A group of mothers presented a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the memorial service on Utøya on Tuesday, begging the government to take responsibility for the future of the island where 69 people were massacred. The mothers said they felt betrayed by the Labour Party’s youth organization (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, AUF) and the July 22 support group, who plan to renovate the island’s buildings so the AUF summer camp can return to Utøya next year.
“We demand that the national authorities, and not AUF, take control and responsibility going forward,” Vanessa Svebakken, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Sharidyn Ngahiwi Svebakk-Bøhn, told news bureau NTB. “It is a national matter, not political. We believe that there should not be a summer camp on the island, but that it will be a place where future generations can learn what happened on July 22.” She gave the letter, signed by 19 mothers, to Solberg after Tuesday’s wreath-laying ceremony.
Mothers Mai Britt Rogne and Grete Foslund Dahl who also lost children in the mass shooting said it was terrible that parents were split over the island’s future. They said some families had still not returned to Utøya, and they had the right to visit the place where their children were killed – when they were ready. “It has only been three years, and many have not thought about it,” they said. “We need more time.”
“We must understand that people process grief differently,” Solberg said. “But this is primarily a question AUF must decide upon, because it is they who own the island. And they will turn it into a living memorial, not a silent memorial.”
AUF representatives said Utøya had been a vibrant island and should remain so, but the planned renovations would create a sensitive split between the summer activities and a place to remember the dead. “It will never be like it was before July 22, but it should still be a place were there is political activity for the values which stand up against that which the perpetrator stood for,” added Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) leader Jonas Gahr Støre.