Interior minister doubles down on police chief dismissal

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE).
Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE). Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) has repeated his demand that Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher step down from his post.

Returning from vacation Thursday afternoon, Helme entered into an affray which began as a war of words two days ago between Vaher and finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), deputizing for the interior minister, on the issue of redundancies at the PPA.

Vaher said around 150 redundancies were on the table; Martin Helme rejected this. Prime minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) also said no redundancies would be coming.

Speaking to daily Postimees, Mart Helme reiterated his call for Vaher's dismissal.

"Yes, 'is terminating' is correct, rather, since I slightly overestimated, especially while on vacation, the speed of bureaucratic processes," Helme said, according to BNS.

"Diligent officials are currently working to draw together a legally sound document and how quickly it will come — either during my vacation or once I return to work next Wednesday — I cannot say. In any case, it will come, that much is clear," Helme said.

A document drawn up on or by Thursday and presented to Vaher reportedly contained the digital signature of interior ministry Secretary General Lauri Lugna, but the latter had not actually signed it himself.

Helme cited several reasons for his demand that Vaher step down.

"One thing, of course, is that we can have no trusting cooperation after he essentially stabbed me in the back. It is especially insolent to lie to my face as if I had given him some kind of orders regarding lay-offs of police officers. This is a special kind of insolence! To lie about something like that in my face, someone who knows what has actually happened," Helme said, referring to Vaher's claims about imminent PPA layoffs, first leaked from the PPA's own intranet.

"I also met him (Vaher-ed.) a few days ago in the ministry. The reason is very simple. Essentially, Elmar Vaher launched an information operation because, at our last meeting, we had a considerably heated debate on the internal defense reserve, the reorganization of the border guard, the management system of their structure. Here we also have, let us say, matters concerning state secrets. And now he has decided to drown out all these things by spreading information to the media as though the government is demanding the culling of 150 jobs," Helme continued in the interview.

"Essentially, what is Elmar Vaher doing? Working against the government, working against the interior minister, not fulfilling what has been agreed upon in the coalition agreement. He explicitly told one of my advisers that he is not interested in what has been written in the coalition agreement; he is not planning to fulfill it. When we take all these circumstances into consideration, I should then keep mum and be quiet and accept it and say that 'no, Elmar Vaher is a nice man'?! Look, I am not that kind of a person. Is the ministry led by Interior Minister Mart Helme, or are both ministry and government led by Elmar Vaher? Now this is a very fundamental kind of question, and I am nevertheless of the opinion that, when I went to government, I received the votes of about 10,000 people in the elections, something which Elmar Vaher has not received," Helme said.

"The government has established an employer relationship with Elmar Vaher, and it can also terminate that employment. But, of course, I must convince all government members of that sufficiently," Helme added.

Elmar Vaher said Thursday that the demands for his dismissal were invalid. The prime minister also said that no replacement was being looked for, for the role.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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