Government crisis: EKRE attempt to sack police chief overruled by Ratas

Martin (foreground) and Mart Helme.
Martin (foreground) and Mart Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) has said that Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher is to be dismissed with effect from Friday. However, neither Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), nor Vaher himself, say the dismissal is valid, with the latter claiming that the digital signature of the ministry's secretary general was not valid.

Vaher has been facing pressure this week from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) after making claims that the PPA was to face redundancies and cuts.

A leaked internal communication from the PPA's intranet put the number of those to be laid off at 150, as reported on ERR News Wednesday.

However, Martin Helme, deputizing for the interior minister Mart, his father, while the latter was still on vacation, denied that any such cuts were on the table. Martin Helme also denied that the establishment of a voluntary home defense reserve was imminent.

EKRE's lone MEP Jaak Madison reiterated the rebuttal.

Mart Helme, on returning from vacation, stated Thursday afternoon that Vaher had been dishonest in his announcements regarding the redundancies, and was to be removed from his post, with effect from Friday, though the son, Martin, was the one to deliver the news, according to Vaher.

However, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas noted on his ow social media page Thursday evening that Vaher's dismissal was news to him, having already stated that no redundancies were to be made at the PPA.

"On May 8, my governement appointed Elmar Vaher as Director General of the PPA for a new term (Vaher became police chief in 2013-ed.). At that time I told the press that I have faith in Mr Vaher as Director General and that no new police chief was being sought. I stand by those words today," Ratas wrote.

"The PPA is an exemplary organization which works on a daily basis enabling us all to live in a secure society and environment. This work involves not only risking life and limb in response to events, but also preventing crime. The great work done by PPA personnel and employees is also very much reflected in the attitudes the poplace, and the credibility of the organization is sound with 90 per cent of society," Ratas continued.

Vaher himself said that the communication issued by the interior ministry releasing him bore the (digital) signature of ministry Secretary General Lauri Lugna, but that Lugna himself had not signed it, adding that since it was a draft document, with no timestap, it should not be considered a forgery as such.

The PPA also issued Elmar Vaher's own comment Thursday afternoon.

"In order to issue a motion of no-confidence in the head of such an institution [as the PPA], there needs to be very clear and compelling reasons, reasons which no one has put forward," the statement read.

"At 2 p.m. today, I met with the finance minister, substituting for the interior minister. The meeting lasted for a few minutes, during which time the minister proposed I step down voluntarily. At this meeting, I received two documents: a letter of resignation on my behalf, which I did not sign, and a decree from the Minister of the Interior to dismiss me, which is null and void," Vaher continued in the statement.

"I was appointed to the post by the government of the republic and can be dismissed from it by the government. The news of the alleged suspension and disciplinary proceedings was later disseminated in the media," Vaher concluded.

The story is developing.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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