Mark Salter’s remarkably lop-sided view of the failed “Peace process” and Tigers.
Posted on April 2nd, 2016

Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada.

Mark Salter is a person who has come forward to write a book entitled “To End a War”,dealing with the “failed Norwegian Peace process” and related matters. In his second comment (March 30, 2016) on Ferdinando’s column, Salter writes that :

“First, Ferdinando asserts that the ‘Norwegians believed decision making process (sic), as well as the public opinion in any conflict-affected country, could be influenced through well-funded propaganda projects.’ This strikes me as a tendentious interpretation of Norwegian strategy in Sri Lanka. As I understand it their view was that, in Sri Lanka as in other post-conflict countries, there was a real need to assist the building up of a critical constituency that both understood and supported the peace process, in particular within the majority Sinhala community”.

That is, according to Mark Salter, there was a real need to assist the building up of a critical constituency … in particular within the majority Sinhala community. Are we to read from this that the Norwegians, and perhaps Salter as well, believed that the people under the Tamil Tigers, the TNA which supported them, as well as the pro-LTTE NGOs in Colombo were so completely committed to peace that no such need for “promoting peace in general, and support for the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in particular” were needed in the North?

The Norwegian monitors themselves reported an order of magnitude more CFA aviolations by the Tigers, as compared to the figures for government forces. The Sri Lankan politicians, from Premadasa to Chandrika Kumaratunga and Wickremasinghe had gone to great lengths to meet with the Tigers at peace talks. Even a proposal for a federal solution was accepted at Oslo and it was Prabhakaran who took Balasingham to task for agreeing to any such thing. Balasingham had famously said that the “talks” should really be to demarcate the border of Eelam and nothing else.

So why did the Norweigians, and Mark Salter think that “promoting peace in general, and support for the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in particular”, were mainly needed, according to Salter, “in particular within the majority Sinhala community”?

Does Salter, and the Norwegians think that there was no need to meeting with the people living in the areas under the Tigers, explaining to them the need for supporting the CFA, and that they should bear upon the Tigers to respect the CFA that they had violated so frequently? It seems that the Norwegians, and individuals like Mark Salter, think that one can end a civil war when Norway acts to “support a wide range of civil society initiatives” only on one side of the conflict! The so-called “Sud-Nelum” program was also directed only at the Sinhala community!

We must not forget that Norway supplied powerful radio transmission equipment etc., to the Tigers, and that these were used to broadcast the bellicose speeches of the Tiger high command, and manned by controversial “journalists” like Issipriya. Was this in the interest of peace? Mark Salter can read more about Issipriya as this case was discussed by the Human Rights committee of the Canadian Government of Prime Minister Steven Harper:

The Sri Lankan Foreign minister Kadirgamar was assassinated by the Tigers during the CFA. Many members of the diaspora had lighted crackers and celebrated it. The TNA refused to condemn it. Can one say that there was only a need to preach peace “particularly to the Sinhala community”?

I am afraid that Mark Salter’s book is highly one-sided and remarkably silent about many extremely important matters that pertain to the “war” that he attempts to discuss!

A shorter version of this article appeared in the Island newspaper on April 1st, 2016.


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