After leaving Sri Lanka, Tomas was asked to lead Norway´s global efforts for peace as head of the section for peace and reconciliation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In that role he related to ministers and peace envoys from all continents. It is with deep regret that the NORWAY NEWS announces the death of Norwegian diplomat Tomas Stangeland, a Norwegian diplomat who was in Sri Lanka at the height of the Oslo-brokered peace process in Sri Lanka. Tomas was the affable Second Secretary of the Norwegian embassy in 2002 when a truce deal was agreed between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. For local and foreign journalists, he was the main contact at the embassy. He died of cancer on February 12, 2014 in Oslo. He was 43.
His unassuming disposition earned him friends among the journalistic community even though the peace process itself was controversial and attracted criticism. He was a keen participant at Peace activities. It is a tribute to his diplomatic skills that he was never personally targeted for any criticism, a quality noted by two high profile individuals involved in the peace effort at the time — Norway’s special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim and former deputy foreign minister Vidar Helgesen. From Colombo, Tomas was posted to Washington and thereafter returned to Oslo to head a peace and reconciliation unit at the foreign ministry.
In a joint statement, the two most senior Norwegian figures during the peace process, Vidar Helgesen and Erik Solheim, pay tribute to Tomas.
It is hard to think of any human being who entertained so many friends and so few protagonists as Tomas Stangeland. Tomas died in his home in Oslo 12th of February. He had been sick with cancer for a while. His wife Elisabeth and three small children are surviving him.
Tomas was simply one of the finest persons we have known. He represented the best of our country Norway. He was intelligent, kind, committed, risk-taking, humane, honest and respectful.
He was one of our most able diplomats destined to do great things and carry even bigger responsibilities, though Tomas’ humility could mask the breadth of his ability to those who had not seen him in action. Tomas was a quiet man, but was chorus of talent, a symphony of a human being.
Tomas always considered Sri Lanka his second homeland. He loved to speak of every issue Sri Lankan, He felt he had invested his soul, his energy and the most important years of his career in the island.
He was a pillar of the Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka. He worked day and night after the tsunami, caring for the survivors, trying to help identify the missing. Tomas will be buried in Norway, but part of his soul will always remain in Sri Lanka.
Norway´s peace efforts in Sri Lanka were controversial from time to time, even resented or hated by some. Not so with Tomas. He managed to work with presidents, prime ministers and rebel leaders as well as with people working in the paddy fields or driving rickshaws.
His family has been overwhelmed with kind messages from Sri Lanka in the last few days.
Tomas was the point of contact for Sri Lankan and international media wanting to inquire into Norwegian perspectives on war and peace. He treated everyone with respect, going to great lengths to help. Norway was sometimes blamed, Tomas never so. He was a born journalist, understanding the human story behind the headlines. His many media friends are dearly missing him.
After leaving Sri Lanka, Tomas was asked to lead Norway´s global efforts for peace as head of the section for peace and reconciliation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In that role he related to ministers and peace envoys from all continents.
He took some very big risks, for peace. And it worked. Not always, but often. It sometimes looked hopeless, almost naive. But Tomas pushed us hard to be smart, to make strong demands, to be persistent, to take risks – including the risk that a project would fail. To put it simply – Tomas’ work, support and commitment saved lives. What more or better can a person do in this life?
Apart from being the main external liaison for the Norwegians, Tomas was also deeply involved in Oslo’s shuttle diplomacy between Colombo, Kilinochchi and London, where LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham was based.
“Given how highly charged and acrimonious the peace process was, it is notable that Tomas was highly respected and much liked by everyone involved. I know the LTTE’s senior political figures had the highest regard for him,” said former Tamil Guardian editor, Sutha Nadarajah.
“Invariably good humoured and easygoing, with a keen intellect, Tomas was the archetypal diplomat.”
Tomas Stangeland mourned