The Norwegian government denies it supported Bodu Bala Sena
Issuing a statement The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo states that The Norwegian government strongly denies any financial, moral or ideological support to Bodu Bala Sena. Under no circumstances will Norway support organizations that seem to work against religious kinship and peaceful coexistence, neither in Sri Lanka nor in any other country. On the contrary, we are deeply concerned about the anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions which we witness today in Sri Lanka. This message has been conveyed by the Embassy to different religious leaders including Muslims as well as government officials.
Dialogue is an important part of Norwegian Foreign Policy. This means that Norwegian diplomats will talk to individuals and/or organizations who we do not necessarily agree with or support their policies. We do that in order to get a better understanding of the politics of a country.
We also believe that religious leaders play an important role in any society and could be a moderating force and key players in promoting peace and reconciliation. Therefore, the Norwegian Government has been supporting several projects related to inter- and intrafaith dialogues in many countries, including Muslim countries in South Asia and the Middle East, acknowledging the concerns and frustration of many Muslims today of being wrongly labeled as terrorists.
In a series of many meetings with different religious leaders, the Norwegian ambassador in Sri Lanka was invited to meet Ven. Galagadatthea Gnanasara Thera a while back. This particular meeting was seen as an opportunity to give a strong message about the importance of religious tolerance. During the meeting the Ven. Gnanasara Thera conveyed critical statements about Muslim practices in Sri Lanka. The ambassador urged Ven. Gnanasara Thera to speak the language of moderation and not fuelling communal and religious tensions. The people of Sri Lanka does not deserve more conflict after 30 years of internal conflict, was the key message of that meeting.
Unrelated to the meeting in Colombo,the Ven. Galagadatthea Gnanasara Thera had previously been visiting Norway in 2011. The visit to Oslo took place before his affiliation to Bodu Bala Sena was known, actually before the embassy was even aware of Bodu Bala Sena’s mere existence. The trip to Oslo was organized by an organization called Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), which invited a group of 8 Singhalese from Sri Lanka, among them 5 prominent Buddhist priests, to meet a group of Tamil Diaspora in Norway from 20-26 October 2011.
The delegation consisted of the following members:
1. Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thero
2. Ven. Aluthwewa Ananda Thero
3. Ven. Dapane Sumanawansa Thero
4. Ven. Welimada Shantha Thero
5. Ven. Witharandeniye Nanda Thero
6. Dr. Dilanthe Withanage
7. Mr. Pujitha Wijesinghe
8. Mr. Mark Antony Perera
The Worldview International Foundation (WIF) was the entity in Sri Lanka organizing the visit to Norway. The Ven. Galegodatte Gnanasera Thero contacted the foundation in April 2011 to explore possibilities to meet with representatives of the Tamil Disapora in Norway to look for ways and means to create a common policy to solve political problems regarding the ethnic challenges in Sri Lanka. As a result of extensive planning, it was agreed to arrange a Reconciliation Conference in Norway from 20-26 October in partnership with NOREF. Moreover, as a follow up to the talks held in Oslo, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted support in 2012 for a reconciliation project in Sri Lanka based on an application from the Nordic International Foundation (NIS Foundation). The main objective of this project was to engage all ethnic/religious groups in an attempt to strengthen the reconciliation process. The Norwegian support to this project was ad-hoc.
The Norwegian Embassy continues to have close relationship with the Sri Lankan Government after the end of the war in 2009 as well as with the opposition, including Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim elected representatives and civil societies. In the Norwegian statement on Sri Lanka at the 22 Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva we emphasized the following: “ Furthermore tensions between religious communities must be addressed in a responsible manner to ensure sustainable and inclusive reconciliation.”