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NORWAY PEACE MEDIATION, ISGA FOR NORTHERN TERRORISTS AND OIL EXPLORATION OFF THE COAST OF MANNAR- ARE THEY INTER-CONNECTED POINTS OF AN EVIL TRIANGLE?

Ramanie de Zoysa

It looks like Norway peace mediators are in a tizz because the 'peace process' in Sri Lanka is not going where they want it to go. So far they have turned a blind eye to the protests staged by almost entire population of Sri Lanka against the granting of an ISGA to armed terrorists. It can not be that difficult for the International community to see that the popular opinion in the country is firmly behind the patriotic stance taken by JVP.

Last week, Norway showed sheer frustration in rushing to SL ostensibly for 'one last peace effort', brow-beating President Kumaranatunga into over-riding the much publicised decision of the Sri Lanka Air Force not to oblige Norway with free helicopter rides to the Wanni, taking a hike to Wanni to embrace terrorist mates there, rushing back to Colombo and having a 'dialogue' with the President, brow-beating her again to say that she will 'deal with' JVP and get them to tow the party line.

Then he gets back to Europe and has a word in the Donor parties' collective ear and the end result is a joint statement from the 'major donors', EU, US and Japan demanding that the SL government 'disciplines' JVP! The ultimatum given by the major donors for the SL government is to get rid of or undermine the JVP and start negotiating with the Wanni LTTE at any cost.

The Wanni LTTE has just declared firmly that they will not negotiate until ISGA is given to them first up. So, the bottom line dictated to the SL government by the international community is 'give LTTE Wanni the ISGA, start wasting funds we give you at exorbitant loan shark rates on a charade of 'negotiating' till the cows come home so that the masses are forever in limbo waiting for justice to come out of this entirely one sided 'negotiation''.

Is Norway and the international community really that concerned about 'peace' in Sri Lanka? Do they really believe that forcing the SL government to grant an outright Governing Authority to armed Tamil terrorists against the wishes of the common people will bring 'peace' to the island? Alternatively, are they motivated by a third dimension? Do they believe that backing the Tamil Terrorists to gain an independent state in the North and East of SL will ensure Norway a more tangible dividend in the form of control of any oil resources found off the coast of Mannar? The track record of Norway and the US is that they have sold their 'principles' for far less!

It is beginning to sound more and more like many other places on earth such as Sudan where the control of oil reserves was the hidden agenda for the US and Norway to strike a deal with the terrorists and dictate to the government to carve out an independent state for armed terrorists. Once the terrorists are installed in an independent area where the oil reserves can be controlled through them, the 'collateral damage' arising from the treacherous division of land such as displaced people, can be blamed on the government.

Whether such displaced people take up arms to regain their lost rights, whether they begin to form large colonies of refugees dying of starvation and famine or whether tribal wars commence amongst the adversely affected civilians because of scarcity and hunger, Norway and the US will have a scapegoat to take the blame till eternity- the government. Sri Lanka is re-enacting the all too familiar story of greed, betrayal and unprincipled intervention of the world super powers for their own gain.

Norwegian based TGS Nopec and Swedish Petroscan have been carrying out offshore seismic surveys and satellite gravity surveys off the Western coast since 2000. TGS-NOPEC conducted an initial survey in 2001 in the Mannar basin and Cauvery Basin off Sri Lanka's north-western coast to assess Sri Lanka's offshore oil prospects, and the results showed evidence of small hydrocarbon reserves.

A second round of 2D seismic surveys on a 4000 km stretch of seabed off the Western coast began this December with TGS Nopec at the helm. According to studies available Sri Lanka could strike oil off Mannar in the Cauvery Basin, with potential reserves of 10-50 mn barrels. Based on tentative timetables drilling is expected to begin by 2006 with main bidders for drilling tipped to include India and China. Exploration licences are expected to be for a maximum of seven years in three commitment phases with the option to terminate after each phase. According to news media each license will cover recovery, storage, transport and sale of oil or natural gas, with royalty payments made to the government on the market value of the resource.

According to industry experts, state royalties are generally five percent on the gross sale value of profit with a profit share split as well between state and contractor on the oil recovered. According to sources, in most countries, including in Sri Lanka, the state will end up taking less than 65 percent whereas in countries like Norway and Indonesia where geological prospects are high, the state take is about 85 percent. 35 percent or more of the prospective oil profits for years to come would provide substantial incentives for anyone of these super powers to install a puppet regime in charge of the resource.

Mannar is in the North Western part of the island which is under claim by the terrorists- the area is located off Pesalai coast of Mannar district, right next to the "war-zone" in West Wanni. LTTE include Mannar in the ISGA document as being one of the eight districts it claims to be the ISGA area. Many times the LTTE's "Sea Tigers" staged hit and run raids on Sri Lankan naval and army establishments on the Mannar coast. Considering all this, I am more than ever able to understand the indecent haste with which Norway is proceeding to handover the separate state of Eelam by any other name (ISGA) to the LTTE Wanni. The international community is fully aware of the facts:

§ that the LTTE is a collection of terrorist groups,
§ that LTTE Wanni demanding an ISGA are vehemently opposed by their own factions as well as common people,
§ that SL is a robust democracy that ensures everyone's rights- and discrimination is not part of its daily life,
§ that the LTTE provoked the Sinhalese mob reactions which they later used as examples of Tamil persecution,
§ that the world-wide Tamil Nation instead of legitimate Sri Lankan Tamils are claiming discrimination and demanding a 'homeland',
§ that Sinhalese and Muslims by their thousands are now languishing in other parts of the country landless because their legitimate land have now been robbed by the terrorists,
§ that overseas donations sent to SL for the rehabilitation of the displaced of North and East only go to settle alien Tamils in the North and East - not to re-settle people who were there in the first place
§ and many others

However, facts have nothing to do with Norway's stance. Norway wants desperately for the LTTE to get complete control of the North and East. The ISGA document states that the composition of the ISGA will be made up of members appointed by the LTTE, GOSL and the Muslim community. But, the next clause prescribes the number of members from each party. Clause 2.3 states clearly that the numbers appointed by each party will ensure an absolute majority for the LTTE while the other two groups 'shall have representation'.

This is despite the fact that two thirds of the population of the East at the start of ethnic cleansing was non-Tamil. Moreover, the ISGA places no restrictions on the nationality of 'members' they would appoint to the ISGA. Thus, a 95% LTTE 'representation' where an 80 percent consists of Tamils from Tamil Nadu or Malaysia would be acceptable to govern the North and East of SL! Here we have a constitution prohibiting equal participation of all inhabitants of the land and one where non-nationals could be in control of the resources of the area! Norway, EU and the US are demanding that this monster be created- RIGHT NOW! These are the very people who send in troops to invade sovereign countries because democracy 'over there' is a bit on the low side! What hypocrisy!

Why indeed are these countries that claim to uphold democracy and sovereignty behaving in this manner when it comes to SL? This is where one can not avoid the impression that there must be more than meets the eye. The puzzle is complete when you take a third dimension into consideration- such as oil prospects. JVP is our last hope to regain the rights of all Sri Lankans' and I wish them the strength to face this unfair challenge!


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