«Delete» demanded for plan to classify Riigikogu’s doings

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Photo: Peeter Langovits / Postimees

In all likelihood, project by Constitutional Committee – to classify committees’ work for 30 years – will be buried, lacking support by majority of committee chairmen at Riigikogu.

«The plan is in obvious contradiction to sound mind. It feels especially stupid to write into law a speech ban for Riigikogu members,» said the Social Affairs Committee head Margus Tsahkna.

Mr Tsahkna is not alone, resisting classification – chairmen of many other committees agree; this Monday, the plan was also condemned by council of the coalition.

On Thursday, Eesti Ekspress wrote that Constitutional Committee was planning an amendment turning recordings and transcriptions of committee meetings into information with restricted access for 30 years. The project also prescribed a ban on parliament members to publish what people said at committees.

According to Financial Committee chairman Sven Sester, to classify the recordings would simply make no sense. Recording of meetings is voluntary and should the parliament members desire to keep their discussions secret, the meeting would not be recorded at all. For the same reason, discussions at National Defence Committee meetings, for example, are never recorded, containing state secrets.

According to Mr Sester, it would be equally useless to force silence upon parliament members regarding what was discussed at committees. «In Financial Committee, for instance, most of the bills are clearly political and both debates and votes are intense. It would be weird to ban sharing these issues after the meetings, as experience shows that will happen anyhow,» said he.

Whence, then, such a plan – at the Constitutional Committee? «A project like this actually never existed, we have just discussed possible versions,» says member of the committee, Mart Nutt.

According to Mr Nutt, the 30-years access limit was the longest option offered; at the same time, said he, no one has tabled the idea to ban people from sharing what happened at committee meetings. The discussions at Constitutional Committee were triggered by the discovery, at Chancellery of the Riigikogu, that Riigikogu is lacking rules and regulations regarding public disclosure of recordings at committees. 

The last time this posed a problem was in the fall of 2012 as Central Criminal Police and Prosecutor’s Office made repeated requests to President of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma to issue part of recordings at Environmental Committee meetings in order to investigate links of Kalle Palling (Reform Party) with plastic bag business and suspicions of bribes.

Ms Ergma refused to hand over the recordings, disturbed by judicial power trying to intervene in doings of political power. The more so that Riigikogu, after listening to said recordings, did not find that Mr Palling had made decisions at committee for the purpose of personal gain or attempted to affect others. Refusal by Ms Ergma, however, angered many at Office at Prosecutor General, where it was perceived as unwillingness by Parliament leadership to assist in investigation of crime.

According to Reform Party faction head Jaanus Tamkivi, all the law should contain would be to whom an on what occasions the recordings are to be disclosed. Making the recordings would continually be for the committees to decide; also, minutes would me made regarding the meetings, to be published after being confirmed.

«Neither Reform Party nor anybody else has a crafty plan to classify work at Riigikogu. Maybe it should not be continued with, in such format, especially with that kind of feedback produced,» concluded Mr Tamkivi.

Meanwhile, quite clearly there will be certain restrictions regarding recordings at Riigikogu, as members thereof have very different goals for these.

«Some have made recordings to be sure about the minutes confirmed later. Some see the recordings as material for future scientists, and some as an option to obtain information, online, about who thought and said what,» explained Mati Raidma, head of National Defence Committee.