tamil issue to come to power from the independence.In 1956 we declared SINHALA ONLY and that party won the parliment by land side majority. From the beginning we never trusted tamils and never gave them their due place in the society. Do you think you will be able to implant this trust in Sri Lanka? I am a sinhalese, catholic, because of my religion I always felt that I belong to minority in my country. Don’t you think that the present government have to confess their past sins, whether committed by UNP OR SLFP, in public? - Ivan De Silva, New York

A. We have of course spent much time reading Sri Lankan history and talking to people with muvh greater knowledge and understanding than we have ourselves. But as facilitator we have to focus on future solution not on rectifying all wrongdoing by either side in the past.

Q. What will norway do if any of party can’t reach a final agreement.? Will there be a monitoring role of norway or any other outside country to clear the blockage and to ensure the genuineness of each party when the final agreement is reached.? What is the time frame is anticipated to reach a normalcy in the north- east? Will the ltte accomodate other tamil parties and recognise the rights of opposition parties?. - Appavi Thamilan, Australia

A. All the questions you bring up are important, but it is not for me to reply. As a neutral third party our role is to assist the parties not to make public specific Norwegian points of opinion. Your questions will have to be answered by the government and by the LTTE.

Q. Even if Prabakaran agree to a peace deal within the frame work of United Sri Lanka, do you think the expatriate tamil community will accept that? - Cyril, Australia

A. Yes we believe that Mr. Prabhakaran and the LTTE is able to bring the vast majority of Tamils with him in a possible future negotiated settlement. Most other Tamil parties and groups have also accepted the leadership of the LTTE in this particular historical phase. They believe that a solution acceptable to both the LTTE and to the government, will also be acceptable to them.

Q. Dear Mr Solheim, Do you really believe that one could expect a good politician (to represent Sri Lankan Tamils) out of Prabhakaran who has comitted large number of crimes? What do you think his future be if peace effort ends in a success? - Mervyn Perera, New Zealand

A. Even those who strongly disagree with the policy and the methods of the LTTE, will acknowledge that Mr. Prabhakaran is the undisputed leader of that organization. There is no other way to peace except through talks between the LTTE and the government and Mr. Prabhakaran of course is crucial to that. We believe Mr. Prabhakaran is seriously committed to a negotiated settlement.

Q. What are the motivating factors of the Norwegian governemt to solve the civil crisis in Sri Lanka? Also, will the compromise help to avert any conflicts in Tamil Nadu? - Mahesh Markus, Sydney

A. Norway is in no way interfering with the situation in Tamil Nadu. We relate to the Indian government in Delhi and keep them informed on our efforts. Our motivation for becoming involved with Sri Lanka? Tens of thousands of people are killed in Sri Lanka, even more are displaced, entire villages and towns have been destroyed. If Norway can make a small contribution towards ending this terrible war, to us that will be a most honorable act.. There are no specific Norwegian interests in Sri Lanka except contributing to peace.

Q. Dear Mr.Solheim, What faith can you put in the LTTE’s honesty towards a peaceful solution that repects ALL the ethnic communities in Sri Lanka when the LTTE have consisently,deliberately and repeatedly carried out ethnic cleansing (muslim and singhalese) in area of their control?Being muslim, my family was ordered out by the LTTE in jaffna because we were not tamil. - Sabry, Tampa, USA

A. Your concern for the Muslim community is real and important. Any solution to the Sri Lankan conflict will have to take into consideration the interests of the Muslims. We are absolutely convinced that both the government and the LTTE realize that.

Q. You have had a rare privilege of meeting Mr.Pirabaharan in Wanni. (a) What is the remarkable characteristic/quality you observed in him. (b) Do you sincerely beleive that India would acknowledge any solution in SL that goes beyond their own level of power devolution. Thks. - Bavan, New Zealand

A. Mr. Prabhakaran was in absolute command of all the issues we discussed. He spoke with clarity and authority, while at the same time entering into a pragmatic dialogue on the issues. He was relaxed and thought thorough the matters before replying. b) It is for India, and not for Norway, to make Indian positions clear. Norway has from day one in our involvement in Sri Lankan affairs kept India informed and asked their advice. India of course has a much more profound knowledge of the region than we Norwegians can ever dream of.

Q. Dera Mr Silheim Can you tell me whether the Christian church leaders are currntly able to bring any positive contribution to the mediation of the conflict, particularly the LTTE ? If so where do you think they should concentrate their efforts ? - Rev Canon Tony Fensome, Bristol UK

A. All religious leaders - Christians as well as Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim - have a very important role to play. They are respected leaders in the communities and may contribute to reducing hatred, ethnical misunderstanding or racism. I can not give them any particular advice. After meeting a number of religious leaders from Sri Lanka I acknowledge that they are much better informed about the situation on the ground than I am. Everyone should contribute the way they find conducive.

Q. Dear Mr.Solheim, Thank you very much for your efforts in bringing the two sides in SriLanka to the negotiating table. In my opinion, any lasting political solution to our ethnic problem must involve the two main political parties in SriLanka (PA & UNP), otherwise as in the past, most agreements have been ignored or the political parties will make it an election issue in the next election. On the other hand, to pass any major amendments to the constitution, the government needs the support of the opposition. In this context, are there any efforts being made to include the main opposition party (UNP) in the proposed talks? I would appreciate your opinion in this matter. Thank you Valan - Valan, UK

A. I think everyone with deep knowledge of the Sri Lankan situation emphasize the need for PA - UNP cooperation in solving the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. That is exactly why I have met the UNP-leader on all my visits to Sri Lanka and why our ambassador in Colombo Jon Westborg stays in contact with the UNP as well as the government. I will also add that of course Norway is ready to meet the JVP and other parties as well.

Q. Mr.Solheim, How do you feel that LTTTE have extended their ceasefire for the third time without a proper channel, why didn’t LTTE channel you to announce about their ceasefire? (I feel the ceasefire would be very meaningful if they Channels you) - P.Ramanan, Colombo

A. It is not for me to comment on the channels for informing about the ceasefires. One important effect of the LTTEs ceasfire is the absence of armed attacks in the southern parts of Sri Lanka.

Q. Do you think that the only tamil voice is LTTE? How you can recognize LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil people? If you can dis-arm LTTE and ask Prabhakaran to have a referendum at Nort and east with (international mediation) to get the approval from the N&E people to select LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil people I think that is the greatest help you can do for the Tamil People. My personal opinion is armless LTTE is powerless. I think TULF is the sole representative for Tamil People. - Ravi .Thambinayagam, Mannar

A. It is not for Norway to decide who represents the Tamils of Sri Lanka, but for the Tamils themselves. We relate to the fact that the armed conflict is between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE and that LTTE therefore is crucial to finding a just settlement of the war. Furthermore the TULF has told us that their main priority is peace and since peace can only be achieved through talks between the government and the LTTE they accept that the LTTE will represent the Tamils at this particular juncture.

Q. Having observed the chaos created by ethnicaly orientated solution in kosovo which has destabilsed not only Kosovo but also macedonia in there aspiration for a greater Kosovo Do you think a similar solution in Sri Lanka will create a bigger problem than what it is at the moment?Will it finaly cause the balkanization of India as it did in yugoslavia? - J.Goonetilleke, London

A. I am very reluctant in drawing parallels between the situation in Sri Lanka and Kosovo, Middle East, Northern Ireland or other conflicts. Such parallels can easily be more misleading than enlightening. The parties will, themselves, have to decide whether they can learn anything from the situation in other parts of the world. A balkanization of India would of course be a terrible development. No solution in Sri Lanka will contribute to that. More important: There are no reasons to believe India is not stable and strong.

Q. Mr Solheim, What very basic factor gave positive signal in your mind to solve this conflict within united Srilanka for the Permanent Peace. - Raj Karu, Surrey, UK

A. The crucial factor is the willingness of the parties. We sincerely trust that both the government and the LTTE are seriously trying to find a peaceful solution. But of course - it will take time. Talks will be protracted. But talks are much preferable to war.

Q. Dear Mr.Erik Solheim, I really thank you for your effort to bring peace in Sri Lanka. We Tamils are behind you to achieve that. I just wanted to know that how are you going to monitor the free flow of essential items such as food and medicine to Tamil areas. Best wishes God bless you and for your family. Suresh - suresh, Canada

A. If the parties at any stage want any kind of monitoring of a possible agreement, it is for the LTTE and the government to establish a monitoring mechanism. Norway as a matter of principle never makes public the substance of our talks. Public clarification of substance is the right and the duty of the LTTE and the government. The parties shall always be in a position to trust that what they tell us is kept confidential.

Q. What is your special interest re Sri Lanka? You do not seem to be neutral but siding with the Tamils. You accepted gifts from them. You tried to block certain benetfits to the government of Sri Lanka. What proof have you got that your proposed scheme will also be beneficial to the Sinhala majority of Sri Lanka? - C. Siri Ratnayake, U.K

A. The only gift I have accepted from the LTTE is a small token of friendship handed me by Mr. Parbhakaran. I have got similar souvenirs from the government of Sri Lanka and in the past as a parliamentarian from dozens of governments and movements. This is normal in international relations and it is considered impolite not to receive such gifts. The Norwegian efforts in Sri Lanka are based on a specific request to assist from the ultimate authority of the country, the president. I am happy to say that she has publicly commended Norway for being absolutely neutral. Furthermore: The president and the government of Sri Lanka will naturally make certain that a future agreed scheme is beneficial to the Sinhala majority of Sri Lanka. Norway is facilitating contacts between the parties. We are not representing the Sinhalese, nor the Tamils.

Q. It has been reported that India is unhappy with the mediation efforts by a western country and tried to block the participation of UK and Japan in the monitoring committee. Can you categorically state that India did not try to impede the peace process by Norway? From your discussions with the Indian leaders, are they opposed to a federal set up in Sri Lanka that grants more powers to Tamils than the Indian states enjoy? - S. Prabaharan, USA

A. Throughout this process India has been supportive. We have kept India informed about all major steps and got useful advice from a country with deep knowledge of the situation in Sri Lanka. It is for the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to decide upon any possible future monitoring committee. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country running its own process. If such a situation arose and anyone asked us to suggest countries, why should Norway as a longtime friend of India, propose countries which would be seen as an offense by her?

Q. Dear Mr.Solheim Have you taken in to consideration the implications of the Rajiv Gandhi case which is still an ongoing process in the Indian judiciary, towards a final solution in Shri Lanka? How would the Sri Lankan government/LTTE reconcile the fact that Mr.Prabhakaran is a absconding suspect in a major criminal case in India? - Lalith Narayan Mishra, Bubhaneshwar, India

A. This is entirely an Indian matter. Norway will never in any way try to interfere with a judicial process in India.

Q. Mr. Solheim, To what extent have your peace efforts addressed the needs and problems of minority groups in Sri Lanka besides Tamils of the North and East? I’m specifically referring to Up-country Tamils of Indian Origin, who number approximately half of all Tamils in Sri Lanka, and who have not been directly involved in the ethnic conflict, but have been greatly affected indirectly. - Daniel Bass, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

A. Norway is a facilitator assisting the parties in finding a way towards a just settlement of this most bloody war. If talks start, the parties will put together the agenda.

Q. What is your opinion about the Sinhala Urumaya?? Were you offended by the personal attacks the SU member directed at you during your last visit? - Nonis P, Kandy

A. Most of the accusations made by the Sinhala Urumaya in the parliament were simply untrue. Our ambassador in Colombo, Jon Westborg, has clarified all the issues brought up by Sinhala Urumaya in a letter to the National Movement Against Terrorism. This letter is available to any interested citizen and to the media. But, of course, I am most willing to meet Sinhala Urumaya leaders if they want to inform us about their stand on different issues.

Q. A major claim from the LTTE and other pro-Tamil Nation individuals is that the Sinhalese people and the government have committed genocide and ethnic cleansing. Do you believe that the Sinhalese people and/or the government of Sri Lanka has engaged (wittingly or unwittingly) in ethnic cleansing and/or genocide? - Chathura Manawadu, Pennsylvania, USA

A. Both Tamils, Muslims and Singhalese have grievances concerning the past. Many people have lost their beloved ones. As a facilitator Norway has to focus on the future, not on the bitter experiences many Sri Lankans naturally bring with them from the history of the island.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, As we all know LTTE is not the sole representative of Tamils in Sri Lanka though they are acting like. There are democratic Tamil political parties as well as Muslim parties represent Tamils in the North and East. Will you invite them to the negotiation table along with LTTE and Sri Lankan government? Thank You! - Dr. Ananda Seneviratne, Toronto, Canada

A. Norway is asked to work as a neutral third party assisting the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to find a solution to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The president and the LTTE will decide who will sit at the negotiating table, not Norway. But of course we recognize that there are many other legitimate voices in Sri Lanka and we try to listen to any opinion. The TULF and most other Tamil parties have accepted the leadership of the LTTE at this juncture. Norway has kept regular contact with the SLMC.

Q. Dear Mr.Solheim, I read in your short ‘bio’ that you have an interest in “Children’s issues” and that you are the father of two children. Given that, what emphasis have you placed on the LTTE to stop using child soldiers or have you ever brought this issue up with Prabakaran when you met him in the Wanni? - Suren Silva, Tampa,Florida,USA

A. Norway is absolutely opposed to any use of children as soldiers. Our opinion is well known to the parties in the conflict in Sri Lanka and also from the UN and other international bodies.

Q. Dear Sir, Do you feel that LTTE meets the criteria to be labelled a “terrorist” organization given such labelling by USA,UK,India,Sri Lanka and Malaysia? - suresh pillai, Jacksonville,Florida,USA

A. As you will know this issue is disputed between the parties to the war in Sri Lanka. Consequently Norway stays out of this discussion. We have never given any advice to any government on this. Norway, as the third party chosen by the parties, will naturally not proscribe the LTTE

Q. Dear Sir, Do you feel or witness any shortage of food and medicine or manifestations such as disease among the LTTE cadre during your short stay in the Wanni? Conversely, did you witness the same effects on the tamil civilians in the Wanni? - suresh pillai, Jacksonville,Florida,USA

A. We met only a few of the LTTE leaders during our visit to Vanni, principally Mr. Prabhakaran and Mr. Thamilchelvam. The community leaders in the Vanni all told us that the prices are much higher than in the rest of Sri Lanka and that there is a shortage of most commodities. We could ourselves see that the shops are less equipped than in other areas of the island.

Q. If there is a solution, what will happen to the war criminals in both sides? Will they be send to International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague including Praba and CBK? - Anonymous

A. It would be absolutely inappropriate for Norway even to comment on a question including these accusations. We believe that the president and Mr. Prabhakaran are seriously trying to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Q. Discussions without the participation of SLMC, UNP and JVP is doomed to fail. Why is it that the international community is persisting on an already failed bilateral format than a multilateral format which might have a better chance of creating lasting peace? Outcome of any bilateral agreements can be violently opposed as indicated by the JVP? - Raveen Satkurunathan, USA

A. You are absolutely right that a broad consensus will be most helpful in a process towards a lasting peace. That is exactly why Norway has from the very beginning kept the UNP informed about our efforts. I have met the UNP-leader Ranil Wickremasinghe on every visit to Sri Lanka and our ambassador Jon Westborg is regularly in contact with the UNP. Mr. Wickremasinghe also visited Oslo for Easter and Sinhala new year. Further Norway has also had a number of meetings with leaders from the SLMC. We are at any time ready to sit down and talk with the JVP.

Q. Dear Eric, Have you discussed a prisoner exchange as part of the confidence building measures? The LTTE holds singhalese farmers and merchant marine sailors who are of no apparent military value. Also, they hold SL army and Navy members, whose military value is questionable given their extended period in captivity (some in excess of 7 years).Also, how about the “missing in action” combatants? - Morrison Ramanayake, Orlando,USA

A. Norway as a matter of principle does not disclose the content of our talks with the government or the LTTE. But certainly, if at any stage we can contribute to humanitarian gestures we would do so. We were happy to note that the LTTE released some prisoners in connection with ambassador Westborgs visit to Vanni early April and that the government reciprocated.

Q. I was an exchange student in Sri Lanka in mid 70’s and now teach at California State University. In North and East of the country there are hundreds of ancient ruins. Are these protected under any pending talks between the warring parties. I don’t like to see the same thing happened in Afganistan. Any guarantee? - Andy Rosentahal, Los Angeles,California

A. The madness of Afghanistan is sad and extreme. Norway was happy to observe that the Sri Lankan foreign minister Laxman Kadirgamar did his utmost to avoid the destruction of the buddha statues. Norway of course also protested. The best way of avoiding possible destruction to any of the brilliant historical relics of Sri Lanka is to assist the parties in finding ways to stop the war.

Q. Mr.Solheim Why were you selected by the Norweign government as the facilitator for this project? What unique qualifications make you the right person to deal with a situation where others including many Indians such as Romesh Bandari or Gopalan Parthasarathi failed. - zitizen perera, Kandy

A. I was asked by the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs back in 1998 if I could take upon the task of assisting the parties in Sri Lanka. I believe the reason Mr. Vollebæk approached me was I was one of the parliamentarians most actively involved with foreign policy. I claim absolutely no unique qualifications. My only possible asset is the trust of the parties. If the president of Sri Lanka or the LTTE loose their faith in Norway or me, we will disappear from the scene. If in the future we are able to make some successes it will be because the parties are ready to move towards peace, not because any Norwegian has even a small part of the experience of the people you are mentioning.

Q. Could you please explain the role played by you at the present juncture? Do you actually come up with your own ideas about territorial and administrative compromises needed for a succesful negotiation process like in the mode of the Camp David discussions? - Takshina De Silva, BC, Canada

A. At the present stage we are constantly in touch with the parties, at least on a weekly basis. Norway is channeling messages between them. We are trying to assist them in establishing the fundament for negotiations. The parties decide what Norway will do. We will never do more than the parties expect us to do. We will also try not to disappoint anyone by doing less.

Q. You have been successful in getting the Sri lankan Government and the LTTE to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the country’s ethnic conflict. Will Norway persuade Sri lanka, USA, UK and India to lift the ban on LTTE if talks have been fruitful during the initial stages? - P. Julian, Melbourne - Australia

A. Norway is not advising other governments. India in particular, but also the other countries you mention, has a more profound knowledge of the situation in Sri Lanka than Norway. They will make their own decisions at any stage of possible talks.

Q. What types of support are being considered for the people of Sri Lanka after peace is achieved? For example, the level of psychological trauma - evidenced by the high suicide rate in the country - needs to be addressed, as well as the re-integration of military combatants into society. Also, peace will likely pave the way to further development on the island, will any agreements address the need for measured and planned growth? - Laura Gross, Virginia, USA

A.If asked by the parties, Norway is prepared to approach the international community and ask donors to contribute to the heeling of the wounds caused by war and the necessary assistance to reconstruction after the war. The government and the LTTE will have to take the lead, but we are ready to assist. You are pointing at some of the problems that might surface.

Q. Considering the perpetrators of violence and human rights violations against civilians from all sides to the conflict including IPKF went unpunished so far, Is there a plan to declare amnesty to all involved to bring closure to the ethnic conflict with the signing of any peace agreement? - N. S., Canada

A. These issues will have to be addressed by the parties themselves. The parties. not Norway, will decide upon the agenda for talks.

Q. Mr Solheim, if and when the peace talks starts would general pulic come to know the contents of discussion and what the government offered to the tamils as their rights and previllages. Speculation in the past the govt showed two different packages one to the world (atractive package)and one to the tamils.(less attractive) and you know the rest. - JOSEPH R., TORONTO, CANADA

A. If finally there is an agreement between the government and the LTTE all aspects of it will certainly be publicly known. There is no way of hiding any part of it, nor will anyone wish to keep it secret.

Q. 1. At what stage is the peace process between the government and the LTTE? 2. How soon do you expect the first round of talks to be held? 3. Has the location been chosen already? If so, where? 4. Has a timeframe for peace talks been agreed upon both by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE? - Frederica Jansz, Colombo

A. 1. The process is in a preparatory and most vulnerable stage. Hopefully the parties will decide to start direct talks, but there are still issues which will have to be sorted out before that is possible 2. I will give not predictions. But with so many people killed: The sooner, the better. 3 and 4: It is not the right nor the duty of Norway to inform about the content of our discussion with the parties. But I can tell you that no venue is decided. On the other hand I do not presume that discussion on location will be a major obstacle.

Q. Do you believe that if the LTTE is proscribed in Europe and elswhere it will pressure the Tigers into accepting or conforming to a democratic political process? - Frederica Jansz, Colombo

A. Norway has consequently stayed out of this issue.

Q. Dear Sir: I need to know how did you win the confidence of Mr. Prabakaran? being a student of Defence & Strategic Studies,this question really makes me to wonder and respecting your ability to accomplish this herculian task. Sincerely, Raja - Raja, USA

A. So far we have been happy to register that both the president of Sri Lanka and Mr. Prabhakaran seem to trust us. There are no secrets involved. We treat everyone with respect. We listen to the views of the parties. We do our utmost to be absolutely neutral and to assist both sides as far as possible upon their request.

Q. In the event the present conflict in Sri Lanka is resolved, what future can Sri Lankan Tamils look forward to? - Frederica Jansz, Colombo

A. This is a very wide question. It is for the parties to develop the solution to the conflict, including the status of the north and the east. But of course without war the future of all communities in Sri Lanka will be brighter.

Q. Mr. Solheim, The gap between the maximum the Sri lankan government would be willing to grant (within the unitary state system) and the minimum the LTTE would be satisfied with (without a unitary state) seems to be unbridgeable. No rational devolution would be concretized within a unitary state system, as has never happened anywhere in the world. So what have you or they (Government and the LTTE) proposed to resolve this problem? - Gamini Viyangoda, Paris, France

A. We acknowledge, as you do, that finding a lasting settlement to the war will be extremely difficult and consume a lot of time. From the very beginning of the Norwegian involvement we were advised both by the parties and by India to be patient and not expect any quick fixes. But we believe the government and the LTTE will be able to work out solutions through protracted talks. There is simply no alternative.

Q. Dear Hon. Mr. Solheim, Based on our bad history, I as a TAMIL, strongly believe that the only LASTING PEACEFULL solution to the Tamil Problem would be to create a Brand New Country called, CEYLON, with two States, namely SRI LANKA and TAMIL EELAM. Unfortunetely, we have to look after our own affairs seperatively under a central CEYLON government. What is your opinion on this? - Ranjan, Ottawa, Canada.

A. In order to be at the service of the parties, Norway is absolutely not running around with a lot of opinions. To the contrary we try to listen to the parties themselves to see if we can find common ground. But Norway has reiterated to the parties the broad international consensus that the international community will support a solution within the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, but at the same time a solution meeting Tamil aspirations in a substantial manner.

Q. Everyone (including you) talks about the rights and the aspirations of the Tamils! But what about the right and aspirations of the Sinhalese? Will these be taken into account in the negotiations? - Janaka Nallaperuma, Galle

A. I am absolutely confident that the president and the government of Sri Lanka will never enter into any agreement which is not taking into account the aspirations of the Singhalese. Nor will the UNP.

Q. Do you think any peace agreement has to be underwritten by UN to make sure that it won’t be violated in the future? - N. S., Chennai, India

A. The government of Sri Lanka does not want to involve the UN. You will find a lot of international conflicts which are solved without involvement of the UN.

Q. Will the people being detained under Prevention of Terrorism Act for several years without being charged be released before any peace agreement is reached as it may take several years to fashion a final agreement? - Kayavan Balachandran, Chennai, India

A. An issue like this will have to be addressed by the parties, not by Norway.

Q. Mr.Solheim, First of all I would say thank you for your endless courage to bring those rival parties in sri lanka to the negotiation table. now my question is, 1.From the plaestin and israel conflict experience,what type of formula are you going to apply to our struggles without further blood shed in future.otherwise the peace talks will be meaningless,thank you. Good luck. - Siva, canada

A. Norway has no formula. The conflict is far too complex and deep-rooted to be solved by us. Our role is to assist the government and the LTTE to find a solution acceptable to both sides. You might always learn form experiences in other parts of the wold, like the Middle East. But trying to copy solutions from other historical contexts will most certainly fail.

Q. Why should India be kept informed at every stage of the peace process when it is essentially between the two warring parties in Sri Lanka? Does India have a veto power over the eventual agreement? - N. R., Chennai, India

A. India of course has no veto in the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. But India as the only neighbor of Sri Lanka has legitimate reasons to be concerned. In addition India, in command of much deeper knowledge than Norway of the subcontinent, always has valuable advice to provide.

Q. Dear Mr.Eric Solheim May success attend you in your peace effort. Would you listen to the Muslim non political organisations and the religious leaders academics in the North and east of Sri Lanka whilst having talks with the SLMC which is now headed by the southners who are alien to the ethnic crisis and try to disintergrate the Muslims in the North east by selling their government sponsored South east Muslim council? - Seyed M.M.Bazeer, London-Northeast Sri Lanka Muslim Council(UK)

A. Yes. Our door is wide open. We will listen to every legitimate opinion. Thank you also for sending me your points of view directly by post!

Q. Have you used your position unique and accepted position to impress on both parties the need to avoid and prevent civilian casualties? A lot of the hate between the two ethnic groups has risen from the brutalization of each other’s communities with suicide bombs,truck bombs and extra judicial killings. Do you agree that stopping as much of the killing as possible is the first milestone in the peace process? thank you for all your efforts - Suresh Pillai, Florida,USA

A. Yes most certainly. We are constantly appealing to the parties to avoid civilian casualties. I think it is obvious that talks can never succeed if at the same time heavy fighting or major atrocities against civilians are going on.

Q. Dear Erick What are your general feelings about the usage of Violence as a method for achieving Political objectives? As a representative of the Western “enlightned” society how do you approch a culture steeped in violence against it’s own people be it the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE? - Abdul Rahim, Toronto

A. As a westerner I always keep in mind Mahatma Gandhi’s answer when he was asked his opinion about the western civilization. Gandhi replied: I think that would have been a good idea. Violence in not a cultural particularity in Sri Lanka. The most gruesome massacres in the entire world history were carried out by what we consider to be on of the greatest cultural nations of Europe, namely Germany. My personal opinion is that violence is only acceptable in self-defense, or when you are defending your country or your nation or in defense of sacred human values.

Q. In your responses 1-34, you have mentioned you are willing to meet the JVP. However, there were some reports that you met the JVP before you went to meet the LTTE leader. What do you think about the JVP, and their view about the war? What other parties have you met so far? - Parakrama, USA

A. We are ready to sit down and talk extensively with the JVP. The JVP is coming up as an important political force in Sri Lanka, represented in the parliament and with a lot of followers as shown on the 1st of May. I have never met the JVP. Our ambassador in Colombo, Jon Westborg, however met the JVP last October.

Q. Dear Erick Reading through your answers I seem to get the impression that you are ABSOLUTELY sure that both parties want Peace. However as “lay” people all we see and read are details about hectic preparations made by both sides for the next round of fighting. From your vantage point what are the factors that makes you so sure about the intentions for Peace of both parties that we regular people seem to be missing to see. - Mahendra Kumar Mahattya, palawalla

A. I cannot give you any peace-guarantee. Obviously the heavy fighting with hundreds of casualties at the end of April was a setback. But I believe both sides understand that continous fighting will only kill many more thousands of people and destroy new towns and homes. More years of fighting will also delay economic development for both Sinhalese and Tamils. I also think both sides understand they cannot win an all-out victory. Both the LTTE and the SLA are strong enough as to avoid complete defeat, while not strong enough to wipe out the other.

Q. Dear Sir. What advice can you give the expatraite Sri Lankans from both sides to promote the Peace Process in Sri Lanka? - Thambiyah Nallanayagam, Leeds UK

A. The most important is to ask everyone to call for a stoppage of the war and the starting of talks between the LTTE and the government.

Q. During the recent aborted attempt by the PA to pass the new constitution there were charges by the UNP that the President had included clauses that would have allowed her a political role after her present tenure. In any ultimate solution that has to be ratified through the existing parliment how would you prevent the politicians from hijacking the new constitution for their own petty political needs? - LaksmiNarayan SIvkuganathan, Toronto

A. In any democratic society tough debates between government and opposition is natural. Norway, of course, stay completely out of all issues related to abolition of the presidency etc. But we call upon both the PA and the UNP to cooperate in the national interest of their country. Hopefully the PA , the UNP and other political forces might be in a position to seek consensus on the ethnic conflict.

Q. Dear Erik, as a Norwegian, you are trying help find a solution to a problem between two cultures thousands of miles away from you and very different from your own. What keeps you going? Can you elaborate on the type of the spiritual satisfaction you get out of this process? What is the high point for you personally, so far with respect to this process? Good luck to you and to all Sri Lankans! - T. Rajakaruna, USA

A. Please remember that the Norwegian efforts are not a one-man show. Our ambassador to Colombo Mr Westborg, the leadership in our ministry and a number of other people are as important as I am. To all of us I think doing our utmost to assist in achieving a noble task, is a high form of spiritual satisfaction. We do hope to contribute, though only in a minor way, to finding a just settlement of the conflict in Sri Lanka. To stop the war will save the lives of thousands of Sri Lankans and build the foundation for a brighter future for all human beings in the island. The high point is the trust which is put upon us by both the government and the LTTE and through letters and e-mails from so many ordinary Tamils and Singhalese.

Q. Anpan Rajah: I just want to know if the Govenment backs off from this peace process and if you think it was the government who is reposnsible for the failure,will you openly tell this to the world and recognize LTTE as a freedom movement? A. Balasingham: Oneday, if you (and the government of Norway) were convinced that the LTTE used you to regroup their positions, would you please educate the western world, how untrustworthy and ruthless person is Mr. Prabakaran

[Edited and combined by moderator] - Anpan Rajah, Florida, USA, A. Balasingham Norway,

A. As long as we are entrusted with the task to try to bring the parties to the negotiating table, we will not take upon ourselves the role of the judge. But, naturally, if one day we become convinced that one side or both sides are not serious and only use our efforts as a cover for fooling the world, we will discontinue our efforts and tell the relevant parties why.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, One of my personal philosopies is “No one is perfect”. Therefore, as you have said so far bringing the bad memories and expereience from the past do not help to solve our ethnic or terrosirst problem in Sri Lanka. I think while both parties are carrying out negotiations have you thought about how Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burgers can understand each other well and united and think like “SRI LANKANS” and not as individual ethnic communities? - Dr. Ananda Seneviratne, Toronto, Canada

A. I believe it is possible for people to have many difficult identities at the same time. If we look at the example of Sri Lanka`s big neighbor a person from say Chennai might identify himself as an Indian, a Tamil and an individual at the same time. He might furthermore combine any of these identities with that of being a Muslim or of a Hindu, being a Brahmin or person from a another cast. People are right to defend their identities, but people with different identities might live peacefully side by side and in constant interaction.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, a singhalese wife of an US based Tamil bisnuessman/LTTE supporter stated in an interview with a leading newspaper, this is not only an ethnic war between the sinhalese government, this is the voice of the youth suppressed by the caste system in Jaffna society. If this is the case, do you think there are things within the tamil community of Jaffana to solve, to make LTTE cardres acceptable to the society? [Edited by moderator] - Sanjeeva Perera, UK

A. I think it is quite clear that in the late seventies and in the eighties the LTTE originated also as an expression of resentment to the class/cast structure in Tamil society. Our Norwegian involvement in Sri Lanka however is as a third party to the ethnic conflict. We do not involve ourselves in any kind of domestic politics, neither in Colombo nor in the Tamil society. But naturally in a peaceful north and east after a negotiated settlement there will be different points of view among Tamils and different political groups will fight through elections and otherwise for power.

Q. Dear Mr.Solheim, Iam a 49 year old Sinhalese, and some of my best friends are tamil.During ourlong association, one’s ethnicity has never been a barrier to our firm friendship.This I believe is true for most Sri Lankans,whether they be Tamil or Sinhalese.It is the opportunistic politicians who have created situations for extremist, hegemonistic groups to assert themselves forcibly on the free will of the people.Against this background do you sicerely see reasons for substantial devolution for specified ethnic groups? - Anura Goonewardena, Colombo

A. I am happy to read about your friendships across the ethnic divisions. That is positive promise for the future! When it comes to outlining any solution the parties will have to do the job, not Norway. But I think everyone understand that there can be no lasting solution unless it is meeting Tamil aspirations in a substantial manner.

Q. Your answer to Q29 indicates that you will keep what the govt and LTTE tell you absolutely confidential. Then why should India be passed on this confidential information since they seem to be unhappy about some aspects of the current peace process. - S. Prabaharan, USA

A. India is the only neighbor of Sri Lanka. India has very legitimate interests in how the conflict in Sri lanka is solved. Both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE emphasize the role of India. Throughout the process India has been supportive. We have been listening to extremely useful advice from Indian politicians and diplomats with much greater experience in South Asian affairs than our own.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, The latest developments in the peace effort initiated by your government seem to be headed for a deadlock, with the LTTE insisting that the ban on them be lifted as a basis for peace talks. What recommendation would your government make to the Sri Lankan government on this stand ? Would your government try to convince the LTTE to do otherwise ? - Tony, San Jose, CA, USA

A.Norway is not impressing any views upon the parties. We are advising the parties to the extent they ask for our opinion. When we give a piece of advice we prefer to do it directly to the parties not through the press.

Q. Mr.Solheim, Do you believe that the isolation and polarity of this is due to lanuage barrier of English being the language of the privileged few and Singhala and Thamil being the the language of the poor majority. (LTTE represent Thamil and JVP represents Singhala) - Banu Thuraisingham, San Jose, California

A. You are of course right that in the extremely complex and fascinating history of Sri Lanka language and social issues are closely related. But it would be difficult for Norway to elaborate in detail on that. Hopefully in a peaceful future people of all communities will be able to develop their own culture and language while at the same time get a good command of the two other languages in the island.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, It is my belief that the majority of the Sri Lankans, no matter what community they belong to, want peace in our country of birth. I think a fair solution is possible. In the circumstances, your part in finding this solution is highly commendable and exhibits a high calibre of statesmanship.I wish to ask if you are getting any support in your efforts from other countires such as UK, Canada and US. - GF, Toronto, Ontario

A. Yes definitely so. Last week for instance the US secretary of state Colin Powell reiterated the US position of strongly supporting the Norwegian peace efforts in his meeting with Lankan foreign minister Laxman Kadirgamar. A couple of days earlier the Canadian high commissioner in Colombo Ruth Archibald brought the same message to the head of the political section of the LTTE Mr. Tamilselvan during their meeting in Vanni. We strongly believe that the entire international community is behind the peace process in Sri Lanka, i.e. India, US, UK, Canada, the European Union, Japan, China and others.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, Majority of the Sinhalese are sceptical about your intentions as you have not endeavoured to win their confidence by any of your actions. Even what you have said occasionally about the conflict was to undermind the Sinhala views on the issue. You appear to be more supportive of the Tamil cause, however unjustifiable they appear to be. Will you make an effort to portray an impartial image or ignore altogether criticism leveled against you. Thank you. - Nimal Dehiwela, Colombo

A. I am never ignoring criticism. To the contrary we try to listen to every opinion. Unfortunately nowhere in the world you can achieve something if you try to please absolutely everyone. We believe that the vast majority of Singhalese are supporting the peace process. The PA and the UNP have both publicly commended and supported our efforts and believe what Norway try to do is in the deepest sense in the interest of the Sinhala nation.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim, first congratulations to your initiative! In rely to question 33, you stressed Norway’s role as facilitator in assisting the Tamil and Sinhalese parties to find a just settlement. Different INGOs and NGOs have began stressing the importance of a gender-sensitive approach to questions of peace and peace-building for the last couple of years. What is your understanding of the gender dimension of the Sri Lankan conflict and a just peace-buidling process (including Norway’s initiated facilitation process)? - Cordula Reimann, Bradford/UK

A. A lot of women are suffering from the war. Many women have been killed, wounded or raped. Others have lost their children or husband. I believe women often understand the urgency of preace in a more direct way than us men.

Q. Dear Eric, During the British Raj minorities were favoured in their policy of devide & rule.After the end of colonialsm the minorities have felt there power diminish which has led them to accuse the majority communities of discrimination.This has led to a lot of problems in devoleping countries such as malaysia,Burma,India ,Sri Lanka etc.Is there a place for a wider discussion on these issues on an international scale? - J.Goonetilleke, London

A. Every year numerous articles and books on these issues are published in the countries you are mentioning, and of course elsewhere. A number of seminars and workshops covering the issues are held. The topics are discussed in the United Nations and in foreign policy thinktanks and institutions globally. It would be difficult for me to recommend any particular book or article or seminar or organization. I can only suggest that all interested citizens use Internet or other ways to obtain the relevant material or contacts.

Q. Since independence ruling class haven’t shown the willingness to share power with minorities. Also govt, haven’t changed their militaristic approach to this problem yet. Under these circumstances apart from mediation are the western powers including Norway prepared to pressure the government to come up with a just & fair solution, as you usually do on economic policies through organizations like IMF &, World bank. I believe both the govt. & the LTTE cannot continue this war without your support. - Ajith Rajapaksa, Melbourne

A. Since Norway is the neutral third party requested by the parties to play that particular role, we will not be in a position to put pressure on the parties. Nearly all governments call upon the parties to cease the war and start talks. Whether or not foreign governments will assert any kind of pressure on the government or the LTTE or both are their business.

Q. As a Tamil, I always feared and still believe that the Indians are generally against the “Tamil Interests”.Having had discussions with the Indian government officials , Mr.Solheim, do you feel my fears can be justfied? - Hillary Sebamalai, Markham, Ontario, Canada

A. No. India has been completely supportive to our peace efforts. It is not for me to speak on behalf of India but I know India believe the solution should be found within the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, but meeting Tamil aspirations. After the heavy fighting and the high number of casualties in southern Jaffna late April India expressed its concern and called upon both sides to come for a negotiated settlement.

Q. Speaking with a lot of my Singalese friends I got the feeling that they suspect your impartiality given your previous invlovement with LTTE sponsored events in Norway. Since any ultimate solution has to be acceptable not only to the LTTE,SLG but the average singalese and the tamils (of course) how do you rectify their assumptions? - N. K., Toronto

A. As a Member of Parliament in the past I was never involved in the LTTE activities in Norway. If that was the case, how could the president of Sri Lanka or the UNP or the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs for that matter trust me as an impartial special envoy in this conflict? But naturally after Norway was asked by the president and the LTTE to take upon ourselves the role as neutral third party, I have had numerous contacts with the LTTE. How else could I do my job and be useful also to the government of Sri Lanka?

Q. We all aware majority of foreign aids & funds are being diverted to fund the war. If this is not allowed to happen by the donor countries like Norway, govt. will have no option than genuinely committing to the peace process. In similar way funds to the LTTE can be stopped by various methods. If you are genuinely concern about the ordinary people who are desperate for peace, will you advocate this option as the last resort? - L. Rathnayake, Melbourne

A. As a neutral third party assisting the parties in finding a negotiated settlement, it will be difficult for Norway to engage ourselves along these lines.

Q. Dear Eric, Where does devolution begin & end in a modern society which is multiracial with a highly mobile group of people as in Sri Lanka.Should not all the problems be addressed in terms of human rights safeguarding them against not only racism but also against caste discrimination ? - P.G., UK

A. You are asking relevant questions relating to some of the substantial issues the parties will have to cover when they decide to start direct talks. You will have to address your questions to the government of Sri Lanka and to the LTTE.

Q. Dear Mr. Solheim. What is your favourite Sri Lankan food. - Publis, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

A. I am a great lover of nearly all types of South Asian food, as long as it is hot and spicy. A combination of the different food traditions will serve me well - for instance a doza masala for breakfast and a combination of southern curries for dinner, particularly vegetarian ones.

Q. As the facilitator of peace negotiations, do you think you have been able to bring the two fighting parties at least one step close to the negotiating table? ,despite “pre condtions” demanded by the LTTE and the slow paced approach of the government? - Sulochana Peiris, Young Asia Television, Colombo , Sri Lanka

A. Yes. The parties are definitely many steps closer to the negotiation table. But as long as certain issues are not yet solved, they have not been able to finalize the basis for talks. Please also remember that talks are a means to achieve a just peace in Sri Lanka, not an end in itself. When direct talks start, we should expect them to be tough and lasting for an extensive period.

Q. Don’t you think there should be a strong campaign to raise awareness amongst citizens of Sri Lanka, on the urgency of peace talks in order to put pressure on both the government and the LTTE ? or do you believe they are enlightened enough on the subject? - Sulochana Peiris, Young Asia Television, Colombo, Sri Lanka

A. Norway is not in the business of putting pressure on anyone. But yes - certainly peace awareness is crucial.

Q. The LTTE’s eleventh hour demand that the government “de-proscribe” it before it would enter into talks surprised (and dismayed) just about everyone. Without mincing words, can you tell us whether this was a new condition – a “moving of the goal-posts” – or was it something the LTTE had demanded all along but was simply not publicized? - Nilan Fernando, Jakarta, Indonesia

A. Unfortunately I can not comment on the substance of my lengthy discussions with Mr. Balasingham and other leaders of the LTTE. What is clear, however, is that the issue of deproscription is an important one for the LTTE.

Q. Will this peace process end up as a deal between those who have been carrying arms, establishing their power in various parts of Sri Lanka, without resolving any of the deep seated problems that underlie this conflict? - Sunil Bastian, Colombo

A. The parties will ultimately have to address this question. But I do not think any party envisage a solution that is not resolving many of the underlying problems you are referring to.

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