Opinion: Merike Jürilo was made an example of
The government cut Health Board director general Merike Jürilo loose. Whether there was real reason to do so, however, isn't possible to judge from the outside, writes ERR radio news chief Indrek Kiisler.
Merike Jürilo had likely known for some time already that politicians would be coming for her. Why did she end up falling out? And why did she fall out with all three coalition parties?
In the case of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), there's nothing strange there. Railing against officials is hardwired into their political rhetoric; it's an element of populism and understandable as such. For them, almost all officials are untrustworthy, stupid, lazy and overpaid — just disgusting ticks in the armpit of the Estonian people.
A candidate for the prize of Funny Photo of the Year is the photo of EKRE MP Kalle Grünthal, who arrived at the Riigikogu in a rain poncho and announced that specialists shouldn't be trusted. A fellow parliamentary group member had also recommended he wear hunting glasses as they allegedly offer eye protection. Virologists got a good belly laugh, but EKRE was acting naturally for itself, and I like their consistency.
It's understandable that every politician will make the most of every crisis. A crisis offers extraordinary opportunities to shine in front of cameras and microphones. We can't hold this against politicians either; their job, after all, is essentially to sell their skills and ideas.
First, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) had to prove as head of the emergency situation that he is a capable leader. Which he is, by the way, and he proved as much once again. But just in case, it is worth keeping a target next to you at which critics can loose their arrows; then you yourself won't get hit. The Health Board screwing up by allowing that volleyball match in Saaremaa created a favorable target.
Jüri Ratas also attempted to micromanage the Health Board; with each new crisis hotspot, he made countless phone calls and got involved in details that weren't in his wheelhouse. I guess officials are used to this style on Ratas' part.
The government's most articulate minister is Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, a member of Isamaa, who doesn't even need cameras or microphones to shine. Estonians caught on the border for days were quickly relegated to the background, but we did hear about procuring masks, closing borders, extraordinary cooperation with the Finnish foreign minister and plenty of other things accomplished during the crisis.
Reinsalu's opposition with the Health Board was a bit different. For one thing, the Health Board didn't like the fuss of Reinsalu's border closures and implementing of restrictions, and then there was ultimately the unfortunate case of the Isamaa sponsor's rapid tests, of which the Health Board was unabashedly skeptical.
Politicians must be the ones to decide, and those who say that decision-making has been handed over to too great an extent to officials are right. and officials also make mistakes and miscalculations; the Health Board is no exception here. The Reform Party's final governments were characterized by a frozen state: the ability to talk about the bigger picture, but officials did the substantive work in accordance with their own perceptions.
In my opinion, this government has swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme, and politicians would like to be involved in every last detail. By the way, [Minister of Social Affairs] Tanel Kiik said that the conflict arose from small details that piled up over time. An honest confession from a minister who was clearly embarrassed standing next to Jürilo at [Thursday's] press conference.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla