President Kersti Kaljulaid and her office shouldn't have allowed a situation where a public debate about their choices for the Independence Day reception overshadows the centennial itself, Marina Kaljurand said on ERR's Otse uudistemajast web series on Wednesday.
Kaljurand told ERR that while nobody contests the NO99 theatre's status as Estonia's flagship in that category, the public identifies it with Tiit Ojasoo and his partner, Ene-Liis Semper.
The Office of the President's decision to have the cultural part of the Feb. 24 Independence Day reception staged by NO99 has been met with fierce criticism, as the project would no doubt be run by Ojasoo and Semper.
This is sending the wrong signal, the signatories of a letter of protest to the president said earlier this week, as Ojasoo assaulted a female colleague in 2016. Though that incident was resolved between the involved parties and a police investigation quickly ended, many feel Ojasoo rather justified himself in the aftermath than showed regret, which makes his choice for the centennial celebration a dubious signal.
Kaljulaid backed the choice, saying that forgiveness should matter in a society and that Ojasoo had met all the conditions that he was required to fulfill following a compromise procedure in which he and the victim reached an agreement.
President's office underestimated its choice's symbolic meaning
"People see Tiit Ojasoo as a symbol, and they haven't forgotten the incident that happened a year and a half ago," Marina Kaljurand said. "I think the president should have considered whether or not the choice of just this theatre and director will lead to debates in society. We need to have these debates, nobody denies that, but do we need to have them about the most important event of the Estonian centennial?" Kaljurand asked.
The argument brought by those backing the choice of NO99 and Ojasoo of forgiveness on the part of the Estonian society sounded strange, Kaljurand added. "What's a society's forgiveness? In the case of genocide you can talk about forgiveness on the part of a state and society. But in single cases, there isn't any matter of societal forgiveness," she said.
Anyone chosen by the president to stage the reception's cultural part would have had plenty of attention, Kaljurand said. Perhaps it would have been better if the process had been more open. The president said that this is a celebration of the Estonian people, then perhaps the Estonian people should have been involved.
"Just look at what happened at the Youth Song Festival last summer, where there were 18 conductors. Perhaps a similar approach would have been necessary," Kaljurand said.
What certainly should have been taken into account is the fact that NO99 and Ojasoo would trigger a debate no matter what. "I'm not against debate and I agree that one can't always talk about things that everybody likes. But I think that the most festive act of Estonia 100 isn't the place to have such a debate," Kaljurand said.
Asked if she has received an invitation, Kaljurand said no, but that she would certainly watch the reception on TV.
Marina Kaljurand was the candidate everyone expected to follow President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in 2016 before both the Riigikogu and the Electoral College failed to elect a president, and Kersti Kaljulaid was brought in as a compromise between the political parties.
Editor: Dario Cavegn