A team of volunteers with personal ties to the island of Utøya, where 69 young members of the Labour Party were massacred nearly two years ago, have been carrying out maintenance work and making some safety improvements. Planned redevelopment of the island, however, has been indefinitely postponed, as has redevelopment of the government’s bombed-out headquarters in Oslo.
With survivors, victims’ families and other mourners due to return to the island on July 22 for another round of memorials, the volunteers have spent more than 700 hours painting, mowing the lawn and setting up a fence along the island’s waterfront trail. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported on Monday that the volunteers have also repainted the white house that features the “Utøya” sign, and which is the first building visitors see upon arrival.
The Labour Party’s youth group AUF, which was the target of a lone gunman’s massacre at their summer camp, have decided against tearing down the café building and the pump house on the island where so many young AUF members were killed. There’s simply too much disagreement over how and even whether the island should be redeveloped and “taken back” by AUF, as its leader Eskil Pedersen claimed would happen just after the attacks.
“The dialogue with survivors and victims’ families wasn’t good enough before the plans were laid out,” Pedersen admitted to newspaper Aftenposten last week. He said all redevelopment work would be postponed for at least another two years.
The decision, which Pedersen called “difficult,” is in response to strong criticism from some survivors of the massacre including AUF member Bjørn Ihler, who has claimed that AUF’s plans to construct new buildings and take the island back in use as a summer camp would be like “tramping on the graves of the dead.” Now those advocating redevelopment and those advocating preservation will have more time to debate the issue before any major changes are made on Utøya.
Redevelopment of the government complex in Oslo that was bombed on July 22, 2011 before the gunman headed for Utøya is also delayed, with the current Labour-led government postponing any decision on how it will be carried out until next year. By that time, Norway is expected to have a new government that may not include Labour, given the results of recent public opinion polls taken in advance of the parliamentary election in September.
Some state workers are complaining about the lack of progress on repair or construction of new offices. Tom Brunsell, a departmental director at the Justice Ministry, which was heavily damaged in the bombing, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he thinks it’s “strange” that the ministry “is stuck in the same position it was two years ago, with decisions still being postponed.”
Rigmor Aasrud, the government minister in charge of the redevelopment of government headquarters, says such major state building projects “take time.” She told DN on Monday that “this will be a decision that will be taken during the next parliamentary period.”
A state commission is due to present a report later this week on the various options for redevelopment, which range from tearing down the buildings heavily damaged in the bombing (including the Justice Ministry and Office of the Prime Minister) and building new, or preserving them with upgrades and new buildings around them.
Aasrud is already way behind her tentative time table announced early last year and said she was surprised state employees are complaining and becoming impatient over the lack of new permanent offices. “We have informed about the process,” she told DN, adding that it’s important to make the right decisions based on thorough evaluation of the alternatives. “It would be stupid if we forgot to make important evaluations about the government’s own buildings.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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