The Norwegian Minister for International Development and Environment, Mr Erik Solheim, who also handles the country’s peace facilitations in different parts of the world, has been asked to leave the government by the leadership of his Socialist Left (SV) Party in the coalition, according to media reports on Wednesday. He has been told to give way for younger talents from his party. The immediate reaction of the minister was strong disagreement with the decision of his party, but he refrained from commenting on his exit before an official announcement by his party. Mr Solheim is widely seen as Norway’s main player in the failed peace process in the island of Sri Lanka.
Mr Solheim is a senior leader of the SV party with a 30-year service record. He has been leading the party from 1987 to 1997.
Solheim got into peace brokering in the island of Sri Lanka by chance, when he went to Colombo on a vacation to plan writing his autobiography, after stepping down from his party leader position in 1997.
In Colombo, he met Arne Fjørtoft, a former leader of the Norwegian Left party, who also had chosen Sri Lanka as his destination after he had to step down from the Left party as its leader.
Mr Fjørtoft, running his NGO based in Colombo, had convinced Mr Solheim to get into Sri Lanka peace process. Fjørtoft had good access to the then SL President, Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga.
In October 2000, Mr Solheim visited Vanni as Special Envoy from Norway and met LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan.
During his peace career in the island he has earned hard criticism from both the sides of the conflict, the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils.
In the early years of his Sri Lanka engagement, his party was in the opposition in the Norway government, and Mr Solheim was hired as a Special Envoy.
He has been assigned to handle the correspondences with the Tigers, while the ruling party’s State Secretary was formally in charge of the peace negotiations and was taking care of the relationship with the Sri Lankan side. Because of this nature of the division of work, Solheim was either projected or perceived as pro-Tamil by the Sri Lankan establishment and media.
In June 2001, the Sri Lankan government unilaterally decided to curtail the prominence of Mr Solheim. But the strong reaction of the LTTE that Norway yielding to the unilateral move would lead to the movement losing confidence in the peace initiative saved the position of Mr Solheim.
However, LTTE’s confidence in Solheim and Norway was seriously affected in 2003, when the movement started realizing that the so-called Oslo Declaration was a trap. The LTTE leadership was then forced to work in a new direction by formulating ISGA proposals.
A reputed journalist who had witnessed the conflict in the island commented recently that despite his ‘failures’ and ‘successes’ Mr Solheim has a deep sense of attachment to the island and its people.
Last year, the main criticism of Norway’s evaluation report on the failed peace process was about the way the process had been steered: not telling the world the truth by quitting the process when it was leading to a crisis and the way the development strategy was handled during the process.
Making his presentation at the release of the report, Mr Solheim came out with several remarks, revealing his as well as India’s role in the peace process.
Speaking at the event, Mr Solheim tried to paint a star-crossed picture, when he said that nobody expected the war to end like that.
But more and more evidences surfacing confirm that what happened was planned genocide – planned for years at some quarters.
Mr Solheim is vested with a noble opportunity to contribute more to justice righteous to the nation of Eezham Tamils and justice universal to humanity, when he has no constrains of the Establishments, is the expectation of Eezham Tamils.