RIGA - During an emergency Saeima session on Nov. 9 in the first crisis to hit Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis’ (Unity- New Era) government, parliament members rejected a no-confidence motion from the opposition against newly appointed Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Unity-Civic Union). The vote was 36 Saeima members voting for Kristovskis’ dismissal, with 51 against, reports news agency LETA. Twelve Saeima members abstained from voting.
The opposition called for the vote against Kristovskis, citing his “unacceptable viewpoints in a democratic society.”
Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, chairman of the For Latvia and Ventspils affiliate party of coalition partner the Union of Greens and Farmers, had publicly called for Kristovskis to step down, or for Unity or Civic Union to remove him from office. Lembergs pointed to his dismay at Kristovskis’ comments in an e-mail correspondence with Latvian-American Dr. Aivars Slucis, saying that the foreign minister had shown “tremendous ignorance.”
For Latvia and Ventspils said in a statement that it cannot support “Russophobic remarks,” in calling for the resignation.
Greens/Farmers parliament group leader Augusts Brigmanis, for his part, said that he personally would vote against Kristovskis’ ouster, because coalition discipline must be observed.
It was just one day after the new government was confirmed that the opposition, the For a Good Latvia alliance and Harmony Center, submitted a demand for the new foreign minister to resign. The opposition specifically pointed to information that surfaced about a private correspondence between Kristovskis and Dr. Slucis, which had the former supposedly agreeing with the latter’s statement that he, as a physician, could not treat Russians equally as he would Latvians.
For a Good Latvia highlights that Slucis’ remark violates all humane and ethical norms. The alliance, however, made it clear that it “does not question the mandate given the Dombrovskis Cabinet of Ministers as whole.”
In reaction, Kristovskis explained to reporters that he does not support extremist viewpoints, and that his comments in a private correspondence have been taken out of context. He called this “a provocation staged by a few people.”
The Civic Union party’s Ethics Committee proposed the expulsion of the doctor for expressing views “unacceptable to the party,” said Ethics Committee Chairman Didzis Senbergs. The opinions expressed by Kristovskis and Slucis have nothing in common [with us], noted the committee, stressing that each citizen of a democratic country has a duty to respect the life and health of others regardless of their ethnic origin, and that each doctor pledges to adhere to this principle when carrying out their professional duties.
Senbergs indicated that any discrimination of people according to ethnic lines, especially when giving medical treatment, is absolutely unacceptable to Civic Union. The party’s Ethics Committee finds that the views expressed by Dr. Slucis are not in accordance with the Civic Union ideology, and are not compatible with membership in the party, he said.
In the controversial e-mail, written one year ago, Slucis addresses a number of political, social and national issues, including the “Russification of Latvia,” often expressing a radical viewpoint, with Kristovskis supposedly agreeing with him overall.
At a press conference on Nov. 8, investigative reporter Lato Lapsa, a representative of the Internet portal www.pietiek.lv, released a full version of a letter by the Civic Union member Slucis, of Oct. 14, 2009, titled ‘Do Latvians Surrender?,’ a reply to which by Kristovskis started with the words: “I agree with your opinion and evaluation.”
In his letter, Slucis writes that he is worried about some “super-patriots” who are too loyal to Russian-speaking residents of Latvia, because “they are white and they are Christians.” According to Slucis, “Latvian politicians must be much, much more radical and bold in the struggle for a Latvian Latvia.” Taking to the streets will not achieve anything - nationalist and patriotic Latvians must have control of Saeima. This requires 65 to 70 seats for a pro-Latvian union. Then such a union would do two things: declare an emergency situation in Latvia to bypass corrupt officials and courts, and expand the laws on informers, so minor thieves could testify against the major ones, Slucis writes.
Slucis also says in the letter that “At least 1,000 of Latvia’s greatest swindlers and thieves must be arrested, and all their property, including in foreign banks, must be seized.” Slucis goes on to name some of these persons: “Skele, Godmanis, Kargins, Slesers, Kalvitis, Aldermane” and others. In the West, one can be jailed for up to 20 years for an attempt to bribe an official, whereas Kargins “has bribed hundreds of them.”
Lapsa emphasized at the press conference that Kristovskis does not object to Slucis’ suggestion to “suspend and reconsider all decisions granting citizenship after 1991, so they could later be revoked.” In Slucis’ opinion, Latvian must be the only language of instruction in all schools in Latvia, and the so-called “KGB files” must be opened.
Slucis also urges Latvia to build its own nuclear plant to stop dependence on Gazprom and Russia, as well as to demolish Plavinas hydropower plant so the mount Staburags would resurface.
In the letter, which Kristovskis approves of in his reply, Slucis also calls for revoking the decision on handing over Abrene (Pytalovo) to Russia, creation of a Home Guard of at least 100,000 officers, restoration of compulsory military service for a period of at least six months, shutting down all gaming halls in Riga and building one state-owned casino in Riga instead.
At the press conference Lapsa stressed, “Any politician must think of how he works and what he/she can do to secure financing for his/her party before an election.” According to information on the Corruption Prevention Bureau’s Web site, Slucis has donated more than 22,000 lats (31,400 euros) to Civic Union and the party All For Latvia over the past two years.
Lapsa also said that Kristovskis lacks courage to admit that his actions were “stupid.” Instead, Kristovskis is “acting like a fourth-grader who lies about his misbehavior when confronted by mother.”
The investigative reporter demanded that Kristovskis apologize to pietiek.com and the community by the end of this week for his statement that his correspondence with Slucis had not been reported correctly, and for his accusations that the letters made public on pietiek.com were a fabrication. If this does not happen, Lapsa, on behalf of pietiek.com, said he will sue Kristovskis for slander.
All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’s (VL-TB/LNNK) Saeima deputies said they would not support the opposition’s motion to have Kristovskis ousted as foreign minister. “We are opposed to this call for his resignation. Stolen private correspondence, dubiously interpreted, cannot serve as a reason for his removal,” said Einars Cilinskis, the Saeima group leader.
The Civic Union party’s board early on opposed the opposition motion to oust Kristovskis, saying the reproaches against him were unjustified, and the Web site article an “outright provocation with purposefully combined facts.”
Kristovskis, in a statement, declared repeatedly that he has never passed judgment on a person based on nationality, and that he treats all nationalities with respect and tolerance. Kristovskis emphasizes that he, in a Civic Union Internet chat a year ago (Oct. 15, 2009), had commented on another e-mail from Slucis, not the one where he makes such “absolutely unacceptable” remarks.
In commenting on Slucis’ provocative and radical e-mail, Kristovskis had agreed that the issues he mentions exist, but added that Slucis’ “hysteria does no good.” The foreign minister declares repeatedly that the comments he had made in the chat were not an expression of support for Slucis, but a wish to end such inappropriate debate among Civic Union members, one that is counter to the party’s platform and goals.
Civic Union’s board declared it was clear that Kristovskis on Oct. 15, 2009, had pointed to the inappropriate remarks made by Slucis. It underlined that Kristovskis has never judged a person based on ethnic background, and has always been tolerant and respectful towards everyone.
Dombrovskis (Unity) during the pre-vote incriminations urged his Cabinet colleagues to show support for Kristovskis. Dombrovskis urged the ministers to support Kristovskis, who is facing an “unjustified call for his resignation.”