President attacks Seglins on comments

  • 2008-02-27
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

JUST A KID: In two months at the Interior Ministry, Seglins has managed to aggravate just about everyone with his ill-considered statements.

RIGA - President Valdis Zatlers has condemned the negative comments about British nationals made by Interior Minister Mareks Seglins.
The Interior Minister's comments 's which are widely seen as a tactless attack on an entire nation 's have drawn a significant amount of attention both locally and in the United Kingdom.
The comments came after Shirzey Heshmat, a British tourist, was sentenced to spend five days in prison after he was caught peeing on the Freedom Monument.
Citizens of the U.K. have been caught in the act numerous times over the past two years, but this was the first case in which the court gave out jail time.

According to the LETA news agency, Seglins commented the incident by telling journalists, "Cukas tie Angli… viena suskiga, cukigi tauta" 's which translates roughly to "those English swine… [they are] one dirty, piggish people."
Seglins later said that his words had been misconstrued and that he had actually only meant to refer to those British citizens who had been caught urinating on the Freedom Monument.
"The comment was about a concrete person not about [the whole] British nation. He never said that all British people are like pigs, he meant this concrete person who pissed on Monument of Freedom and afterwards was punished by the court on hooliganism," a representative of the Interior Ministry press office said.
"At the same time, Mr. Seglins underscored that the behavior of many British tourists in Riga still leaves a lot to be desired. It is not a secret that numerous British people come to Riga to get drunk, buy sexual services and make a row," she said.

Zatlers criticized the interior minister's comments, saying Latvian officials need to use "correct words" when dealing with these sorts of situations.
"Of course, they represent a country. And maybe their behavior isn't in line with what is acceptable in their own country or ours. They have to respect our laws, but that does not mean we can call them names," the president said in an interview with Latvian public radio.
The president was also quick to point out, however, that "we must make sure that nobody insults our symbol and our patriotic feelings."

The British Embassy released a statement shortly after the incident which defended British tourism in general and failed to comment on any particular cases.
The embassy "regrets the offense caused by the disrespectful and irresponsible behavior of a small number of British visitors to Latvia… The vast majority of British visitors enjoy trouble-free visits to Latvia and they should not be associated with the bad behavior of the minority," the statement said.