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Interior Minister Raimundas Palaitis rejects calls to resign, political analysts miss transparency in FCIS chiefs case

Raimundas Palaitis
Irmanto Gelūno / 15min nuotr. / Raimundas Palaitis
Šaltinis: BNS

Lithuania's Interior Minister Raimundas Palaitis rejected protesters' calls to resign on Thursday, dismissing the Wednesday's protest rally as part of the campaign of the upcoming general elections.

"Please bear in mind that this is an election year and we should maintain critical distance to the things said in protest rallies," Palaitis, a member of the ruling Liberal and Center Union, told journalists on Thursday.

About 1,000 people gathered in front of the President's Office in Vilnius at Wednesday noon to demand Palaitis' resignation, calling for reinstatement of the dismissed heads of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service, Vitalijus Gailius and Vytautas Giržadas.

Palaitis said the two officers had been discharged in response to materials provided by the State Security Department, which is conducting an investigation into potential information leak about Snoras bank.

The sacked prosecutors took the decision to court, while the conservatives' leaders Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Parliamentary Speaker Irena Degutienė expressed doubts about the validity of the dismissal. President Dalia Grybauskaitė has stood up in Palaitis' defense.

Analysts miss transparency

Lithuanian political reviewers have noted a lack of clear answers to questions the society might have after dismissal of top officials of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service.

Irmanto Gelūno/15min.lt nuotr./Antanas Kulakauskas
Irmanto Gelūno/15min.lt nuotr./Antanas Kulakauskas

Political scientist Antanas Kulakauskas says the need for more publicity was reflected by the Wednesday's protest rally outside the President's Office, which, in his words, was held in protest of "the administration's undemocratic behavior when decisions are made without any explanations to the public whatsoever."

"Of course, the officers have rendered Lithuania great service over their long years in office, they have been awarded and are are made redundant within a few days. This particularly applies to the FCIS chief, as there seem to have been no doubts in connection to his lie detector results. Logically thinking, it seems he was removed merely for defending his deputy. Or someone gets cold feet and does not need somebody. The society's protest in this case is a defense of justice and demand for the administration to follow democratic policies," he told BNS on Thursday.

In his words, the venue for the protest rally was chosen purposefully, as President Dalia Grybauskaitė has presented herself as fighting oligarchy until now.

"However, the step to remove the FCIS heads is a typical example of oligarch policy and the president supported it, for some reason - she may have more information than us. Then, there should be an explanation of the circumstances to the society. Otherwise, it seems that the administration's policies are not based on democratic principles of open policy but on various reports, which may or may not be state secrets, or maybe just secrets of top state officials," Kulakauskas said.

He said FCIS director Vitalijus Gailius and his deputy Vytautas Giržadas should have been suspended, not sacked, for the period of investigation into their actions.

"Generally speaking, it is a good thing that the investigation was opened and that the parliament has stepped in," he added.

Another political expert Vytautas Dumbliauskas told BNS that Grybauskaitė's stance in the FCIS story could "force a wedge in the society" with respect to the head of the state. The protest rally outside the President's Office is a sign of the wedge.

"Part of the society may take a somewhat different view towards the president, as her popularity was virtually universal. (...) People saw her confronting the rule of big money and her attempts to do something. However, the FCIS story raised questions. There are many questions that I have not managed to find answers to so far," the political scientist said.

I his opinion, sacking of the FCIS top officials may bring a chill to the relations between the largest ruling party Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (conservatives) and the President.

"I can see that the conservatives' leadership are making no secret of their indignation with the moves," Dumbliauskas said, adding that the ruling coalition shouldn't collapse, as the conservatives have no replacement for the Liberal and Center Union.

Last week, Gailius and Giržadas were dismissed from their posts a day after having their access to classified information revoked. The interior minister said steps were taken in response to proposals from the State Security Department. Both Gailius and Giržadas took the case of their dismissal to court.

Shortly before Snoras' nationalization last November, the Lietuvos Rytas daily cited anonymous sources and reported that “the Prosecutor General's Office has already issued warrants for searching one of the banks and homes of its owners.“ The daily did not specify which bank it was at the time, noting only that it was a "Lithuanian bank." Snoras owned more than one third of Lietuvos Rytas' shares.

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