Swedish Tsunami Probe Criticises PM, Cabinet

Thursday the Swedish Riksdagen’s Constitutional Committee, which investigated the government’s handling of the response to the Tsunami disaster in 2004, concluded their investigation. The panel is highly critical of Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and five of his senior ministers, for their slow response.
The all-party committee said the Social Democratic Party leader, Goran Persson, “bore overwhelming responsibility for the failings” in helping thousands of Swedes caught up in the deadly wave.
About 500 Swedish holidaymakers were among the more than 200,000 people, who died in the tsunami on December 26, 2004.
Persson was criticised for not interrupting his Christmas break until the day after the disaster struck early on Sunday morning Swedish time.
Former Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds went to the theatre that Sunday and later said she could not be expected to follow the news on her days off. Health Minister Ylva Johansson went on holiday to the Canary Islands a few days after the tsunami.
Deputies on the panel from the ruling party and its allies joined the conservative opposition in lambasting the government’s poor emergency measures and slow response.
“We are unanimous in our criticism, which of course gives (critics) more weight,” said panel chairman Goran Lennmarker.

Ineffective crisis-response
Persson was also criticised for failing to ensure the government had an effective crisis-response structure before the tsunami, and for being too passive in seeking information afterwards.
“It is hardly the prime minister’s job to go surfing on the internet for information,” the prime minister responded, adding that there was “not much new” in the panel’s finding from an equally damning independent enquiry carried out late last year.
The new committee report also said Finance Minister Par Nuder, seen as Persson’s favourite as next party leader, failed to make cash available to help Swedes caught up in the disaster.
Some opposition parties and the SDP’s Green allies had wanted a ‘no confidence’ vote against Laila Freivalds.
But she resigned as Foreign Minister last week mainly because of her role in responding to the Tsunami, and over allegations she broke free speech rules by seeking the closure of a far-right web site showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

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