Thanks to Širinskienė “Farmer” party shaking from fratricidal conflict

Agnė Širinskienė
Agnė Širinskienė DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The example set by Seimas Legal Affairs Committee head Agnė Širinskienė to settle accounts with her own by employing the ethics watchdogs has become infectious – two “Farmer” medics have clashed.

A. Širinskienė ’s attempt to complain to the ethics watchdogs regarding another “Farmer,” first Seimas Vice Speaker Rima Baškienė, surprised even political veterans, who have seen much, though it was not successful Tadas Ignatavičius wrote in lrytas.lt

However, having taken an unprecedented step in the country’s parliamentary history, A. Širinskienė already has followers.

Another “Farmer,” Algimantas Kirkutis has called upon the Ethics and Procedures Commission regarding a political companion’s behaviour.

The Seimas Healthcare Committee member complained regarding “Farmer” Aurelijus Veryga. A. Kirkutis accused the minister of healthcare of his failed bid in June to become the chief doctor at the Klaipėda Seamen’s Hospital.

Elected to Seimas in a single-mandate district, healthy lifestyle and natural medicine proponent A. Kirkutis was even prepared to leave parliament for the post.

Prior to entering Seimas, he was the head of the hospital’s Heart Arrhythmia Diagnostics and Treatment Laboratory.

Upon becoming the hospital’s chief, the politician hoped to turn the treatment institution into a tertiary level university hospital.

A. Kirkutis assured he had spoken to A. Veryga regarding such intentions a number of times.

According to the “Farmer,” he also informed the minister about plans to participate in the hospital’s leadership competition. Party leader Ramūnas Karbauskis apparently also did not oppose this.

Risk of conflict

However, despite nurturing big plans, A. Kirkutis faced an unexpected slight from A. Veryga – the latter publicly declared that he knows nothing about such intentions.

Furthermore, the minister declared on the eve of the competition that he himself could be embroiled in trouble due to such aims by the member of Seimas.

According to the minister of healthcare, the participation of a member of the “Farmer” group in a competition organised by his subordinates would be a clear conflict of interests.

Furthermore, A. Veryga had to choose one of the two best candidates in the second round himself.

“If I were him, I would not have participated,” the minister said.

Left third and complaining

However, A. Kirkutis is convinced that being a member of the same party and Seimas group should not bar his way to his desired post.

Ramūnas Karbauskis also saw no obstacles, stating in an interview with BNS, “A member of Seimas, just as any Lithuanian citizen, can participate in any competition. He is a doctor himself, is well known there and the competition itself is open and transparent, so I hope that the best will win.”

However, A. Kirkutis was left only third among eleven candidates to become head of the hospital.

And he blames none other than A. Veryga.

“I believe that the minister’s publicly declared opinion on my decision to participate in the competition breached my rights as a citizen and candidate to run for the office of institution head and the minister’s public and biased statements could have harmed the transparency of the competition he organised and influence the decision of a commission comprised of his subordinates,” A. Kirkutis presented his case to the ethics watchdog.

The “Farmer” is convinced that the minister of healthcare breached both the ethics principles ascribed to members of Seimas and state officials.

“A. Veryga did not recuse himself from the office of the selection committee chairman, thus creating a clear conflict of interests and did not take steps to avoid this conflict,” A. Kirkutis stated.

Angered by response

A. Kirkutis had presented similar motives for supposedly unsuitable behaviour by a fellow party member to the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK), however, it refused to launch an inquiry.

The commission ruled that simply belonging to the same party is no cause for a conflict of interests and proposed to appeal to the Seimas ethics watchdog.

This dismissiveness on part of VTEK greatly angered the MP, who stated, “A minister is primarily a state official and it is exactly what the commission is for – to resolve official ethics questions. Why is it needed at all then?”

How should the minister have acted?

The “Farmer” expects a favourable ruling from the Seimas Ethics and Procedures Commission, but doubts it can change the results of the already concluded competition.

“Though if it is found that A. Veryga should have recused himself, the competition could be launched anew.

I was one of the strongest participants, falling behind the top two rivals by only a few points.

If the difference were greater, I would perhaps act otherwise.

But A. Veryga declared that my participation in this competition is a hindrance to him. BY saying so, the minister influenced his subordinates, they were pressured, influenced.

A. Veryga had to recuse himself and appoint someone else instead. I am very interested as to why he did not and hope that the Seimas commission will ask the minister,” A. Kirkutis told Lietuvos Rytas.

The politician was also surprised by the minister’s explanations that apparently, he knew nothing about his colleagues’ plans, stating, “I told him about it a number of times. I presented in writing a full programme as to what I would do if I were appointed chief doctor at the hospital.”

The “Farmer” did not dismiss the possibility that A. Veryga could have been intimidated by accusations that he supported a fellow party member, if he were to succeed, but noted that “a minister should operate based on the law, not on emotions or fears.”

No common ground

When asked if it appears appropriate to him that Seimas group colleagues are resolving disputes through ethics watchdogs, A. Kirkutis answered that this evaluation should be left to the party chairman.

That said, the MP believes that such disputes do not credit the “Farmers,” stating, “Of course, the situation is no good, it shows that unresolved and not fully discussed questions remain in both the party and the healthcare system.

Especially when I an A. Veryga somehow struggle to find common interests. He is more focused on quantitative reform changes, while I am more interested in quality.

We find no common ground here.”

Confused even ethics watchdogs

This is not the first “Farmer” dispute, which reaches the Seimas Ethics and Procedures Commission. Several months ago, A. Širinskienė and A. Baškienė settled accounts in it as well.

A. Širinskienė accused her colleague of breaching the Seimas statute when she proposed to discuss referendum law amendments, not in her own Legal Affairs Committee, but the State Administration and Local Authorities Committee.

The latter committee rejected the project, which proposed to lower the bar for referenda.

Later, these conclusions were also approved in Seimas.

It is a public secret in parliament that these two influential (Širinskienė and Baškienė) “Farmer” MPs have hardly been communicating as of late or only do so if it is crucial.

However, the complaint surprised even the ethics watchdogs. Some even called it a historical case because they could not recall a situation where a member of a Seimas group would accuse one of their own group.

“At the start of term, we go along and communicated well.

But when I saw that the person is less interested in work and more with accusations, I understood our paths were not parallel. Even in the Seimas hall, I took to sit elsewhere, further from her,” R. Baškienė has said on lrytas.lt’s show Ne Spaudai (Not for Press).

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