Incoming IT minister caught driving both speeding and with trace alcohol
4 March, the morning after the 2019 Riigikogu election, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) politician and now candidate for Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Marti Kuusik was apprehended by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in the town of Rakvere, east of Tallinn, for speeding, BNS reports. Mr Kuusik was at the same time found to have traces of alcohol in his system, as already reported by ERR News.
The new revelations of exceeding the speed limit were reported by daily Postimees.
"On March 4 the police in the town of Rakvere stopped a 48-year-old man for exceeding the allowed speed limit. The vehicle's measured speed was 74 km/h in a place where the allowed speed limit is 50 km/h. Upon testing, the driver also showed signs of alcohol consumption," Tuuli Harson, PPA spokesperson, told the daily, BNS reports.
The PPA then drew up documentation concerning misdemeanor offences regarding speeding and exceeding the prescribed limit of alcohol allowed for a driver of a motor vehicle, it is reported.
"As the driver expressed regret and was prepared to go through the KOJU impact program, the misdemeanor procedure was concluded without the issuing of a fine. If this obligation is not met within 10 months, however, the PPA may reopen the misdemeanor procedure," Ms Harson added.
In part of a longer interview, ERR journalist Toomas Sildam asked Mr Kuusik about what exactly happened with regard to exceeding the legal alcohol limit – the fact that Mr Kuusik had also been stopped by the PPA for speeding, he did not mention in the interview, as reported.
Toomas Sildam: Have you been punished by the police?
Marti Kuusik: I'm no saint. I'm human. Many have learned their lesson, and for good reason. I once did as well, and I have learned from it that one shouldn't rush too much, that one must remain reverent of life and other people. With age I have gained more experience, and I remain capable of learning.
TS: And what punishment did you receive following the Riigikogu elections? You had a run-in with the police at the wheel.
MK: What exactly do you mean? That is generally information that I won't start sharing live on the radio. I and my conscience have come to terms with myself and the consequences of my actions, and there are no significant ramifications involved that are detrimental to society.
TS: I understand that you took a breathalyser test?
MK: I am not going to start sharing cases I have had with Estonian law enforcement authorities with you. Estonian law enforcement authorities have no claims against me, and I am not going to start stripping myself naked here. This is not appropriate on your part.
TS: Do EKRE leaders know about this?
MK: Yes. This is not something that is criminal or would disqualify me.
TS: The previous Minister of Public Administration lost their job for something similar. Have you considered their example?
MK: I'll say it once again — a minister is not someone who is above everyone else. I am not a saint. My qualities in the position of minister are based primarily on my ability to act like a minister. But if you want to put me on display in an uncomfortable situation, then I don't want to play along with you.
TS: I'd still like to clarify what happened on 4 March. What level did the police breathalyser register?
MK: I left home that morning feeling completely normal. The night before was Election Night, naturally people were in a good mood, as [EKRE] had earned good results and I allowed myself to have a little [to drink]. I had to be at work early the next morning. I took a shower, and I felt completely normal. I have never wanted to drive while drunk. But so it happened that as I was in a rush, I didn't have time to eat breakfast, and on an empty stomach, they found — from memory — 0.14 permilles of alcohol on my breath.
Police authorities found that I was not a danger to society, and I was offered the opportunity to participate in driver training. I took this option as well.
I should also say that on 4 March, I was not a candidate for minister. That certainly doesn't excuse such a blood alcohol content (BAC) level. But if one were to claim that interest in this incident is based on the fact that a candidate for minister is a public figure, then I certainly did not consider myself a public figure [on 4 March].
Naturally standards for a public figure are ten times higher than for a regular citizen, and it very unlikely that you would find me taking any such risks as a public figure.
TS: Your criminal record was clean prior to this? You didn't have any punishments in force?
MK: From memory, I'd say yes. I am not some kind of serial offender. But life is ironic sometimes, and if anyone is able to see a tragicomic moment in all of this, then I suppose it is somewhat — immediately after the elections, a future candidate for minister who doesn't even know that they are a candidate for minister manages a faux pas like this. What is there to say? Life is like that.
But to publicly string me up or pillory me for this, that isn't a real solution either. We as a society make efforts to integrate people, so here you go, please allow this ministerial candidate or would-be minister to integrate. I am currently completing driver training, which actually began this week, and I am learning very practical tips on how to avoid such situations.
TS: I don't want to publicly string you up or pillory you, but as you are a candidate for minister, this question had to be asked.
MK: Understandable. Thank you for the opportunity, that you allowed me to explain it.
President concurs no grounds for dismissal
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, President Kersti Kaljulaid concurred that the incident was not grounds for removal of Mr Kuusik from the ministerial post. The president was announcing she was to formally give the go-ahead to the Centre/EKRE/Isamaa coalition on Wednesday.
Editor: Aili Vahtla