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Oil spill could cost ministers' jobs

Feb 03, 2006
By TBT staff

TALLINN - Pro Patria leader Tonis Lukas, upset with the government's inefficiency in handling last week's oil spill, has urged Prime Minister Andrus Ansip to dismiss both Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and Interior Minister Kalle Laanet.

Ansip had earlier criticized the Border Guard and Environment Inspectorate, agencies subordinate to the Interior Ministry and Environment Ministry, for not immediately forwarding information on the oil slick that polluted Estonia's northwestern coast on Jan. 28. The PM said it was "regrettable" that important information reached the government only on Feb. 2.

Party leader Tonis Lukas told the Baltic News Service that the prime minister should gather his resolve and fire the ministers.

"Now it appears from the utterances of these ministers that they do not have the responsibility it takes in this government to handle their particular area," he said.

Lukas added that Ansip needed to decide if he has a government or not, reveal if he's indeed satisfied with the ministers' explanations, and publicly announce the conclusions he's prepared to make.

The opposition will discuss on the matter on Monday, and decide whether to file a motion of no-confidence against Reiljan of the People's Union and Laanet of the Center Party.

All three Estonian opposition parties -- Pro Patria Union, Res Publica and Social Democratic Party -- said they wanted the environment minister to resign. Both Reiljan and Laanet have said they are not going to step down.

On Jan. 25, Ansip announced at a press conference that a Liberian-flagged tanker had reported an overflow of bunker fuel during an internal operation on Jan. 25. As a result, 1.5 to 2.0 cubic meters of fuel spilled onto the deck. This, in turn, spurred a heated reaction from opposition leaders.

A total of 5,000 birds have already been killed due to the spill, and the number is still growing. The first report of oil pollution was received on Jan. 28. The Estonian Fund for Nature has since called for volunteers to speed up the clean-up operation, and save as many birds as possible.



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