Rural affairs ministry undersecretary Siim Tiidemann replaces Illar Lemetti

Siim Tiidemann.
Siim Tiidemann. Source: ERR

Siim Tiidemann has been announced as new Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Affairs, replacing Illar Lemetti who was released from his post on Monday morning.

Tiidemann is Deputy Secretary General for Fisheries and External Relations; a rural affairs ministry spokesperson told ERR Monday afternoon that Tiidemann would replace Lemetti.

According to ERR, in the absence of a secretary general, duties are assigned to one of the deputies.

The post of Deputy Secretary General for Fisheries and External Relations was established in summer 2018, with Tiidemann, who had been working at the ministry for nearly 15 years, reaching the position via a public competition.

Outgoing rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE), who was also released from his post by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) on Monday, tabled a draft amendment to the ministry's statute, reducing the number of deputy secretaries-general from three to two and merging responsibilities.

Had this amend gone through, it would also have relieved Toomas Kevvai, the Deputy Secretary General for Food Safety of his post.

Järvik had pushed for Lemetti's release, which received governmental approval Monday morning just hours before his own release, ever since Lemetti had made public statements that Järvik had declined to give his assent to one of the bodies under the ministry's remit, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) , to claim damages in an EU subsidy fraud case. Since the defendants in the case were legally represented by one of Järvik's advisers, Urmas Arumäe, this sparked claims of a conflict of interest.

Arumäe himself stepped down on Nov. 8.

The proposed statute would have led to the Deputy Secretary General for Agriculture and Rural Policy having responsibility for the Agricultural Policy Department, the Land Use Policy Department and the Rural Policy and Analysis Department, along with the Deputy Secretary General for Fisheries Policy and External Relations remaining in charge of the Public Relations, Fisheries Management, Research and Development, External Relations and Euro Coordination Departments, ERR reports.

Jüri Ratas announced that Järvik would be dismissed on the grounds that he had caused significant problems in his words, actions or, in some cases, inaction and made further cooperation extremely difficult for the public, government partners and himself.

Järvik's own grounds for releasing Lemetti was that the latter had not cooperated with him; both men receive six months' severance pay.

Järvik had also been embroiled in a second controversy over when he first became aware of Listeria bacteria outbreaks traced to the M.V.Wool fish processing plant and linked with the deaths of two people in Estonia and several more Europe-wide.

A government inquiry headed by Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop found that among other charges, Järvik had overstepped his authority, including in his dealings with the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA), the main body conducting checks on M.V.Wool's facilities.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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