Reinsalu: Politicians should keep out of any new MS Estonia investigation ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: ERR

Any new inquiry into the sinking of the MS Estonia must be free of interference from politicians and officials, and entrusted to independent experts, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says.

"This must be an independent inquiry and this is the most important issue facing the government today," Reinsalu told ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday night.

Reinsalu added that politicians should not take part in any investigation, but instead independent experts.

"I would like to see this report be independent, and based entirely on academic and technical knowledge. It is also up to society, in my view, to try to put together, together with members of the public, experts, the questions we are awaiting answers for on this new information. it is more important to put in place well-formulated questions which have to be answered."

Reinsalu was speaking after a documentary which aired on Swedish television earlier this week which showed footage of a hole in the side of the MS Estonia shipwreck's hull, prompting doubts from some quarters over the official cause of the 1994 disaster, that the bow visor broke in heavy seas, allowing seawater to flood in.

The inquiry should answer these questions one way or another, Reinsalu said, given the breadth of speculation and borderline conspiracy theories.

"This inquiry must be one that gives us answers to this new information that has emerged in the documentary, and in this ensuing deficit of trust and truth that is in the air in our society, it must provide answers that can be treated as such, showing that we have learned some truth on the matter," he went on.

So far, there has been a lack of credibility in investigations into the disaster, he added.

"Undoubtedly, we have seen a very large lack of credibility, because this matter has been placed in a broader context. There have been many different theories, and various references to problems with previous investigations."

Indeed, there the "The government investigated the possible transport of military equipment on the Estonian ship," trope sprang to mind, he added.

Even the hole-in-the-hull discovery was a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, he explained.

"In the same way, in fact, these debates have seen various theories arriving that it was as if there had been a hole in the bottom of the Estonia and that this had somehow allowed water flow and led to the disaster. Now we are in a situation where the hole means questions on when and why this hole appeared, what is its connection to the disaster, will it change the official international commission inquiry report of 1997 etc. These questions need to be answered."

In any case the investigation would not nullify what had gone before it, provided trustworthy and competent experts were used, in conjunction with Finland and Sweden.

New technologies both below and above surface are both available to and required by any new investigation, he went on.

The MS Estonia sank 26 years ago, on the night of September 28, 1994, sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries, and second-largest peacetime maritime disaster, so far as European vessels go, after the Titanic.

The shipwreck, which lies in about 100 meters of water south of the Turku archipelago, was investigated by a joint committee formed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden between 1994 and 1997 and by a government commission headed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in 2005-2009. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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