15 November 2012

Norway: Medal of Merit scandal brought to a close

It has not been a good week for King Harald of Norway, currently abroad, and his court, following the headlines created by a controversial a Medal of Merit nomination.

According to the Royal Court Dr. Trond Ali Lindstad was nominated for the King’s Medal of Merit in silver "for his many years of dedicated effort to promote the integration of minorities as a medical doctor at Grønland and through his work at Urtehagen. The medal was awarded in recognition of this beneficial public service." The court had been warned about Lindstad's controversial statements that many view as anti-Semitic, but did not react until it became known that Oslo's Mayor Fabian Stang had refused to hand out the medal in a public ceremony planned to take place at the National Theatre on Tuesday this week. The ceremony was called off "for security reasons", and today it was announced that the medal was revoked with authority in the statutes' section 7.

Articles in Views and News of Norway:

The Royal Court's statement in full:
Medal of Merit rescinded
The King’s Medal of Merit conferred on Dr Trond Ali Linstad has been rescinded, in accordance with Section 7 of the Statutes for the Medal of Merit.
15.11.2012

Dr Linstad was nominated for the King’s Medal of Merit for his many years of dedicated effort to promote the integration of minorities as a medical doctor at Grønland and through his work at Urtehagen. The medal was awarded in recognition of this beneficial public service.

The King’s Medal of Merit is a personal award bestowed on an individual for particularly meritorious service over an extended period of time. The service to be recognised must be an integral part of activities that also in a wider context are compatible with the overall purpose of the medal. “In this particular case, the Royal Court had not obtained an adequate overview on which to base such a comprehensive assessment. This regrettable oversight is the responsibility of myself and the Royal Court,” says Lord Chamberlain and Chancellor of the Council of the Order of Merit, Mr Åge Grutle.

Respect for freedom of speech must of course be one of the premises on which the review of medal candidates is based. We are normally extremely careful not to judge a nominee’s public statements. However, in a new review of this case, we have taken note of written statements by the candidate that can be interpreted as promoting the stigmatisation of the Jewish people as a whole and which seem to reflect stereotypical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. We have also taken note of statements that may be interpreted as stigmatizing homosexuals. Dr Linstad has to us maintained that his statements should not be interpreted in this manner. Nevertheless, the Royal Court has concluded that Dr Linstad’s statements as they are presented and understood, are not compatible with the objective of the King’s Medal of Merit. Therefore, the conferral of the King’s Medal of Merit on Dr Trond Ali Linstad has been rescinded.

“We strongly regret having placed Dr Linstad in this situation,” says Mr Grutle.
For the record it is the Office of the Governor which gives a recommendation for nomination after a person has been suggested as a candidate to receive the medal, while the Council of the Order of Merit makes the decision. Formally it is the king who has the last word, but as far as I understand it is not often he is personally involved in the process. Itgoes without saying that the council has not done its job properly, which has caused a great deal of embarrassment to the king and the court. Obviously the court had no choice but to rescind the medal, and personally I am pleased about the decision. I expect, though, that the storm will soon calm down and that the king's position in the long run will not be weakened by it.

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