Should rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE) fail to attend a meeting of the Riigikogu's anti-corruption select committee on Thursday, he may be in violation of Riigikogu procedural rules.
Chair of the committee Katri Raik (SDE) said Wednesday that attendance of the meeting, which is an extraordinary, as opposed to ordinary, meeting, Järvik would be violating the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.
Raik was prompted by a reply to notification from an adviser to the rural affairs minister, currently embroiled in two controversies which have led to calls for his resignation from opposition politicians, which said that Järvik would be very busy on Thursday.
"I suppose I will communicate further with the ministry and draw the adviser's attention to the words of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas during Riigikogu question time, requesting people please consider attending," Raik said, according to BNS.
"Since if the minister does not attend, he will be violating a section of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, according to which the committee has the right to require a member of the government to participate in a committee sitting in order to obtain information on matters within the powers of the member of the government," she continued.
"As committee chair, I undoubtedly expect Järvik to come, but I have no certainty regarding that," Raik said, adding that Illar Lemetti, secretary general of the Ministry of Rural Affairs, has promised to attend the extraordinary sitting, which starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
"The government's [regular Thursday] sitting (including Järvik-ed.) is to begin at 8:15 a.m., last until 12 p.m. and continue after lunch at 2 p.m.," Raik said.
"It should not be a natural disaster if the minister is absent … for an hour. I believe he should come, especially considering the fact that he will be on an assignment next week," Raik added.
December too late
Raik also said Wednesday that Järvik's adviser told her the earliest the minister could attend a sitting of the select committee is on Dec. 3, which she said was too late.
"This definitely does not suit us and this proposal indicates that Jarvik does not want to tell the anti-corruption select committee about his activity," Raik told BNS.
Raik had also quizzed Jüri Ratas on Järvik's attendance at the meeting at Wednesday's question time at the Riigikogu.
"I suppose on the one hand, the prime minister attempted to say that Jarvik must attend - which is correct, he does have to, but also that we should try to find some kind of a time for it. At the same time, I am unable to invite him at the regular time, because the committee does not agree. I have to invite him at an 'extraordinary' time. I have to invite him at a time outside a sitting, at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning," Raik explained.
Late last week, a former adviser to Järvik, Urmas Arumäe, was forced to step down following revelations he had acted as legal counsel in a case where he opposed a body under the rural affairs ministry's remit, prompting claims of a conflict of interest, particularly since Järvik had allegedly declined to sign powers to the body, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), to seek damages in the case.
This followed an existing controversy over when the minister first became aware of reports Listeria bacteria linked to the deaths of several people Europe-wide had been traced to a fish processing plant just outside Tallinn.
Raik added that the very reason for calling an extraordinary meeting was the fact that committee members from Järvik's party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), together with the other two coalition parties, Centre and Isamaa, opposed discussing the above issues at the regular sitting.
According to Raik, the meeting is purely an investigation of signs of corruption and thus there is a lot to ask Järvik about, including confusion regarding the Rural Development Foundation (MES), PRIA, the former adviser, the movement of information and more, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte