Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Something Rotten in the State of Sweden (1)

There is something rotten in the state of Sweden. Suddenly, thruth is not seen as important, and lying is seen as semi-acceptable.

It's all a question of the State Secretary in the Prime Ministers Office Mr Lars Danielsson. Most probably a competent servant of his master - that's what the Prime Minister is saying - but a man who has overstepped the boundary between thruth and lie.

After the tsunami tragedy of December 2004, an official commission of inquiry, chaired by one of the highest judges of Sweden and including prominent individuals known for their integrity, was set up to investigate the perceived lack of effective response by the Swedish authorities.

The Tsunami Commission had closed hearings with all those involved in that response - or lack thereof. And the results of these hearings formed part of its final report. That report was - by the way - highly critical of the government and pointed explicitly at the responsibility of the Prime Minister.

A key part of the report concerned what happened as the news of the disaster started to reach official Sweden.

Here, Mr Danielsson told the commission repeatedly that he had had been in his office and from there called and talked to the State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Mr Hans Dahlgren and his cellphone and got assurances that a proper response was forthcoming.

This, Mr Danielsson said to the commission, was "important" to him, to the Prime Minister and to the entire account from their point of view of what happened during that first day. And he was very clear and firm in his information on this point, alsp after the commission went back to him and asked whether he was certain of it.

But the problem was that Mr Dahlgren said to the commission that he had not received any such call from either Mr Danielsson or anyone else at the Prime Minister's Office.

Simply speaking, Mr Dahlgren decided to call the bluff. He did not want to take the blame - since that was obviously what Mr Danielsson and the Prime Minister's Office tried to engineer.

And while the Tsunami Commission in its report could only state that words stood against word on this important point, it suddenly turned out that Mr Dahlgren was willing and able to back up his version with records of incoming calls on his cellphone from the cellphone operator.

Faced with this, Mr Danielsson had to beat some sort of muddled retreat. The bluff had beeb called, the bluff could be proved and the bluff had failed.

In effect, Mr Danielsson was exposed as a simple lier.

But for the highest political appointee in the government officies to lie on an important issue in front of a most important commission of inquiry on a most important issue is not a trivial matter.

Had it been in the United States, Mr Danielsson would now in all probability been on his way to prison, possible facing years behind bars.

But in Sweden there wasn't much of a reaction initially. And when I launched a fairly hard attack on Mr Danielsson on the subject, asking which would be the consequences of him being exposed as a blatant lier, the Prime Minister effectively said that he didn't really care and that nothing will happen.

This is serious.

If Mr Danielsson can lie to a commission of inquiry today, everyone can do the same thing tomorrow, and we face a severe moral crisis in our entire political system. The lie has suddenly been accepted as something normal, perhaps even legitimate.

There is, truly, something rotten in the state of Sweden. Posted by Picasa