Controversial laureates around the world

Barack Obama's conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize continued to be criticised since he first entered office as US president in 2009

DIVISIVE Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize?

A Norwegian lawmaker nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, for helping broker the Abraham Accords, a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and later other Arab countries.

If that does not confound you, this might: it was actually the second time the said politician had put forward the former US president for the honour – he nominated Trump for the 2019 award for his diplomatic efforts with North Korea!

Nearer to home, we had Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had an online petition in 2018 lobbying for the then prime minister to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The petition, comparing Dr Mahathir to anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, called for the politician to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "his determination to return to politics at age 92 and casting aside his political prejudices to work with his former detractors for the purpose of 'saving our nation'”.

“The fact that Tun Dr Mahathir has also openly admitted his own faults and apologised for his mistakes of the past makes him truly a ‘Giant of a Man’ and a leader to emulate,” read the petition, The Star reported.

Dr Mahathir had succinctly joked about it with his typical retort “Nobel Prize? I am not so noble.”

The actual conferment of the Nobel Prize, particularly the peace prize for individuals, is not without controversy either despite its prestige and rigorous selection process.

Several names, including former United States president Barack Obama who was given the award in 2009, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in 1973 and Myanmar’s deposed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi 1991, are among those whose actions that were later seen as counterintuitive to promoting the peace process.

Obama’s conferment of the award was initially criticised for it was made less than a year after he entered office as the US president, apart from his administration’s involvement in the Middle East wars. Critics said it was undeserved, premature and politically motivated.

In 2015, former Nobel Prize secretary Geir Lundestad told the AP news agency that the committee had hoped the award would solidify Obama’s influential position.

“No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Obama.

“Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for,” Lundestad writes in his memoir.

Kissinger, who became a laureate for his involvement in talks to end the US-Vietnam War, has long been labelled as a “warmonger” for allegedly committing war crimes during the Cold War and in South-East Asia.

Kissinger has been labelled as the “warmongering” Nobel Peace laureate by detractors.Kissinger has been labelled as the “warmongering” Nobel Peace laureate by detractors.

Kissinger was named a laureate alongside Vietnamese revolutionary general Le Duc Tho, who was also involved in the negotiations to end the war. The latter, however, had refused to accept the peace prize.

“The armistice took effect in January 1973, and the same autumn Henry Kissinger was awarded the Peace Prize together with his counterpart Le Duc Tho.

“The latter refused to accept the Prize, and for the first time in the history of the Peace Prize, two members left the Nobel Committee in protest,” the Nobel website states.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi has been chastised for the military genocide against the Rohingya Muslims during her reign of power as the state counsellor and foreign minister from 2016 to 2021, despite receiving the prize for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.

Suu Kyi’s conferments of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience, Holocaust Museum’s Elie Wiesel Award and freedoms of the cities of Oxford, Dublin and London have all been revoked following the United Nations report on the mass killings of Rohingya Muslims.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely condemned over the Rohingya mass killings.Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely condemned over the Rohingya mass killings.

Another less controversial but equally questionable award was US singer Bob Dylan’s conferment as a Nobel literature laureate in 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The controversy centres over the comparison between the significance of his work, peers and other established writers.

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