Former Saaremaa mayor on resigning: It was not giving up

Madis Kallas.
Madis Kallas. Source: Romi Hasa / ERR

Former Mayor of Saaremaa Municipality Madis Kallas, who resigned from his position a week ago, doesn't consider leaving his position as giving up but thinks it was the right step in the light of charges at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

The decision to resign was made when the coronavirus crisis escalated. The island was by far the worst-hit region of Estonia during the height of the pandemic in March and April.

"At one point, when the attacks and accusations via email started coming, [they said] that I was responsible for bringing the virus to Estonia, and how I have taken the virus to different institutions in Estonia," said Kallas.

He added that, in this kind of a situation, it is hard to continue, and he also wanted to spare his family and close ones. Kallas was also diagnosed with coronavirus at the beginning of the outbreak.

He said: "At some point you feel that all the things are piling up: One person comments, another comments, people are writing, threatening."

The attacks were very personal compared with the attacks on and between political opponents, which he thinks is a normal occurence in that field.

"I could have stayed in the position for a year and a half. I would have carried the attacks that go hand in hand with politics, but something in me said that now is the time I have to take a step back," he said.

Kallas approved of the way the island coped with the situation after the first cases. The only thing which should have been done differently, he said, is that mass events should have been banned earlier.

Even though the emergency situation which lasted for two months really crushed the residents of Saaremaa, Kallas says that people are positive now: Tourists have found the island again, and restaurants and cafes are opening their doors.

"All of this gives hope that people will get through it," Kallas believes.

The forthcoming summer will be rather quiet and modest, however, with smaller groups and events. Kallas thinks it's likely to be a calm and cozy summer, which is good, he says, because some events had grown quite massive (the government has limited public events to 1,000 attendees in July and August-ed.).

Kallas didn't reveal his future work plans during the summer, saying he plans to rest for the first time in seven years.

Kallas has been replaced as Saaremaa mayor by Mikk Tuisk.

Saaremaa became the epicenter of Estonia's coronavirus outbreak in March and April. Cases sprung up after a volleyball team from Milan came to the island to play a tournament and several large public events were held on the same weekend.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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