Erik Solheim, former Norwegian Minister and the Chief Negotiator between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government played important roles in bringing both sides to the negotiating table to work out a political solution.
Recently, in an interview with the BBC Tamil Service Osai, in London, he made an open statement about the failure to prevent the loss of lives during the battle between the LTTE and the government forces, especially during the final phase of the war. According to Solheim, the Co- chair countries, with the support of the UN, had worked out a plan to protect innocent civilians, and the LTTE cadres who wanted to surrender.
Solheim was questioned by both the BBC Tamil Osai and the Sinhala services about the background and the failure of the process, he had spoken about to safeguard the civilians in the war-torn Vanni areas
Excerpts of the interview
Q: Did the Sri Lankan Government agree to this proposal?
A: I didn’t visit Sri Lanka at the time. We held various discussions with the Lankan Government, through the Lankan Embassy in Oslo. We understood that the majority of Sri Lankans were interested in achieving a military victory. If the LTTE agreed to this, then it was compulsory for the Lankan Government to follow suit.
Q: Did you believe that the Sri Lankan Government would agree to this process?
A: Whether they were interested or not, they were forced to accept the proposal. India and the United States played an important and major role in this regard, and also the entire international community accepted the proposal.
Q: During the last stages of the war, thousands were killed in the country. Do you believe the primary responsibility rests with the leadership of the LTTE?
A: I believe the LTTE leader made a mistake to continue the fight until the end. However, we were aware about the final outcome of the war. We were not able to counteract the attacks carried out by the Lankan Government. We have much evidence and reports of attacks carried out by the Lankan Government on civilians. Especially the attacks in the security zones.
Q: Did the Indian government approve of the final proposal?
A: The Indian Government maintained a strict policy about the LTTE. However, they were all interested in saving the lives of civilians in the country. During the previous 10 years I had been involved in the Sri Lankan issue and maintained a close relationship with India. I believed the Indian Central Government would accept the decision.
Q: Is there any evidence for your present statement?
A: WikiLeaks released all the secret information of diplomatic meetings held in 2009. All the information helps you to understand the evidence presented in my present statement.
Countries such as Japan, the United States, the European Union and the Norwegian Government came forward to establish peace in Sri Lanka. They also submitted a special proposal in this regard in 2009. The UN also supported us.
This was the time when the Sri Lankan Government was on the brink of achieving military victory in the country. We were well aware of the death of thousands of civilians. Due to this, all these nations decided to end the war in a proper manner.
The final decision in this regard was to be taken according to the approval of the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government. Basically, we proposed to the international community, for example, the United States or India, to send a ship with UN officials and representatives of the international community to the northern and eastern parts of the country. These officials would carry out a census in the war zone, including LTTE members and civilians and register them with their respective photographs.
All these people were taken back to Colombo, and then they were to hand over their arms to the Lankan army. Except for the LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, and Pottu Amman, all the others were released under a general pardon. This was our plan.
If they accepted our proposal, thousands of people, including the LTTE killed in the war, would be alive today. The LTTE International wing leader Kumaran Pathmanathan, was scheduled to visit Oslo to take a final decision in this regard.
However, at the last moment Prabhakaran stopped him. Our security officials visited Kollampur to provide security for Pathmanathan. Later, we were informed the proposal was unacceptable. courtesy: Ceylon Today