Norway and Sri Lanka are on a collision course over a case filed by Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe Chairman of the Foundation for Co-Existence in the District Court of Colombo against Norway refusing to make payments to the Foundation of Co-Existence, headed by the plaintiff, in accordance with a tripartite agreement signed in June 2008.
Norwegian Embassy had taken up the position that any attempt to summon Norwegian officials and diplomats before the High Court of Colombo would cause irreparable damage to diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, the Attorney General’s Department has asserted that the case could be heard in Colombo.
The signatories to the agreement are Tore Hattrem, the then Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, on behalf of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tom Owen–Edmunds, Head of Political and Development Section of the British High Commission on behalf of British High Commission in Colombo and Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, on behalf of the Foundation for Co-Existence.
Under the agreement, the Foundation for Co-Existence (FCE) was to implement projects in support of the peace process with funds received from Norway and the UK. The agreement was finalized at the height of the war on the Vanni front.
Among the defendants cited in the petition are International Development Minister Erik Solheim and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
Kumar Rupesinghe incurred the displeasure of his donors, by switching his allegiance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the height of the Vanni battle, however diplomatic sources said that foreign funding given to the NGO has been slashed due to the alleged financial irregularities at the institution . Having made payments in accordance with the agreement, Norway suspended further payments in May 2009, with the UK met its full commitment in keeping with the agreement.
One of the key NGOs in the country, the FCE has received millions of rupees in foreign funding each year.
Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, during the period from 1997 to 2009, revealed Norwegian funding for a range of NGO-run projects, with Rupesinghe being identified as the recipient of the Lion’s share of Norwegian finding amounting to $ 6 mn (NOK 35 mn).