The former Norwegian peace envoy for Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, has warned that the ethnic conflict may break out in the island again if the Tamils are not given equal rights.
In an interview to the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, Solheim said that the Tamil question, which had been the cause of a 30-year armed conflict in the island, had not been resolved even after the military annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“The Tamils must have equal rights. That question is still not resolved. The conflict may break out again in new forms in the future if these matters are not resolved,” he said.
Solheim also made the startling allegation that Sinhalese extremists were planning to assassinate him with a bomb during a three-day visit to Lanka in May 2000.
“We assumed that they (the assassins) were extreme Sinhalese. We were at different points in time, made aware of the threats and were also given access to highly classified information on the situation prevailing in Sri Lanka,” Solheim said.
A warning about an assassination attempt had also come from the Norwegian Public Security Service. It provided him security.
However, Solheim knew that the presence of a large security cover was no guarantee of safety because many Lankan ministers had been assassinated even though they had large security contingents to protect them.
“During all the time in Sri Lanka, we were aware that we were at risk. Sri Lanka is probably the only place where we are vulnerable precisely because we are Norwegians,” he said.