The memorial to commemorate the massacre of 69 people, mostly teenagers, by domestic terrorist Anders Behring Breivik on the island of Utøya in 2011 has been fraught with controversy for years.
Designed by Swedish conceptual artist Jonas Dahlberg, the memorial is a “permanent scar” that would see the tip of Sørbråten, the peninsular which juts out into the Tyrifjorden towards Utøya, severed from the lakeside, and the names of the dead then carved on the exposed surface of the new island.
But some residents of Sørbråten have fiercely opposed the memorial, condemning Dahlberg's design as a “rape of nature”, a “tourist attraction “, and a “hideous monument”. The residents hired one of Norway's top lawyers to prevent the memorial's construction. The neighbours' lawyer, Harald Stabell, has argued that the memorial would damage the mental health of those locals who suffered traumatic stress after participating in the rescue operations after the shooting spree on the island.
AUF, whose summer meeting was targeted by Breivik, proposed on Thursday that the memorial be moved to a new location at Utøykaia directly across from the island as a way to stave off a painful legal battle.
AUF leader Mani Hussaini said the youth party has followed the debate over the planned national memorial from the sidelines for a long time. With no solution found, AUF has suggested the new location as a way to move forward.
“AUF can no longer sit by and watch a difficult process become even more difficult by going to trial. AUF is not involved in the trial or the development of the memorial, but understands the neighbours. We have a plot here, with direct view towards Utøya, which today we are making available to the government with the hope that it can help create a unifying national memorial,” said Hussaini.
“We do this to avoid a calamitous and disgraceful trial, and we do it to protect those affected and all the local heroes who were there for us for almost six years ago,” the AUF leader added.
AUF presented its plan, which has been backed by a support group fo Utøya victims, to Local Government Minister Jan Tore Sanner, who in September said the government would be willing to scrap the memorial design altogether.
“I want to work on this proposal and have it evaluated. During that work, it will be essential to have a good dialogue with the neighbours, residents’ associations and other concerned parties,” Sanner said on Thursday.
Immediate reaction from Utøykaia residents indicate that the new plan is also likely to face resistance.
“It’s not good. We don’t think this is a good proposal. Residents of Utøykaia were also involved in saving the youth on July 22nd,” local man Jørn Øverby told broadcaster NRK.
In July 2011 Breivik, disguised as a police officer, tracked and gunned down 69 people, most of them teenagers, at the AUF youth camp on Utøya, shortly after killing eight people in a bombing outside a government building in Oslo. He said he killed his victims because they worked for multiculturalism.
The extremist is serving a 21-year prison sentence handed down in 2012, which can be extended indefinitely as long as he is considered a threat.