Cheers as singer slams Dalai Lama decision

AFP/The Local
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Cheers as singer slams Dalai Lama decision
The children's parade from Norway's May 17 celebrations passes the Royal Palace. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

The crowd gathered to celebrate the bicentenary of Norway's constitution on Saturday cheered loudly when the nation's favourite troubadour attacked the government's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama at the start of this month.


Ole Paus, one of Norway's most loved singer-songwriters, berated the government from the stage at a celebration at Eidsvoll, the town north of Oslo where the constitution was signed.

"Norway must re-establish its reputation after what happened with the Dalai Lama," he said in front of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, King Harald V and Queen Sonja, and was immediately greeted with loud cheers from the audience.

The Dalai Lama, who is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, was in Oslo between May 7 and 9 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize. But he was not received by any member of Erna Solberg's right-wing government, or by the parliament's president.

"The president should have met the Dalai Lama, given that the parliament has the ultimate responsibility for the Peace Prize," Frank Aarebrot, a political science professor at Bergen University, told AFP. The five members of the Nobel committee are appointed by the Norwegian assembly.

Others accused the government of "cowardice" and highlighted the contradiction of hailing the anniversary of their constitution -- the second oldest in the world after the US -- with grandiose words while bending to China out of economic interest.

 "The contrast is embarrassingly large to all the fat words that the president of the parliament and others use now in the grand year of the jubilee of the constitution. Words about democracy and independence, freedom of speech and human rights," the political editor of newspaper Aftenposten wrote in the paper.

Norway's constitution was penned in 1814 in an effort to free the country from the foreign domination of Danes and Swedes, but the country only obtained its independence from Sweden in 1905.   

Paradoxically, the Dalai Lama is a symbol for the autonomy of the Chinese-dominated region of Tibet and considered a "separatist" by Beijing.

Since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, considered a criminal by his country, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Beijing has stopped all high level diplomatic contact with Norway.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the Dalai Lama's visit had put her in a complicated situation.

"I made the difficult choice. It would have been easier to play the hero," she told Norwegian daily Dagbladet.

The spiritual leader was received in parliament by several members of the cross-parliamentary committee for Tibet, which includes the governing right-wing parties.The meeting was held in a screening room, rather than an official reception room.

As the tradition marks, Norwegians celebrated the anniversary of their constitution with a children's parade in front of the royal palace in Oslo.


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