Feature Article

LTTE delegation completes Norway, Sweden visits

[TamilNet, Sunday, 06 April 2003, 07:15 GMT]
Members of the Liberation Tigers’ Political Affairs Committee Sunday completed the first week of a tour to several Scandinavian countries to study federal structures and good governance, by boarding a ferry to the Aaland islands in northern Europe. The intensive tour, which began with an opening welcome by Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, was this weekend hailed as a success by the LTTE delegates as well as Foreign Ministry officials from Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The Political Affairs officials began their tour in Oslo on Monday March 31, having completed several hours of lectures on federalism in the preceding weeks conducted in Kilinochchi by the Forum of Federations, a group of Canadian experts.

In his welcome address, Deputy Foreign Minister Helgesen, who is also Norway’s chief facilitator in the ongoing negotiations between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE, pointed out the significant contribution the Political Affairs Committee is expected to make in moving the peace process forward.

Mr. Helgesen said there were three important strands to the ongoing peace process. The first strand related to security, which Mr Helgesen said had generally been a success due to the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, the level of cooperation between the two parties and the support given by both parties to the efforts of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

Mr. Helgesen described the second strand as comprising economic and rehabilitation efforts. These, he felt, were being addressed by the Sub-committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs (SIHRN) and had been boosted by the establishment of the NorthEast Rehabilitation Fund (NERF).

The third strand, Mr Helgesen said, was the political one. While the parties have begun addressing issues around Human Rights and federalism, this remains the most difficult task, he said.

Acknowledging that the three strands are interlinked, for example on the issue of the High Security Zones (HSZs) in Jaffna, Mr Helgesen felt the way forward would be to address political issues systematically.

Mr Aanund Hyland, a Professor at the University of Oslo, then addressed the LTTE delegates on autonomy and federalism. He was followed by Mr Stein Tonnesson, a political historian from the International Peace Research Institute, who spoke of the probability of nations coming out of a conflict situation and reverting to war and discussed examples of countries where federal constitutions have been successfully implemented, and others where such attempts have failed.

At the conclusion of the opening session of the tour, Mr Erik Solheim, the Norwegian Special Advisor to the peace talks, addressed the LTTE officials on the history of the Norwegian role in the peace process.

On Monday afternoon the LTTE delegation was taken on a tour of the Norwegian parliament by Mr Solheim and Ms Lisa Golden of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

Liberation Tigers’ Political Affairs Committee.
Liberation Tigers’ Political Affairs Committee in Oslo.


They also visited the offices of two political parties, the Socialist Left and the Conservatives, and attended presentations on how competing political parties work together in Norway. The final session of the opening day was an address by Dr Astrid Noklebye Heiberg, speaking on women’s politics and policies in Norway.

The first day ended with an informal dinner at a local Indian restaurant, where the committee relaxed with members of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry as well representatives of Norwegian aid agencies and the press.

On the second day of the tour, the LTTE delegation was taken on a tour of a Norwegian Army base located some distance north of Oslo. The visit to Rena Leir (Rena Camp) was organised by the former head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Major General (Retd) Trond Furuhovde.

After a meal in the camp mess, the group received a presentation from the second in command of the camp on the role of the military in a democracy. They were then able to witness demonstrations of Norwegian troops in a peace-keeping role, including mine clearance, riot control and setting up and operating vehicle checkpoints.

After the tour of the camp, the committee was invited to Major General Furuhovde’s residence for a traditional Norwegian tea prepared by Mrs Furuhovde. The group then returned to Oslo for a dinner organised by Tamil expatriates in the city.

On the third and final day in Oslo, the LTTE delegation received presentations on various aspects of Sami home rule and the rights of indigenous peoples. Mr Carsten Smith, retired Chief Justice of the Norwegian Supreme Court and former Chair of the Sami Council Committee spoke on the efforts Norway has taken to recognise the rights of the Sami people. He was followed by Mr Ole Henrik Magga, the Cairman of the UN Premanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and the former head of the Sami parliament, who presented the Sami view on the history of his people in Norway.

The afternoon session of the third day was devoted to gender issues, with a speech by a representative of the Gender Equality Ombudsman and another address by a representative from a crisis centre for women in Oslo. At the end of the day the LTTE delegation flew to Stockholm for the next leg of the tour.

The LTTE Political Affairs Committee was welcomed to Stockholm by representatives of the Olof Palme International Centre. The first day began with a visit to the Swedish Parliament, where Mr Ulf Christoffersson, the Deputy Clerk to the Assembly, and Mr Lars Vargö, the head of the International Department addressed the group on the practical workings of the parliament. This was followed by an address on gender politics and problems in Sweden from Aasa Regner, Political and Gender Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Following a lunch hosted by Lars Wittenmark of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the LTTE representatives discussed the current situation in Sri Lanka with officials of the Swedish Foreign Affairs Committee led by Mr Kent Haerstedt.

The final presentation of the day was a discussion on political participation and gender perspectives from various members of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The day ended with dinner at a Swedish restaurant.

The second day began with a visit to the National Police Headquarters for a discussion on policing in Sweden and on the work the Swedish police are doing to assist the Sri Lankan Police Force in its efforts to modernise and adapt to a democratic society.

A visit to SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency allowed an opportunity for discussion with those involved in making decisions on Swedish aid to Sri Lanka. This was followed by lunch at the SIDA canteen.

The afternoon was spent at the Stockholm University, discussing Press Freedom in Sweden, and at the Olof Palme Centre, for a view of how the organisation works within the Swedish system to promote Human Rights internationally.

The final day began with a return visit to the Olof Palme Centre to discuss the Swedish system of supporting NGOs and dispersing development aid. This also involved a background briefing on how democracy functions in Sweden and the factors that led to the current system. The afternoon was spent sightseeing around Stockholm, before attending a meeting organised by Tamils living in the city.

On Sunday, the LTTE delegation boarded a ferry bound for the Aaland islands, described as ‘an autonomous and demilitarised and unilingually Swedish province of Finland,’ where they are expected to learn about the province's self-rule, education and health system, as well as being briefed on various principles of autonomy by the Aaland Peace Institute

"They will study our autonomy, which basically has developed from a decision liked by nobody. But since then a system that works has emerged," Elisabeth Naucler, the highest-ranking civil servant on the Aaland Islands, told AFP. "Despite the fact that the parties involved didn't agree on much, we have developed a functioning structure, including our own police force, that is of interest from an international perspective."

The LTTE officials are expected to proceed to Helsinki in Finland and Copenhagen in Denmark, completing the tour next Saturday.

A second tour including visits to Switzerland, Germany and Spain is scheduled for early May, Norwegian officials said.

 

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