Reform whip: Opposition trying to score points with investigative committee

Erkki Keldo.
Erkki Keldo. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

According to Reform Party whip Erkki Keldo, the opposition's call to establish a special committee to investigate the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) is motivated by a desire to score political points.

"Regarding the formation of the Riigikogu's investigative committee, unfortunately, the desire of opposition politicians to score political points shines through here. The Riigikogu is still a legislative power and our goal is to improve laws whenever we see that there are any shortcomings. The parliament is neither an investigative body nor a judge, which is something opposition politicians have recently confused it for," Keldo told ERR.

Keldo said, that the Reform Party's parliamentary group is yet to discuss the issue of an inquiry committee.

"My position is that the prime minister has provided her explanations to the public and is prepared to do so before the Riigikogu and the relevant committees, whose responsibility it is to ask these questions. At the prime minister's initiative, agreements have already been made [for her] to appear before the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee and the Anti-Corruption Select Committee," Keldo said.

Keldo recalled that in the past, parliamentary inquiry committees have been established to investigate the circumstances behind the potential mismanagement of state property or state-owned companies. They have also been formed to investigate disasters, which had an impact on the entire society, such as the sinking of the MS Estonia ferry.

"However, not to investigate the activities of a private company. If there are allegations against specific companies or businesses, we have competent law enforcement agencies and investigative bodies in the country, whose job it is to establish, according to the law, whether someone has done something wrong somewhere. Estonia is a state governed by the rule of law, where there is a separation of powers. The parliament should not adopt the role of prosecutor and judge; as legislators, our primary task is to consider whether certain laws need to be changed, and it is not necessary to set up an investigative committee for that," Keldo said.

Kiik: Investigative committee would provide answers

On Tuesday, Center Party whip Tanel Kiik sent a letter to the leadership of the Riigikogu and his fellow whips, proposing that a meeting of Riigikogu elders be convened to discuss the political situation and the proposal to set up an investigative committee.

ERR asked Kiik, whether, from the opposition parties' perspective, one of the reasons for wanting to establish an investigative committee might be to prolong the scandal.

"No. The reasoning is very clear. The prime minister and these companies have shown disrespect for the existing Riigikogu committees. They announced that they would no longer appear before (those committees), on any formal or scheduling pretexts. Therefore, the next step that Riigikogu can take is to establish this committee of investigation," Kiik replied.

According to Kiik, a motion of no confidence in the prime minister is still on the agenda, however the potential scope of an investigative committee would be much broader.

"The committee of investigation may also, in accordance with the law, request various documents and data, which is necessary to perform its tasks, as well as summon individuals to appear before it. In the case of a no confidence motion against the prime minister, it is possible to remain general, when making such political statements in front of the parliament. However, in the case of an investigative committee, there is the concrete possibility to demand the necessary documents. There is also the possibility to call to account the same businessmen, who have so far skillfully refused to appear before the Riigikogu committees," Kiik said.

Reinsalu: Establishing investigative committee is appropriate

Isamaa chair Urmas Reinsalu said, that given the seriousness of the situation and the information gaps that currently exist, the proposal to set up an investigative committee is appropriate.

"The fact that all individuals have to appear before an investigative committee or face the threat of punishment is certainly important. I therefore, think that establishing this investigative committee is an appropriate step," Reinsalu said.

Reinsalu also said, that there purpose of an investigative committee is not to exert long-term pressure on the prime minister, and through her, the Reform Party. "No. We need to know the truth. We need a head of government who is seen to be credible, both in the eyes of her own people and those outside Estonia at such a critical time," Reinsalu said

Hussar: Before establishing investigative committee, PM should be heard in existing committees

Riigikogu Speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) told ERR, that the Prime Minister should meet with all the relevant Riigikogu committees before a position is taken on the possible creation of a special committee, which would entail significant costs.

"The prime minister has assured me that she will report to all the relevant committees, including the Anti-Corruption Select Committee. In a democratic and parliamentary country, this could not happen any other way," said Hussar.

"Of course, one has to answer the questions of a parliamentary committee if the subject is within that committee's remit and the subject falls within the area of authority of the person called before the committee," he added.

Hussar said that the Riigikogu leadership would meet on Thursday to discuss all the proposals put forward by the political groups.

EKRE supports creation of investigative committee

The idea to establish an investigative committee is also supported by EKRE chair Martin Helme. "I want to see whether the Social Democratic Party, the Eesti 200 MPs and the Reform Party MPs vote down the proposal to investigate these Russian business links, or support it," said Helme, during an interview on Vikerraadio's "Uudis +" program.

Mart Helme, who is a member of EKRE's parliamentary group, said that regardless of whether Kaja Kallas attends the Anti-Corruption Select Committee meeting next week and the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee meeting the week after, a special investigative committee must still be established.

On Tuesday, during an extraordinary joint Riigikogu select committee sitting , SDE MP Eduard Odinets, whose party is part of the government coalition, also backed the creation of an investigative committee.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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