Former Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim has revealed that there were specific plans to assassinate him when he visited Sri Lanka in 2000.
“We assumed that the threat came from Sinhala extremists,” Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has reported Mr. Solheim as saying 12 years later.
He came to Sri Lanka on May 22, 2000 with the then State Secretary Raymond Johansen and President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The planned bomb attack against Mr. Solheim’s motorcade was to have taken place during the three-day visit.
He confirmed he was briefed about the assassination attempt. Police Security Service (PST), which at that time was called Police Intelligence Service, was made aware of the threats several days before Mr. Solheim arrived in Colombo.
The tip off came from people in Norway with knowledge of the radical groups in Sri Lanka.
“We were at different times made aware of the threats, and also had access to highly classified information on the situation in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Solheim said. “During our stay in Sri Lanka, we were aware that we were vulnerable. It is probably the only place where we are vulnerable precisely because we are Norwegians.”
Mr. Solheim confirmed that the travel plans were held under wraps.
“We never went to Sri Lanka without taking bodyguards from the PST. In addition, there was a large security contingent from both the Sinhalese government and the Tigers when we visited them. But there is no absolute guarantee. The many Sri Lankan leaders, who were killed, also had a large security apparatus around him,” he is reported to have said. “It was very tense atmosphere in Colombo, as the Tamil Tigers had great military success at the time. We were actually in dialogue with India about a possible evacuation of the Sinhala army to the Indian mainland.”
On the day Mr. Solheim left Sri Lanka some unidentified assailants threw an explosive at the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo. The object passed over the embassy roof and landed in the garden of an uninhabited neighbouring house, where it exploded. Mr. Solheim says he does not know if he was the target of this action.
“It may have been, it is impossible for me to know. I perceived it as a warning to Norway,” he said and added that Tamils must have equal rights.
“That question is still not resolved, the conflict may break out again in new forms in the future if these matters are not solved,” he said.