Former prime minister Mart Laar said a new investigation into the circumstances of the MS Estonia's demise should certainly get underway following footage aired in a documentary this week which showed a gaping hole in the wreck's hull, but added baseless speculation should be avoided.
What was your first reaction when you heard the news that a hole had been discovered in the Estonia's hull?
My first reaction was certainly that it must be checked out. And checked out as thoroughly as possible. A new investigation should certainly be started. The existing agreements must be upheld, but we have to go and investigate the hole.
Yesterday brought forth a wave of speculation. Margus Kurm, who was the head of the investigative committee in 2006, claimed with certainty that the hole was created on collision with a submarine. Were there talks in government of a possible collision at the time?
I would like to remind people that I was no longer the prime minister at that time (a motion of no-confidence was initiated against Laar two days prior to the ferry disaster - ed.), I was just the acting prime minister. And I was immediately relieved of that duty thanks to Andres Tarand's government. My time in office was rather short-lived, and I can only comment on what I know - and I do not know much. I was no longer there for the investigation and other agreements.
Speaking on the speculation, I must admit that I am not enough of a specialist to know whether or not there was a collision with a submarine, still less know which country might have operated this submarine. I recommend conducting a thorough investigation, and not to raise speculation. I do not see it helping.
I do not have the wisdom Martin [Helme] has with taglines such as "Apres moi, le deluge" (referring to a 2018 speech on immigration Helme made - ed.). He is currently working on the state budget and therefore we are missing a smart person who can make sense of everything that is happening.
Martin Helme just recently posted on Facebook that the public has been lied to for 26 years, that Sweden has covered up secret operations and the Swedish government wanted to cover the wreck site with concrete. Did you have any suspicion, during those fateful days, that the Swedes were trying to hide something?
No I did not. And logically speaking, the Swedish government would not have given Estonia the chance of an investigation if there was anything to hide. You do not give the investigation to another country in that case! Plus if the Swedish government had known that there had been a collision with their own submarine, they would not have thought the hole would be discovered.
The Swedish government gave Estonia the leadership role in the investigation, even when the Swedish media accused the Estonian crew of sinking the ship due to their "incompetence".
As prime minister, did you know the Estonia was used to transport military equipment, as it has since been revealed?
There have been many investigation committees, but I must admit, I have never been asked that question. I did not know of it. There was no participation on the Estonian side. And no knowledge, at least on the prime minister and government level.
Do you remember the justification from the Swedish government regarding the desire to cover the wreck under concrete.
You must present that question to the prime ministers after me (Andres Tarand, Tiit Vähi, Mart Siimann - ed.) because I was no longer there for those decisions.
Looking at the crazy speculations around the Estonia, are there any other facts or circumstances the public does not know, but that the government of the time knew, including you? Your conscience is clear, nothing to hide?
There is certainly nothing to hide. The endless political use of the Estonia's demise is a dangerous game for Estonia, and peoples' pain and tragedy is played with. This is very painful and irresponsible, to put it lightly. It does not help in explaining the extremely tragic incident, and it needs explaining.
In the case of such tragedies, all parties involved are interested in the truth coming out. The Estonian state has nothing to hide, our interest is in the truth coming out.
If there is a new investigation, are you ready to testify and help with bringing out the truth?
I am certainly ready, but I am not sure how much help I would be. Until now, no investigative committee has found that I had anything to do with it. And there has been no interest. We have great experts who know these things well. That expertise is available for use as of now.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte