Politician and Norwegian MP Sylvi Graham in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times
Sylvi Graham is a Norwegian politician for the Conservative Party. From 2004 to 2005, during the second cabinet Bondevik, Graham was appointed State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She served as a deputy representative to the Norwegian Parliament from Akershus during the term 2005 to 2009.
On the local level Graham was the mayor of Oppegård from 1995 to 2004. She was first elected to Oppegård municipal council in 1980. Graham in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in Chief, Hatef Mokhtar spoke about the policies and plan of present government of Norway.
Excerpts below given is an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
TOT: Would you like to tell us a little bit – about yourself?
Graham: Well, I am Sylvi Graham and I am a member of the Standing Committee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Parliament of Norway. I have been its member for the last two years. Last time, I served in the Parliament in 2009 and also in the Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs.
TOT: Today you are here at the conference, the annual conference of the Høyres Landsmøte (the Conservative Party) therefore, would you please tell us what’s the message of this conference?
Graham: This is the annual conference of our party -Today, we are here, because to meet our Prime Minister, who is also the leader of the Conservative Party, where we talked about the conference so that we could prepare ourselves for the upcoming local elections. The local government polls are coming up this autumn- Today, too many local politicians came together to discuss preparation for the upcoming local elections and campaigning strategies.
TOT: There is a wider notion among the general public that Høyres Landsmøte (the Conservative Party) has lost its popularity. How do you see at this notion?
Graham: No, that is not the case. Of course, the polls are going little slow this is quite normal. And I think, the kind of politics we have now, people will realize what we were trying to do. There have been some setbacks because of loud discussions, probably within the government parties as two parties are in coalition and the other two parties are supporting the coalition. But we have found solutions every time, as we have done very vivid and productive debates. We are also keeping our promises regarding the government seats, last time.
TOT: A political party has lashed at your party government for the policy you have regarding asylum seekers. The party alleged that the Conservative government has not been taking positive steps regarding the immigrants. What’s your standpoint?
Graham: Well, the Prime Minister has recently vowed that Norway was ready to take responsibility and we are going to. She also said that she will deliver something in the current – budget, this May. – And we also have the full support of the local population on the refugee situation in the Mediterranean. So we are absolutely ready to take our responsibility. It is also an issue to have a discussion on to know where we can do better impact, where we can do better help, and I think this discussion will be held, but there is no doubt that we are going to take our responsibility.
TOT: I would to pick your brain on an international issue. There are a lot of journalists and human right activist around the World who are languishing in prison, under the totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. How does your government see at the issue and what policy it has regarding free speech right?
Graham: Our government just forwarded a proposal to the parliament on Human rights, which was the first white paper for the Parliament on this issues in 15 years. We have held good discussions and the document is being approved by the parliament. More money is being spent on this issue than ever. So this – very – important for this government and for the Conservative Party because this is an important issue as it deals with human rights, which is an important development in the country. So, we have good governance, rule of law, and justice.
TOT: Many people around the World, especially human rights activists criticized that the asylum-seeking process in Norway is too lengthy and tedious. For years they wait, and pass through mental stress and strain, knowing not whether their cases will be approved or rejected. Don’t you think it is against Human Rights?
Graham: This is of course a problem, but – at least these days, when you are discussing the issue, for instance more and more people are rushing to Norway for asylum seeking. The problem is serious, because there are already too many people, who have not been given homes yet, where the municipalities are facing a daunting challenge how to accommodate them. And I know the government has been trying to solve it by directing the local government and some of the municipalities because this is something we have to tackle.
TOT: The Prime Minister of Norway is a woman and some of the ministers too are women. Even there are some female members of the parliament, however, still it is believed there is no gender equality when it comes to government’s seat allocation. Therefore, how do you see the gender inequality issue?
Graham: This is partially right. But I am emphasizing on partially because we are lagging behind in answering these questions.
Norway Is The Best Place For Working Women
And women have chances. I am also a woman. I am a mother and I am a grandmother. I have been into politics full time since 1995. I have seen no obstacles, myself. – But it is true there are some questions and concerns about – equal work opportunities and equal allowances. There is also ne satisfactory representation of women in private sectors. In the government sector, in the official sector there are quite a few women leaders, as compared to the private sectors . We even have a law, which was passed by our government, last time, in the session, that stresses on a quota system, which, was introduced and was made obligatory upon the boards of the private companies to keep a woman member in the board, similar to the political system where women have been given their share.-However, most private companies are led by men. And that is questionable. – We have some ways to address the issue -. But as compared to other countries, I think – we have minor problems over here.
TOT: Extremism, both religious and political one, has been steadily on the rise in Europe and in Norway too, what is the policy of the Conservative Party to tackle this challenge? –
Graham: We have to go to the fundamental reasons as -what have been behind the rise of -extremism, and we are also saying as our Prime Slyvi Minister did say, today. She said that extremism of any part, of any end, of any scale is equally dangerous. Either it is religious extremism or political extremism, it is dangerous. So this has, of course, to be dealt with from the bottom to suppress the growth of extremism. This is something we take highly serious; we have had shared our concerns on this issue and we, of course, are worried about it because there are quite a few Norwegians out there joining extremist groups.
TOT: True, as the Oslo mayor in interview with this paper, too acknowledged that some Norwegians are -joining the extremism networks, but how do you personally see the issue. Moreover, would please tell us about the education policy of your political party? –
Education has been among one of the most important subjects for us, both for Norwegian kids – for their future, as well as it is an effective tool – prevent extremism from the spread-.- It is a key to development also. So human rights and education are hand in hand as alike as two peas in a pod on how to create coming good society -. Therefore, – we have had the right bill passed in the parliament notSlyvi 4 long ago on education and development as a good tool against extremism, this is a heartfelt issue for our Prime Minister and our party has always been known in Norway as a political party that has always worked on providing good and quality education, as this has always been on the top of most of our agendas.
TOT: This is a question we ask all our guests as we would like to know about your personal thoughts on Human Rights, so, what does human right mean to you?
Graham: To me, it means respect, respect for all human beings and their rights and it means – my rights are under threat when someone’s else’ rights are being violated and suppressed.- That is something I learned from my grandfather, you should have respect for all living creatures, and people are alike and equals, and we should love nature.
TOT: Do you have any message for our worldwide readership ? Or, something you would like to share regarding human rights, women rights, children rights, freedom of expression and democracy?
I think it is a shared objective. We, the politicians, – the NGOs and the civil society across the World and the readers, should take care of our kids and give them good education that guarantees a secure future of our countries and societies. -As you see in Norway, the work, the women workforce – – is more important to Norwegian economy, even though we – know that we are an oil rich nation, but we cannot ignore women workforces’ share in our economic development. – So, it is a must to have educated young girls -who will build and maintain a bright future.
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