No­bel of­fi­cial’s book over­shad­ows peace prize

The China Post - - ARTS - BY MARK LEWIS

A book de­tail­ing the se­cret tus­sles be­hind some of the most con­tro­ver­sial No­bel Peace Prizes in the last quar­ter cen­tury is hav­ing its own dis­rup­tive ef­fect on the 2015 award.

With the an­nounce­ment just a week away, a row is in­ten­si­fy­ing be­tween the five-mem­ber Nor­we­gian No­bel Com­mit­tee and Geir Lun­destad, the for­mer sec­re­tary they ac­cuse of breach­ing the panel’s code of si­lence.

Lun­destad, the com­mit­tee’s se­nior bu­reau­crat for 25 years, ad­mits his book “The Peace Sec­re­tary” skirts the line be­tween statutes that de­mand 50 years of se­crecy and his own “duty as a history pro­fes­sor” to be as open as pos­si­ble.

The com­mit­tee says his duty is mis­placed. In a state­ment sent to The As­so­ci­ated Press by chair­man Kaci Kull­man Five, Lun­destad is ac­cused of a “clear vi­o­la­tion of trust against com­mit­tee mem­bers and lead­ers who con­fi­den­tially dis­cussed the No­bel Peace Prize with him and in his pres­ence.”

The feud has over­shad­owed the run-up to this year’s award, for which the buzz is mainly around Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, for her ac­cep­tance of refugees, and U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Javad Zarif, for their nu­clear deal. Like last year, Pope Fran­cis and Rus­sian hu­man rights groups also fig­ure in the spec­u­la­tion. The com­mit­tee hasn’t given any hints.

Lun­destad re­serves his most scathing crit­i­cism for com­mit­tee mem­ber Thor­b­jo­ern Jagland, who was de­moted from the chair­man’s post in a reshuf­fle last year. The one-time Nor­we­gian prime min­is­ter and cur­rent sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Coun­cil of Europe is de- scribed as be­ing a “dis­or­ga­nized” per­son with “sur­pris­ing holes in his knowl­edge.” The book also claims that Jagland dropped hints about win­ners to jour­nal­ists and re­lied on Lun­destad to ghost­write his No­bel speeches.

These last two points are de­scribed by Jagland in an ar­ti­cle for Oslo daily Aften­posten as “li­belous” and “shock­ing” lies. Within days of the book be­ing pub­lished, Lun­destad was told he had un­til the end of the year to va­cate his of­fice at the Nor­we­gian No­bel In­sti­tute in Oslo.

Jagland also re­minded Lun­destad, who re­tired at the end of 2014, that he was a “civil ser­vant” not the “sixth mem­ber of the com­mit­tee.”

In a phone call with The AP, Lun­destad stood by his ac­cu­sa­tions, re­peat­ing a charge that Jagland should never have been on the panel.

“My con­cern is that it should be as in­de­pen­dent as pos­si­ble and I make the ar­gu­ment that it would be dif­fi­cult if we have for­mer prime min­is­ters and for­eign min­is­ters serv­ing on the com­mit­tee,” Lun­destad said.

His com­ment has re­opened de­bate in Nor­way about how the panel should be picked. By No­bel statute, the all-Nor­we­gian group is elected by the coun­try’s law­mak­ers and re­flects the party arith­metic in­side the Par­lia­ment.

Crit­ics of the book have de­fended the process and ac­cused Lun­destad of un­der­min­ing the prize.

‘The pres­tige of the com­mit­tee’

“I warned him about this six months ago,” said Con­ser­va­tive law­maker Oeyvind Haller­aker. “The pres­tige of the com­mit­tee and the prize is very im­por­tant.”

Chris­tian Ty­bring Gjedde, a law­maker from the right- wing Progress Party, the ju­nior part­ner in the rul­ing coali­tion, also de­fended the com­mit­tee de­spite be­ing a long­time critic of its choices.

“You can say what you like about Jagland — and I have — but put that aside, he was the elected chair­man,” he said. “I don’t think it is the proper way to speak of your boss.”

Lun­destad’s book also re­veals the opin­ions of in­di­vid­ual com­mit­tee mem­bers about cer­tain can­di­dates. It says com­mit­tee mem­ber Inger-Marie Yt­ter­horn was pained at the 2011 prize be­ing awarded to en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner Al Gore; that the one-time Iraq weapons in­spec­tor, Hans Blix, might have been cho­sen in 2005 had the com­mit­tee not been wary of ril­ing the Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion; and that mem­bers, led by the Lutheran Bishop Gun­nar Staalsett, were not keen on giv­ing the prize to a Catholic pope.

“It is not true the way he puts it,” said Staalsett, who left the com­mit­tee last year. “That’s the prob­lem with this whole thing. He has cre­ated the wrong im­pres­sion that we can’t put right be­cause we have signed an agree­ment for se­crecy. I would not have thought Lun­destad would break his. I am very dis­ap­pointed at that.”

Lun­destad also de­scribes how the com­mit­tee thought long and hard about giv­ing the prize to a Chi­nese dis­si­dent be­fore award­ing it to Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

The com­mit­tee sought ad­vice from in­ter­na­tional ex­perts on China, who warned that award­ing a dis­si­dent could lead to even more re­pres­sion.

Lun­destad

re­it­er­ates how

a Chi­nese diplo­mat warned the com­mit­tee that do­ing so would be seen as a hos­tile act, but says there was also pres­sure from Nor­we­gian of­fi­cials wor­ried about Chi­nese- Nor­we­gian re­la­tions, in­clud­ing For­eign Min­is­ter Jonas Gahr Sto­ere.

Gahr Sto­ere has de­nied try­ing to in­flu­ence the in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee.

Lun­destad said at­tempts to dis­suade com­mit­tee mem­bers had the op­po­site ef­fect.

“If the com­mit­tee had been in doubt be­fore, it be­came more con­vinced now,” he wrote. “It would have come out if the com­mit­tee had changed course as a re­sult of pres­sure from Chi­nese and Nor­we­gian author­i­ties.”

The award to Liu in­fu­ri­ated China and led to a freeze in diplo­matic re­la­tions with Nor­way and a drop in im­ports of Nor­we­gian goods in­clud­ing salmon.

The peace prize is awarded in Oslo while the other No­bel awards are given out in Stock­holm in line with the wishes of prize founder Al­fred No­bel. The first prize an­nounce­ment, for the medicine award, is set for Mon­day.

AP

This Sept. 17 file photo shows Geir Lun­destad hold­ing his book “The Peace Sec­re­tary” be­fore the launch at the No­bel Peace Cen­ter in Oslo, Nor­way.

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