LVŽS unwillingness to form a commission – double standards?

Ramūnas Karbauskis
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

An initiative has appeared in Seimas to form yet another ad hoc commission. The opposition spoke of intentions to investigate the situation in the agriculture sector already in early January. However, no one attempted to conceal that the main goal is to uncover the intricacies of Ramūnas Karbauskis‘ businesses, writes.

Last week, a project for the creation of such a commission was registered in Seimas. Senior figures in the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) deny the necessity of such a commission because it can be investigated by individual institutions. The opposition retorts by asking why a commission was formed for the LRT. After all, back then there were also statements that the investigations would be better performed by institutions, however this was no argument for the “Farmers”. Is this not double standards?

In an effort to deny the necessity of such a commission, the “Farmers” compare the investigation to exiling lists or persecuting the wealthy, as if the commission was a relic of the Soviet era.

“All of this proceeded legally and what now, are we persecuting the wealthy again? Is this a new wave of nationalisation? We should probably act constitutionally and we cannot deny the legal creation and possession of private property,” Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis commented to LRT.

Is it not too early for the speaker to claim that all is legal? He likely forgets that an investigation has even been started by prosecutors in defence of the public interest. It is being investigated, whether the companies are legally controlling vast areals of land despite legislation limiting ownership to 500 hectares. The investigation was initiated in January and according to the Prosecutor General’s Office, it will take time because of the vast amounts of information present. Even the Minister of Agriculture Bronius Markauskas, who was delegated by the “Farmers”, says that in spring, it will be attempted to grant the National Land Service more powers. The intention is to allow it to investigate past transactions. B. Markauskas believes that there are cases where land may have been accumulated by individuals illegally.

“I believe things could have happened. If such facts are confirmed, then the land would certainly have to return to the ownership of the state,” the minister spoke on illegal accumulation of land.

However the “Farmers”, whose leader owns Agrokoncernas, which controls over 36 thousand hectares of land, have no desire to investigate. The Seimas speaker calls it persecution of the wealthy, while Ramūnas Karbauskis compares the desire to create the special Seimas commission to the 1941 lists of individuals to be exiled from Lithuania. In other words, the “Farmers” compare a search for transparency with one of the darkest pages of the country’s history, when thousands of people forcibly lost their property, thousands were exiled to Siberia and died there. The Seimas speaker says that the commission to investigate the situation in the agriculture sector could be created, but does not answer whether he would vote for it.

“Firstly it is necessary to establish whether actions were taken in accord with the law or against it. If the actions were legal, then such an investigation will likely yield no results. It will simply be stated after the investigation that such were the regulations and they were made use of,” V. Pranckietis explains.

However, the opposition says that it would appear the Seimas speaker does not even grasp what the commission would do. It is being created namely to establish, whether everything was done legally. A project has already been registered in Seimas over a parliamentary investigation of the agriculture sector. The Conservative leader says that there are three key directions for the investigation.

“Land appropriation from small farmers for debt (we have heard a number of times that such a practice is used in a number of different Lithuanian regions). The second group of questions is linked with land accumulation – how companies, which took over the land, manage to circumvent legislation which limits obtaining more than 500 hectares of land. The third group of questions is linked with fertilisers, fertiliser import to Lithuania from third countries,” the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrat Seimas group prefect Gabrielius Landsbergis outlined directions for the investigation.

R. Karbauskis claims that the opposition’s goal is not to find answers, but he himself. Apparently he has already taken action for answers to be provided, has contacted the Competition Council, Prosecutor General’s Office and National Land Service. The prosecutors say they have received the request and will review it, the National Land Service states it will request the politician to clarify his inquiry because it is unclear what is being requested. Meanwhile the politician himself keeps repeating that he commission is unnecessary, he will not vote for it and all questions will be answered by relevant institutions.

“All questions linked with the accusations should be passed on to the prosecutors and other services, while members of Seimas should not be forced to waste time on what can be done by relevant institutions. I believe that in this case it is an attempt at politicking, even somewhat insulting the farmer community,” R. Karbauskis comments.

“We have seen how questions were put together regarding the LRT. And once again, most people said that perhaps we should await conclusions or answers from institutions. To this, the answer was that not all institutions have the capacity to provide answers and a more comprehensive, in depth and transparent investigation is needed. I believe that the same way, these statements apply to agriculture. […] If it is not done, we will have to admit that the “Farmers” are two-faced and they only deal in those questions, which are personally relevant or of interest to them,” G. Landsbergis emphasises.

Perhaps R. Karbauskis does not wish for such a commission because it guarantees publicity. According to the Conservative leader, they have gathered a significant amount of information, as well as testimonies over the activities of Agrokoncernas. Witnesses would likely share this information if their security is assured and this is only possible if a commission is formed.

Communications expert Paulius Tamulionis says that the “Farmers” are now cornered. They constantly assured that parliamentary control can best be assured by ad hoc commissions, however when their leader was presented inconvenient questions, they are now trying to escape.

“When the majority was interested in resolving a question, it was claimed that no institutions are needed, it can be all done by MPs, but when questions arise, which are linked with the majority, it is institutions, who should act, apparently this is not a question for the Seimas. This way they have displayed double standards over a fairly short period of time,” the expert observes.

The Seimas spring session begins in a week. At that point, it will be revealed whether the “Farmers” are inclined to initiate investigations linked with their leader. The Conservatives say that if the majority does not support the commission, they will consider withdrawing from all other parliamentary investigations. What worth will the ad hoc commissions have then, if only the “Farmers” remain in them?

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