Pocius dismissed, but not quite gone

  • 2007-05-16
  • By Arturas Racas

Pocius will remain chief of the agency until a replacement is found.

VILNIUS - Lithuanian lawmakers on May 8 voted to dismiss the embattled head of the State Security Department, Arvydas Pocius, though for now he will continue to serve in his capacity as head of the SSD until his successor is appointed by President Adamkus, a process likely to take weeks. Eighty-seven legislators in the 141-member Parliament voted in favor of Pocius' dismissal, with only one voting against and one abstention.

The vote marks the second attempt to remove Pocius. The Parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee had recommended removing Pocius from his post at the end of December after the committee's investigation found him unfit to head the department. However, Pocius surprisingly managed to survive a no-confidence vote at the end of March by delivering a series of bombshell accusations against his detractors in a speech made just before the decision.
Pocius informed lawmakers that he had new information on several high-profile, unsolved crimes and accused the chairman of the National Defense and Security Committee of collaboration with the KGB. Many parliamentarians were shocked by the statements and decided to wait for more information before removing Pocius. However, the head of the Security Department later failed to back-up his statements with substantial evidence, giving the president enough reason to re-file his decree asking Parliament to approve his ouster.

Under Lithuanian law the head of the State Security Department is appointed and dismissed by the president with the approval of Parliament.
However, the May 8 vote does not in fact mean that Pocius, who was not present at the proceeding, has finally lost his job.
"We now have a bit of a tricky situation, as the law does not provide for the possibility of appointing a temporary head of the State Security Department," Algis Caplikas, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and member of the Liberal Center Party, told The Baltic Times.
"Pocius can only be replaced by a new head of the SSD, appointed by the president. But before signing a decree on the appointment of Pocius' successor Adamkus must first get Parliament's approval. In order to get that he first has to nominate the candidate," Caplikas explained.

At the end of March Adamkus nominated Povilas Malakauskas, current director of the Special Investigation Service, to replace Pocius, but later recalled the nomination when Parliament voted to keep Pocius in his job. The president did not nominate a new candidate for security chief when he re-filed the decree on Pocius' dismissal.
Arturas Paulauskas from the opposition Social Liberal Party believes that it would have been better to vote for Pocius' dismissal and approve the appointment of a new security chief at the same time.
"We now have a strange situation where the parliament said it does not want Pocius as the head of the State Security Department, but despite this Pocius may continue for an indefinite period of time," Paulauskas said.

The president, it appears, has yet to make up his mind on who he will put forth as Pocius' replacement. He has held meetings with four potential candidates, including his first choice Malakauskas, but has not announced his final decision.
Rita Grumadaite, the president's spokeswoman, refused to comment on the number of potential candidates the president is considering or when the decree on the new security chief might be signed.
"The president will try to find a candidate for the chief of the State Security Department as soon as possible," she told journalists.
The decision may not be a very easy one for Adamkus as politicians will have reservations about some of the candidates who have so-far been named as potential replacements. Some politicians for example have spoken out against Malakauskas because of his earlier membership in the Conservative Party, which supports his candidacy.

Another candidate, Algis Vaiceliunas, head of Baltic Defense College in Estonia, is unacceptable for others because of his military background and the fact that he graduated from a Soviet Military Academy.
Two other potential candidates the president has met with are Alvydas Sakotis, Director of the Public Security Department at the Interior Ministry, and deputy police commissioner Kestutis Lancinskas.
Meanwhile Pocius, although he continues his job, faces additional problems. The parliament on May 8 not only decided he must leave his post, but also requested that the Office of Prosecutor General investigate how Pocius privatized an apartment he was given by the SSD. Lawmakers want to know whether Pocius acted in violation of the public interest when he allowed the privatization.

It recently came out that Pocius initiated the privatization immediately after last year's negative assessment of him by the Parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee. He became owner of the apartment just days before the second parliamentary vote went through. According to experts cited in the Lithuanian media, the price Pocius paid the state for his flat was about half of its real market value.