Abdul Turay: The seven got it wrong this time ({{commentsTotal}})

Abdul Turay.
Abdul Turay. Source: (Jaanus Lensment/Postimees)

When the Riigikogu adopted a motion condemning the June deportations of 1941 on Tuesday, seven members of the Center Party decided not to vote. They failed their public duty, and created an even bigger rift between the Estonian communities, politician Abdul Turay (independent) thinks.

Just when you think the typical patriotic Estonian is warming towards the Centre Party, or at least not hating them so much, seven of their Riigikogu members pull a stunt like this.

On Jun. 14, the Riigikogu put forward a motion condemning the tragic night 75 years ago, when 10,000 people were dragged from their homes and carted off by wagon train to Siberia.

The motion was supported by every member of the Riigikogu, including the Center Party’s parliamentary group, apart from seven Russian-speaking members who walked out without voting. In law, the maxim is silence means consent. In this case, silence, so the press and Internet commentators believe, meant opposition to the motion.

This is unfortunate. You could say that these seven members have legitimate reasons for not supporting the motion. The motion was tabled by IRL, and there is well-known animosity between the two parliamentary groups. There is the issue that all this dredging up the past is causing discord and anger between the communities. It’s a bit like the Irish going on about the Famine. “It happened a long time ago,” some say, “get over it.”

Mihhail Stalnuhhin, one of the seven, said that the reason he didn’t vote was because he wanted the motion to refer to all the nationalities who suffered deportation, not just Estonians. Olga Ivanova, another one of the seven, said she would have voted for it but she had a meeting to attend.

The seven got it wrong this time.

As has been said elsewhere, remembering the deportation is not a condemnation of all Russian people, and certainly not a condemnation of Russian-speaking Estonians, it is a condemnation of the Soviet regime.

Stalnuhhin’s point is totally wrong, even discriminatory. The wording of the motion is clear, eesti inimesed (people of Estonia), not põliseestlased (native Estonians) or even eestlased (Estonians). Stalnuhhin’s argument seems to imply that non-ethnic Estonians, including Jews, aren’t really Estonian, not then, and not now.

The Estonian political establishment in general and the IRL in particular feel that they must keep on about past injustices because the current regime in Russia doesn’t want to admit the Soviets did anything wrong.

Armenians won’t let go of the early 20th century genocide, and the Chinese won’t let go of the Rape of Nanjing for the same reason. Turkey and Japan don’t want to admit they did anything wrong back then either. Contrast this to the way Putin has dealt with the Katyn massacre, going at least some way to say sorry.

Henry Ford said that all history is bunk. The Soviet Union taught us that history books can lie. But the deportations are not just part of history, they are still, just, part of living memory. People are alive today who remember what happened then, and how their lives were destroyed.

In a few years it will only be in the pages of a history book. So it is more important than ever that we remember now, while we still can.

In politics, it is important that members of a faction show solidarity, especially for symbolically important issues like this. To do otherwise shows division and weakness. MPs should follow the party line, unless the policy being pursued is egregious or totally against the interest of their constituents. By not voting, the seven who walked out have failed their public duty.

Abdul Turay was elected to the Tallinn city council (Linnavolikogu) in October 2013 as a member of the Social Democrats (SDE). He left his party’s group in May 2016 and continues to serve as an independent member. Turay is also the Tallinn Development Centre’s media and communications advisor and represents the City of Tallinn in Brussels.

Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn

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