The tsunami that devastated Thailand 26 December 2004 has claimed another victim. This time in faraway Sweden.
Where was Prime Minister Persson's closest aide, undersecretary Lars Danielsson, when the news of the tsunami broke? This has been one of the biggest political issues in Sweden for months. Before that, an equally contentious political topic was what occupied foreign minister Laila Freivalds the day the tsunami claimed hundreds of Swedish lives. Freivalds was forced to resign, with some justification since she was in charge of some of all the things that went wrong in the rescue operation. Yesterday Danielsson, the civil servant, left his office as well – everything to keep the crisis from reaching the main man.
Official Sweden's amateuristic and late response to the tsunami caused a media frenzy, and rightly so. Norway was in a similar situation, largely due to the fact that it was Christmas, and in these countries holidays, especially Christmas, are sacrosanct, even for politicians and civil servants. As Freivalds so feebly tried to explain when she was cross-examined after the event, she was with her family and had 'afforded herself' a day off-line with no papers, TV, radio or internet. That 'self indulgement' was the end of her political career.
It will be interesting to see how Danielsson's 'resignation' will play out in the upcoming Swedish election (17 days to go). Persson might have managed to maneuver all blame onto his deputies, but the voters may still hold him accountable.