Indra de Soysa
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
This book presents a careful analysis of how the Norwegian facilitation of talks between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) unraveled, leading back to war that led to the annihilation of the rebels. Talphahewa draws on primary and secondary sources, including interviews with key officials on both sides. He blames Norwegian negotiators for failing to understand the complexity of the Sri Lankan situation, particularly chief negotiator Erik Solheim, who understood the issue simply as a conflict between two ethnic groups. A pro-LTTE bias was apparent from the start, leading to widespread belief among all other groups in the country of insincerity on the part of Norway. The Norwegians failed to counter these views effectively, which suggests a mistaken belief that a multicultural, democratic future for Sri Lanka might be sacrificed for separatism espoused by a terrorist group – all in the name of peace. Perhaps Solheim had little options given the influence of the Tamil diaspora in Norway. Talpahewa is careful not to lay blame squarely on Norway, however, but on the intransigence of the LTTE to negotiate in good faith and refrain from violating agreements. According to him, Norway suffered intransigence fatigue. The lesson for the Norwegian government is to build greater competence. As others have argued, Oslo´s peace and development agenda is greatly hampered by a system of insider cabalism and reliance on network knowledge. This book promises to be a definitive source on the failure of Norwegian peacemaking in Sri Lanka and an important general source for understanding the complexity of the so-called ethnic war there.