Norway PM on OMP issue:
Have to Ďlook intoí actions by both sides
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Honorable Erna Solberg who was in the
country delivered the Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture 2016 on
Friday at the Kadirgamar Institute on, ĎSustainable Development Goals:
Working together for the common goodí. Prime Minister Solberg was
appointed by The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon, to
co-chair the UN Sustainable Development Goals committee.
The Prime Minister sat down for an exclusive interview with the
Sunday Observer to share her thoughts on the current reconciliation
process and the development Sri Lanka is heading towards. The excerpts
are as follows;
Q: Is Norway playing any role in the peace process Ďpost-warí to
settle the ethnic problem? If so in what way?
A: No, we are not playing any role in that settlement. Itís something
that has to be worked on by Sri Lankaís government and the opposition
and the different ethnic groups of sorts.
I think there is a moment now for Sri Lanka to rebuild the future,
but you have to build it through your parliament, through your
processes, through the agenda that has been settled in Sri Lankan
Politics. We can help in other ways for instance, economic development,
expertise, fisheries and we have discussed about renewable energy and
all of those things. But the reconciliation process, the constitutional
process should be within the country.
Q: Are you aware that many Sri Lankans see Norway as being influenced
by migrant Sri Lankan vote banks in Norway and that your country is
biased towards one of the ethnic communities in the Sri Lanka ethnic
A: No, I donít think we are. I think we are very concerned about the
fact that you should find a way to live together in Sri Lanka. Yes, we
have both Sinhalese and Tamils in Norway. Norway worked on Development
aid and Fisheries before the unrest started and there were lots of
people who were offered scholarships and were students in Norway at the
So thatís the reason why there are many from the Jaffna area. It is
because thatís where we had our projects. I donít think our policies are
biased towards any ethnic group. I think we are very concerned that you
should use this opening, this window of opportunity that the country has
now for making sure that you can find a balanced future between the
religions and ethnic groups. And itís extremely important for the
economic development of Sri Lanka, that international investors feel
secure for their investments to get all that co-operation.
Q: Will Norway support the reconciliation measures currently being
taken by Sri Lanka, at the UN?
A: We have been actively following it because we have a keen interest
in whatís happening in Sri Lanka. As I said itís important that itís
mainly by Sri Lanka and is a positive move.
We have supported initiatives earlier on in the Human Rights Council
and we feel that the government now is trying to find good ways for Sri
Lanka to move forward. Hopefully, it will continue in that path. Norway
is concerned about Human Rights in all countries of the world.
We believe very strongly, and I have been speaking about ĎSustainable
Development Goalsí today, and we believe very strongly that the ĎSDG
-16í is about Rule of Law, about institutions about peace and
reconciliation. Itís a need if we are really going to achieve these SDGs.
Q: In the past, Norway was continuously involved in the peace process
but failed on several occasions. What reasons do you attribute to this?
A: No country can mediate peace conflicts if the partners donít want
it. Norway didnít fail. I donít believe in that. I believe that at that
time it wasnít possible to achieve. And no one outside the country can
create peace or create that type of development.
It had to be done by the partners themselves. We were trying to help
where we can, but we strongly believe it has to be done by the partners
in a conflict. Itís sometimes easier when someone else helps on the way
We have some international seminars in Norway and we invite people to
come and speak about peace process in their different conflicts around
the world and they could talk about their successes and Ďnot so
I think itís about finding that moment when people are tired of
conflict and willing to compromise to make a new future for the country.
And I hope Sri Lanka is there now.
Q: After the conclusion of the war the west has been pressing for
accountability. Do you still insist on that?
A: I think we cannot compromise on the fact that after a war there
are allegations on civil casualties, that you should investigate into
those activities and see if there have been activities outside of the
rule of international law. I think you always have to scrutinize. The
understanding of most post war countries is that if you donít look into
those, if you donít find answers it would be very difficult to get into
reconciliation and a new start. Itís more important for Sri Lankans
themselves to do this. I am very happy that the government passed the
Bill yesterday on the Office of Missing Persons, because thatís among
the issues raised earlier in the international community, for people to
know Ďwhat happened to my family?í in the last period of conflict.
Q: Are you satisfied with the direction in which the Sri Lankan
government is moving as regards the proposed judicial mechanism to probe
military excesses during the war?
A I think the most important part is that both parties in the
conflict feel that the mechanism is fair. Itís not that it has to be
international or it has to be local, it has to be felt that itís
transparent and fair, and that they have scrutinized it. So, procedural
rules, system of allegations and how you look into things is the most
important part. And, if you can make agreements on how you do that
locally, I think thatís acceptable. If not, sometimes you need an
international body or international observers to participate in that
type of procedure, but you donít have to do it. Itís about getting all
sides agree to that and have a transparent process.
Q: Does the UN Human Rights Council resolution explicitly insist on
foreign judges participating?
A: No, they are not explicitly insisting on it. But, they would like
to have. They have insisted on it earlier on, and they have also asked
the Sri Lankan government to put up this type of system, and the Sri
Lankan government has said they will put up that type of a commission.
If this is going to be a real reconciliation the people have to feel
that they have been heard, and that their case has been looked into.
Q: The government has now passed the Act and established the Office
of Missing Persons, and there is a lot of criticism from sections of the
Parliamentary Opposition. Do you see the Missing Persons probe as a
measure against the Sri Lankan armed forces as claimed by the
A I think this is a Sri Lankan issue that I shouldnít go into. I
think in all conflicts you have to look into both, what the government
does and the opposition or the military activists on the other side have
done. But itís how this body is put up and what it is aimed at. Iíve
understood that itís still undergoing discussion. I think itís up to the
Sri Lankan government. If you manage to make a compromise between the
different parts of the society, I think it will be good.
Q: How can, in your view, a judicial mechanism to probe past deeds
help Sri Lanka in the long run?
A If you look at what happened in South Africa after the apartheid
you can see that finding the truth was more important than punishing
people. You see that in a lot of post conflict areas, that finding the
truth, knowing what had happened to your loved ones is more important.
You see it in Latin American countries after the different dictatorships
during the 70s and the beginning of the 80s. When you still donít know
what happened to your child itís difficult to mourn. Did they die? How
did they die? And it helps to mend things to see that they are not just
forgotten but is looked into. And in all conflict areas there are things
that are done not in line with international law because of the way the
conflicts are, but getting to know what happened is important.
This morning I met a Norwegian family that was here, an elderly man
with his children and grandchildren. His father died here in 1943. They
have been looking for his grave and have found in 1994. They have come
back now again. And itís not just to be told that someoneís father died
during the Second World War on a ship in Sri Lanka and thereís a grave
somewhere. But, knowing that the grave is there, knowing that itís been
taken care of is important. It happened over 70 years, but it gives a
picture of how important it is for people to know.
Q: The country is currently facing severe financial crisis and is in
dire need of investments and economic support. How can Norway help SL in
its process of reconciliation with this in mind?
A I think one is, to make sure that you have a transparent policy on
investments and economical aspects. Itís difficult to get investments if
you donít feel that a transparent economic system is available. The
second is, the peace process is a very big part of this. Because, if you
donít feel that the country is moving forward on security issues and
that you are solving the difficult history you have had, people will be
reluctant to do long term investments in Sri Lanka. So, I think the
whole process that you now have of getting a new start and investments
go hand in hand. There are lots of good things in Sri Lanka, highly
educated people, and of course itís a beautiful place for tourists. I
have had the pleasure of experiencing it as I have been here for a week
as a tourist, we have a lot of natural resources, there are lot of
things to build on. But transparency in the policy making and the rules
and regulations for long term investments is important. So I think this
process of introducing a new constitution is a new beginning for Sri
Lanka in a way. Itís part of getting the economic investments flow into
the country too.
Q: What was the result of the bilateral talks held this morning with
the President and the Prime Minister?
A We discussed fisheries, where we are working on assisting
technicalities to increase the output and the efficiency in the
fisheries industry. Norway is of course a large fishing nation. We have
discussed renewable energy, the political situation and the whole reform
process thatís in Sri Lanka. I think that the parties are trying to move
Q: Does Norway have any investment plans in Sri Lanka?
A Investments from Norway are done by the companies themselves. We
know that there are Norwegian Companies that say they could be
interested in solar energy in Sri Lanka and they are already looking at
that. We have our sovereign fund invested in 12 different companies in
That is an approval, because they would not go into countries that
they feel is difficult to withdraw if the need arises as they are very
conservative investors. I think itís a good stamp for Sri Lankan policy
making that they are investing in companies in Sri Lanka. We also have
some large shipping companies that are looking into the possibilities
with the new harbour system. I think itís an interesting place to invest