Toomas Sildam: Ministers' words carry double weight

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE).
Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

It cannot be written off as a joke when Minister of the Interior Mart Helme says that a "politically motivated criminal case has been brought" against the former adviser of Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik. The utterance sees Helme report a crime against rule of law and the state based upon it, journalist Toomas Sildam writes in ERR's weekly comment.

The interior minister is one of the better informed people in Estonia. Many meetings he attends take place in secure zones where mobile phones are left in the other room. The internal affairs minister knows things, and we naturally expect him not to throw around empty words. The interior minister is not an opposition politician who can afford to voice hints and allegations of political administration of justice or other things like that without having to take responsibility for those words.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme's words concerning a politically motivated criminal investigation call into question fair pre-trial proceedings in Estonia. The suspicion is very serious. Estonia quickly needs clarity in terms of who in Estonia has the power to politically sway the prosecution and how. We quickly need an answer to the question of whether the prosecution bows to such influence and why. And once we have the answer, to quote Minister of Finance Martin Helme from when he was still a member of the opposition, heads must roll.

It is a very serious matter. I hope the Riigikogu will quickly form a special committee made up of representatives of all parliament parties as it is difficult to imagine any party staying on the sidelines of something aimed at protecting rule of law. Both the coalition and opposition are equally interested in the truth. It is this kind of special committee to which Mart Helme could surrender all the evidence he has to corroborate his claims.

I hope PM Jüri Ratas will also ask the interior minister to present him with all the information he has on how a politically motivated criminal case is brought in Estonia. The premier must know what is going on in his country and react accordingly.

Again: there can be no place for politically motivated criminal cases, of which Minister of the Interior Mart Helme has informed us, in democratic Estonia.

We also need clarity in terms of whether Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik and his former advisers have voiced false accusations against Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Affairs Illar Lemetti. Former journalist Toomas Mattson suggested forming an independent committee under the state secretary to review all the material and say whether Lemetti lied or not, because a secretary general who lies cannot remain in office. It is a matter of the state's credibility, spotlessness and reputation.

The allegations have been voiced. Now, we await confirmation that there is something to them.

But what if there is not, and we've been lied to or misled?

I interviewed the new Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kaimar Karu recently who was brought to the government by Mart Helme's Conservative People's Party (EKRE). Because Karu is a language philosopher by education, I started by asking him whether speech was free in Estonia. Yes, people can say almost anything they want if it's not officially hate speech, he replied. However, the minister went on to say that freedom does not mean the right to say almost anything without there being any consequences. Estonia is no exception here, people also need to take responsibility for their words elsewhere, minister Karu knows.

Words have meaning. And words of ministers carry double weight.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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