International Development Minister Erik Solheim,
after talking to the Head of Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission Major General Lars Johan
escaped from the Sri Lanka Army shelling while
inspecting the Pooneryn jetty Wednesday,
told the online edition of VG, the largest
national paper in Norway, that the shelling was
launched after the former Norwegian Army
Commander, had arrived at the site and it was
gradually directed towards the delegation. "The
most serious [act] is that the army fired at
this level towards an unprovoking target," Mr.
Erik Solheim told the paper describing the
episode as a highly dangerous situation.
There was clear sight, Erik Solheim told the paper adding that it was impossible to misunderstand the situation. The army was in advance informed of the meeting which was about inspecting the pathway that has been damaged. SLA fired artillery shells started to hit the ground first at 100 meter distance, but gradually the shells began approaching the delegation, at closest 50 meter from the Head of Mission. One of the vehicles was pushed off the path due to the air pressure caused by the artillery shelling, the paper said.
Solheim, describing the experienced 54-years-old Norwegian Major General as a "quiet and calm" person said the Head of Mission feared for his life while he came under artillery fire. Meanwhile, in an interview to the Norwegian state owned NRK Radio, Erik Solheim said: "there is no doubt that shells were aimed gradually to kill those who were there. Probably those who fired did not know that they were shelling at the Norwegian observers." "However, it is a very, very serious situation, where the Sri Lankan government soldiers have fired to kill unarmed people," the minister told NRK.
Commenting on the attack on refugee camp in Vaaharai Solheim said it was a violation of what parties promised in Geneva ten days ago. Attacking unarmed people who were not provoking and attacking internally displaced people in which many women and children are reported to have been killed, is a violation of the cease fire agreement which both sides claim that they are observing, he told the radio.
Paul-Erik Bjerke, 34, who was together with Sølvberg at Pooneryn Wednesday was the youngest man in SLMM when he was sent on mission for the first time to Sri Lanka in 2002, according to VG Nett.