The terrorist attacks in Norway are profoundly upsetting. The number of those killed may be familiar to us, having gone through such anguish frequently in the past, but nothing should make us fail to register the enormity of such horrors, the brutal extinguishing of so many lives, the deep suffering for those that remain.
Sadly I fear that there will be a few people in Sri Lanka who see what has occurred as some sort of retribution, for what seemed excessive indulgence to terrorism. I do not believe that was the case at all, as far as Norway as a country was concerned. What seemed encouragement was part of a mindset that some Sri Lankans too shared and, though that mindset was betrayed, we cannot morally fault those who tried to promote solutions based on mutual understanding. There was certainly a failure of intelligence and understanding when indulgence continued long after it was clear that Tiger terrorists were incapable of compromise. But I believe many Norwegians too realized that things had gone wrong, and some of them certainly tried, though not with much success, to restrain Tiger brutality.
In this regard we should not forget how former Ambassador Mr Brattskar was firm with the Tigers about child recruitment, and how former Ambassador Tore Hattrem rebuked the Tigers for glorifying suicide killers on the website that had been set up with Norwegian as well as UN assistance, with the approval of the then Sri Lankan government. The UN at the time refused to act, which I thought obnoxious, but that also emphasized the greater decency of the Norwegian Foreign Office. And, though I continue suspicious of Mr Solheim, and regret the pronouncements both he and other senior figures have made, following the conclusion of the war, I believe the official position of the Norwegian government has been much less self-centred than that of other countries.
But, even if Norway had been nasty, we should regret what has happened, and make our horror and our sorrow clear. The killing of the innocent is not acceptable under any circumstances, and that is what makes terrorism so abhorrent. That is why it is vital that the world works together to eliminate terror, and does not allow it to develop, to flourish, to be revived.
Initial reports suggest that the main tragedy, that of the killing of so many youngsters at an island youth camp, was the responsibility of a single individual. He was tall and blond, which will I hope make it clear to Westerners obsessed with terrorists they can treat as aliens, that evil comes in all forms.
The association of that attack with the bomb blast in Oslo however suggests that there may be grounds for greater worry. The gunman is supposed to have claimed when travelling to the island that he was a police officer going ‘to do research in connection with the bomb blasts’. Though this may be a case of a deranged individual using a tragic incident to further his own private plans, it is possible that the juxtaposition of the two incidents, by increasing the impact of both, was part of a deliberate plan.
It is the more important therefore that the bombing incident be thoroughly investigated. Whilst it is possible that a gunman could have acted on his own, a massive bomb in the centre of a city requires careful planning, and suggests coordination between several people. Such coordination could have included the cooption of an individual with a different agenda – the ‘links with right-wing extremists’ that local media reported – to fulfil a larger purpose.
For what is all too often forgotten is the manner in which terrorist groups interact, and feed on and off each other. That is one reason the European Union was silly in terms of its own interests, let alone morally deficient, when they told me that, with limited funds to deal with terrorism, they – or at least some countries about whom I had complained – were concentrating on Islamic terrorism and gave low priority to dealing with Tiger terrorists. I believe more countries than previously have now learned how dangerous the Tigers could be, which is why there is greater pressure on them in more countries than previously. But that makes it all the sadder that in Britain and the United States politicians are playing to the agenda of those who previously financed terrorists, almost as though they would not mind if we had once again to face a terrorist problem, which they have no reason to think could ever affect themselves adversely.
But terrorism is no longer restricted. We saw how Al Qaeda, used initially by the Americans to combat the Soviets, was also training terrorists for Kashmir. This was not taken seriously until it started to attack America too. Similarly India suffered from Tiger terrorism, not only in the appalling murder of Rajiv Gandhi, but also in the gang warfare that hit the streets of Tamilnadu. That is why Jayalalitha has continued firm in her criticism of the Tigers, even though recent political developments have led to her seeming to support the agenda of those who want to revive the Tigers. Given how corrosive Tiger influence in Tamilnadu has been though, I have no doubt that positive engagement with her will ensure that terrorism will not be granted support there.
Norway recently, along with the Netherlands, has taken steps to limit the activities of more extreme terrorists. The present incidents should however encourage them to try to eliminate all terrorism, and control those who fund terrorism or encourage it. Thorough investigation is of course necessary to establish the rationale and the methods of those who perpetrated the two incidents that occurred. But remedial action should not be confined to those responsible for these, since we all need to be constantly vigilant, relentlessly aware of the enormities perpetrated by those who justify their own viciousness through recourse to emotion not reason. All countries should realize that they cannot continue to indulge those who emphasize their own agendas, rather than the rules that facilitate social interaction, and they should also realize that when they privilege their own agendas above such rules, when they pervert those rules and take matters into their own hands because of private predilections, they are encouraging the type of anarchy that has now hit Norway so hard.