‘Evil spirits’ row sinks coalition

NUUK/AP, Jan. 15, 2003

NUUK, Greenland — Greenland’s one-month old coalition government has collapsed amid political squabbling set off by a top official’s use of a healer to cleanse government offices.

Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen, leader of the social democratic Siumut party, threw the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigitt (IA) party from his ruling coalition late on Tuesday night, leaving the Arctic island of 56,000 without a government.

The coalition’s demise was linked to last month’s hiring of a healer to chase away evil spirits from government offices. The healer was hired by the semi-autonomous Danish territory’s top civil servant, Jens Lyberth, who was dismissed on Sunday.

Most islanders belong to Denmark’s Lutheran church, but some maintain ancient Inuit traditions, like drum dances, that are practised during community gatherings.

The decision by Lyberth, a Siumut supporter, to bring in the healer before the government took office in December upset IA and brought tension over other issues to boiling point.

Frydendahl said the Siumut party would now try to reach an agreement with the liberal Atassut party to form a new government of the island, which is home to a U.S. military base planned by Washington to be part of its missile defence shield.

The IA opposes U.S. plans to upgrade the base, but Atassut has taken a softer stance on the issue. It also pursues a more moderate line on Greenland’s independence.

Under a 1951 defence deal, agreed by Copenhagen and Washington without consulting Greenlanders, the U.S. has a military presence on the world’s largest island.

Washington is awaiting a response from Copenhagen and Nuuk to its request to upgrade the ballistic missile early warning radar at Thule air base in northwestern Greenland.

Danish Foreign Minister Per-Stig Moeller has said he expects to reply by this summer.

The faith healer incident sparked a bitter dispute between Enoksen and deputy premier Josef Motzfeldt, who accused Enoksen of cronyism over the appointment of Lyberth and two other officials. He also sounded out opposition Democrats to see if they would form a ruling coalition with Inuit Ataqatigitt.

Enoksen was talking on Wednesday with the opposition Liberal Atassut Party to form a new coalition. His Siumut party holds 10 of the 31 seats in the parliament, while the Liberal Atassut Party has seven seats. The outgoing coalition held 18 seats.

A former Danish colony, Greenland has had a local government since 1979 that runs most of its affairs. Denmark still handles its foreign and defence policies, as well as legal and currency issues.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Wednesday that Moscow had to place strict conditions on its cooperation with the U.S. in developing missile defence systems, including protection of Russian intellectual property, and that it would pursue its own such systems.

He said that the U.S. missile defence plans “do not threaten our national security, but individual elements of these plans provoke certain questions.” He singled out plans to deploy warning systems at Thule air base and in Britain.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 15, 2003.
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