Latvija in brief - 2004-10-27

  • 2004-10-27
A recent television news program enraged Prime Minister Indulis Emsis (photo), who claimed that his quotes were taken out of context. As a sign of protest he said he would refuse medical treatment despite a spat of recent health problems. If something happened to him, Emsis said it should weigh on the conscience of the offending journalist. The prime minister was quoted as saying "people will die" if they get sick in early November on the popular news program Panaroma. His comment was taken as a response to troubles in the medical field with anesthesiologists planning to strike. Emsis later claimed that he was referring to his own health. The prime minister has recently missed a number of meetings due to health problems, which doctors have said are partly due to stress.

Parliament lifted MP Einars Repse's immunity on Oct. 21 so that he could be punished for recently violating the speed limit. The 100-seat legislature passed the ruling by a vote of 78 for, including Repse's personal vote for the proposal. The former prime minister was caught driving 134 kilometers an hour in a 90 kilometer-per-hour zone.

Riga's Administrative Regional Court agreed with a lawsuit filed by journalist Lato Lapsa against Repse over his refusal to answer written questions sent to him during his term. Lapsa, erstwhile editor of Klubs magazine, claimed victory despite any lack of punishment for Repse. "The court ruling will be a lesson to other state officials," the Baltic News Service quoted Lapsa as saying. The government's legal council, however, alleged that the questions focused mainly on the private sphere, and therefore Repse could not be forced to answer them.

Health Minister Rinalds Mucins promised that adequate medical assistance would be available after Nov. 1, when anesthesiologists begin their strike against low wages by working fewer hours. Mucins met with hospital heads to plan how to ration hours for the coming strike. At the Pauls Stradins Hospital the number of anesthesiologists will be reduced from six to two, cutting the number of surgeries the hospital can safely perform by more than half -from 30 to 12 a day.

After a long delay, the gradual removal of a 4,000-ton bone meal shipment left in Ventspils in July 2003 has finally begun. The bone meal was initially imported under the auspices that it would be used for fuel, yet the Riga regional environmental administration, the agency that issued the import license, had apparently been unaware that Latvia lacked the facilities necessary to make use of bone meal. Port city residents have reportedly complained of noxious fumes emanating from the shipment. So far 1,500 tons have left the port for unknown areas.