On Tuesday, all the major newspapers criticized the government's decision to release Secretary General Illar Lemetti from his position at the Ministry of Rural Affairs on the request of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) after he reported former Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE for possible corruption.
"This is a new low point," daily Postimees wrote in its editorial, noting that while Prime Minister Jüri Ratas had to apologize for EKRE's words and actions, President Kersti Kaljulaid has apologized for the government.
"What really happened, and why, was clearly stated last night by President Kersti Kaljulaid saying that all the people who serve Estonia learned that if they defend the rule of law and point out that politicians are being negligent, they would simply become a governance problem for the government." "The so-called leadership problem does indeed exist in Estonia, but it is not about people like Illar Lemetti, but about a government that includes parties that sweep away everyone who stands up for their own political interests and pride. And the government — it starts with the prime minister," the newspaper concluded.
"Ratas compromised on corruption," was the title of daily Eesti Päevaleht's (EPL) editorial on the subject. It said that after Monday's decision to dismiss Lemetti, "Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' moral compass can also be declared utterly broken." "To approve the release of an official for reporting a possible case of corruption is both shameful and short-sighted of the prime minister."
"With the release of Secretary General Lemetti, Ratas sent a message to public officials that they might lose their jobs if they dare to question the corrupt practices of a minister and his political advisors. Instead of the fairer state promised before the elections, think of Ukraine instead, for example, which is in the midst of poverty due to widespread corruption," EPL concluded.
"Who is Prime Minister Jüri Ratas going to betray next?" daily Õhtuleht asked in its editorial. Referring to Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas, who earlier this month accused Ratas of being willing to betray the state. "Now Jüri Ratas has betrayed Estonia's independent officials by stabbing the secretary general in the back after he turned to the Prosecutor's Office because of the activities of the minister and his advisers.
"Unfortunately, the only question that now remains is what or who will Ratas betray next in the name of power? How sad that something like this needs to be asked," Õhtuleht concluded.
Business daily Äripäev also criticized the government's decision on Monday, saying that a situation where a weak minister is sacrificed for a strong secretary general will limit opportunities to uncover corruption in the future.
The editorial said: "Äripäev does not want officials and bureaucratic power, but the scandal surrounding the leadership of the Ministry of Rural Affairs touches on other values of liberal democracy that are important to us, such as freedom, openness and the rule of law. This sets a dangerous precedent."
Editor: Helen Wright