Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has justified the dismissal of former rural affairs ministry secretary general, Illar Lemetti, citing a lack of cooperation and giving the example of Lemetti's declining coming to a government meeting to clarify the situaton.
"I asked last Thursday – this is just an example and naturally not the actual reason [for Lemetti's dismissal] – for Mr Lemetti to give explanations at the government sitting. The government is the secretary general's employer. These examples are not good for carrying on and maintaining a working relationship," Ratas said, speaking on ERR's Vikerhommik broadcast Tuesday morning.
"Normally, if there are problems in a relationship and one side goes away, you can never say that the issue has been resolved," Ratas, who dismissed rural affairs minister Mart Järvik on the same day as dismissing Lemetti, explained.
"Second – since the restoration of independence, there have been other secretaries general who have been released from their posts, and most likely there will be in the future; this is prescribed by law and it has been the case if cooperation does not work well with the minister, which is really a mutual effort," he continued.
Ratas repeated rejections he had made on ETV's Aktuaalne kaamera current affairs show Monday evening, that the dismissal of Lemetti at the Conservative People's Party of Estonia's (EKRE) request represented some sort of pattern.
"This is definitely premature and today I say here in the Vikerraadio studio that in any case, officials can feel confident, that they have to speak up. There are deputy secretaries general, in office, today, who have publicly traduced or even attacked me as prime minister. They are still in office today," Ratas continued.
"Estonia is an open society in this sense and it must certainly remain so. But of course, there must be cooperation between the secretary general and the minister, the secretary general and the government," Ratas added.
Illar Lemetti was relieved of his duties following a request from then-rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE), on the ground of non-cooperation, and in accordance with regulations stating that six months of the official's contract should have passed (which happened in late October-ed.). Lemetti had highlighted actions by Järvik which led to claims he was working against the interests of his own ministry, and an authority under its auspices, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), and rather in favor of an advisor, Urmas Arumäe, who was acting as legal counsel against the PRIA in an EU subsidy fraud case.
Arumäe himself stepped down on Nov. 8; while Järvik got his request to release Lemetti approved by the government Monday morning, it was followed barely hours later by his own release from office. Both Lemetti and Järvik receive six-months' pay, in line with Estonian law.
The original Vikerhommik broadcast (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte