• 2000-01-13
Latvia doesn't need outside comment on the Skrastins affair. The
elements of the drama are out in the open and available for public
reflection, having been given voice by the major players, especially
Mr. Skrastins himself.

Janis Skrastins, who resigned his post Jan 3 as prosecutor general in
the now stalled pedophilia case said he did so because of political
pressures exerted on him, and because he feared a miffed Parliament
might change the law which demands the separation of the judicial
function of the prosecutor from the petition signers in Parliament
who wish to politicize the office.

Who dunnit? is not a proper burden for the Parliamentary
investigation commission to assume, says chair of Latvia's sworn
advocate council Vija Jakobsone.

"If representatives from the first or second power are openly
threatening the third power, then certain limits are being
overstepped,"said Prime Minister Andris Skele. He takes exception to
the possibility that some of the members of the commission troubling
Skrastins may be former KGB members.

To handle this one right marks an opportunity for Latvia to affirm
its Constitution and move further away from old ways and ahead to a
country and political practices ruled by law and instructive
institutions. A chance to observe the legal separation between
Parliament and the judiciary will advance transitional stages toward
an operative democracy. That this is a possibility is signaled by
Supreme Court Chairman Andris Gulans in saying "No thanks"to
Parliament investigative commission Chairman Janis Adamsons'
invitation to review Skrastins' job performance - a move to put
puppet strings on the performance of a subsequent Parliament-anointed
prosecutor to take orders from Parliament's investigation party.
That way, any criminal case coming before the prosecutor could get
the proper spin.

But even a renewed petition drive in Parliament to badger the Supreme
court into meddling in the controversy does not mean that Latvia will
forgo matching achievements with Russian where last month's Duma
elections signaled a trial-and-error drive for reform by voting in a
centrist pro-reform party.

The present flap is just Latvia's messy process of legal thought
coming to maturity and to the rational conclusion of an attempt by
Parliament to usurp the powers of the judicial branch of government.
It is unreasonable to disparage Latvia's political reformation
because of the Skrastins affair and similar bungling. It is
shortsighted and premature to conclude that Latvia, when all is said
and done in the pedophilia case, will misuse its freedom and
independence to shackle its progress toward meaningful democratic