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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Third Session of Peace Talks in Oslo & Aftermath > President Kumaratunga writes to Norway Prime Minister
President Kumaratunga writes to Norway Prime Minister
30 December 2002
H. E. Kijell Magne Bondevik
Prime Minister of Kingdom of Norway.
I write to inform you of some serious concerns that have arisen in my country over a recent action of the Embassy of the Royal Norwegian Government in Colombo.
Permit me, Mr. Prime Minister, before I begin to enumerate the relevant facts regarding this incident, to express my personal and deep appreciation and gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for having readily agreed to my request to act as a third party facilitator between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, with the express purpose of bringing the two parties to the negotiating table, in order to arrive at a political settlement of the civil conflict in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Before the change of government one year ago, I and the Cabinet of Ministers of my political party initiated and directly managed the Peace Process. During this time which spread over near three years, beginning from March 1999, we worked closely with the Ambassador of Norway in Colombo and the rest of the Norwegian team that was involved in the Peace Process. During that time, the Norwegian team of facilitators worked dedicatedly and untiringly to achieve the objectives I and my government set out for them. However, I have cause for concern about several recent actions of the Norwegian team.
It has come to light that a consignment of radio broadcasting equipment consigned to the Embassy of the Royal Norwegian Government in Sri Lanka, but intended for the use of the LTTE, was recently received and cleared from the Port of Colombo without payment of customs duty. The Embassy had sought permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clear the equipment.
It has been noted that the Approved List of items consigned to the Embassy included the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) communication unit, which is a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment for the transmission of voice and data with the highest available degree of security from interception. This item could not be said to have any connection with equipment for radio broadcasting. Even the Government of Sri Lanka does not possess such equipment. It has also been noted that although the said item was included in the said Approved List, it was missing when the container was inspected by a team of officers appointed by the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, thus raising a further question as to the whereabouts of that item.
Other items that raise questions are the inclusion of the Radio Data System (RDS) which is capable of sending data from point to point and cannot be monitored without a specific decoder. Further, the FM frequency range in the equipment given to the LTTE appears to be much wider than frequencies presently allotted to all other licensed FM radio stations operating in Sri Lanka, and can be heavily enhanced with the use of booster systems.
Under the Customs Ordinance of Sri Lanka the appropriate Minister has exempted the consular officers or clerks of named foreign states, Norway being one of them, from payment of customs duty on goods consigned to or imported by or cleared out of bond by or for the use of such officers or clerks. Your Excellency is aware that this principle of diplomatic practice is enshrined in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and Optional Protocols, 1961, and Article 50 of the said Convention, 1963.
I would also invite Your Excellency’s attention to Article 41.1 of the said Convention, 1961, and Article 55 of the said Convention, 1963, which impose “a duty on all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”
It is clear that the Embassy in Sri Lanka of the Royal Norwegian Government has committed breaches of the Customs Ordinance of Sri Lanka and the Vienna Convention by seeking clearance of goods consigned to the Embassy, which were in fact intended not for the use of the Embassy but for the use of a third party.
Your Excellency, the occurrence of this incident, which has been highlighted by the national media, especially at a time when the Royal Norwegian Government is playing a high profile role in the ongoing negotiations with the LTTE, has deeply disturbed the public of Sri Lanka because it raises serious questions as to the impartiality of the Royal Norwegian Government in relation to the negotiations and the impact that an LTTE – controlled radio station could have on the sensitivities of neighbouring countries, let alone the rest of Sri Lanka.
Your Excellency would appreciate the concerns I have about the provision of long range radio broadcasting equipment, as well as sophisticated electronic communication equipment and radio data systems to a terrorist organisation, famed for being one of the world’s most ruthless and murderous organisations. Whilst appreciating the fact that the LTTE has finally entered the negotiating process through the mediation of your Government, we must be fully aware that the talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE; have not yet entered the phase of serious discussions on alternate solutions to the LTTE’s demands for a separate State; nor has the LTTE made any commitment to eschew violence as its political means; nor has it made any commitment to de-commission arms.
In the above circumstances, I trust that you would appreciate the seriousness of the actions of your Ambassador. I shall decide on the course of action that the Government of Sri Lanka should follow, after discussion with the Prime Minister and other relevant authorities.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga