Skvernelis openly about the car lease scandal

Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Having met his first serious crisis Ramūnas Karbauskis has proven to lack resistance to criticism. This is how the words of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis could be interpreted. With Lietuvos Rytas revealing the murky background details of the life of now former member of Seimas Greta Kildišienė, after which she relinquished her Seimas mandate and her advocate, Peasant and Greens Union leader, Seimas Culture Committee Chairman R. Karbauskis released a controversial statement, claiming that the whole story was an attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected government, informed.

During the Lietuvos Rytas television talkshow Lietuva Tiesiogiai PM Skvernelis was interviewed by journalist Daiva Žemaitytė.

– During the scandal revolving around R. Karbauskis and G. Kildišienė you did not support the party leader. Why?

I am not saying I supported or did not support. In each situation I say what I think and try to remain impartial. I support the fraction members who were concerned and confused.

I said that in my opinion in this situation the decisions made should have been immediately different. We can easily preach about it after it has ended.

These decisions were made. Ramūnas publically made the claim and we can only repeat that what he expressed was a mistake. For this we can only apologise.

– You say it was a mistake. R. Karbauskis does not say so.

Perhaps we are reading public announcements differently.

We are interacting in the fraction and I believe it would be naive to deny it was a mistake. It was necessary to resolve the situation with more clarity.

– Are you speaking of communications mistakes?

I am talking about the essence itself. From the very beginning we taught our fraction members in government, we invited staff from institutions such as the Chief Official Ethics Commission secretariat in order to explain potential risks and how to resolve them.

Perhaps such decisions were made due to a lack of time and experience.

I believe that when questions arose about the car rent it was necessary to clearly present documents, answer and resolve the situation if it was not suitable.

Now we see that there are more members of Seimas whose car rent agreements are dubious.
It appears we have all learnt from this story, it is important to make the right conclusions.

– No doubt you have discussed this topic with R. Karbauskis?

We constantly interact, it would be odd if it were otherwise.

– Did R. Karbauskis personally ask for your support?

I do not wish to talk about personal relations which touch on people.

But if someone believes that a wedge is being placed in this story that way, there is no such thing.
We are members of the same fraction, today I see no reasons for anything to waver in the coalition and the government, just as in the beginning, is unilaterally committed to making inevitable and necessary work.

– Did R. Karbauskis admit he made a mistake during those conversations?

I do not wish to speak of the content of those talks. What Ramūnas wishes to say, he will.
I believe that both he and the people who initially had a different position understood that mistakes were made.

– Why did you decide to swim against the flow in this situation? You demonstrated principles, displayed that you are not controlled or manipulated.

On one hand this could increase the number of your sympathisers, on the other hand R. Karbauskis’ supporters could turn from you because you did not support and in fact criticised their idol between the lines.

I am neither swimming against the flow or with it. I am not saying that R. Karbauskis is anyone’s idol. Such interpretations should be forgotten. He is the long-time party leader, he has authority – it’s normal.

As much as possible I strive to not preach on topics where I cannot do so. In every job I have had I have held my own opinion and I express it – if I see something black, I cannot claim it is white.
There was time to fix the mistakes, but as the situation became abnormal and harmful to state interests, such a reaction was necessary.

– You are saying that state interests are most important, while R. Karbauskis says that what happened harmed state interests.

He says this attack against the Seimas majority and the cabinet will be ruthless and ferocious, disregarding both those attacked and their families.

Is this not talking of you and the cabinet you lead?

It would be naïve to claim otherwise. Perhaps both you and the public can objectively see that after the Seimas elections a number of interest groups were left dissatisfied, feeling that the wrong ones won.

That attitude was present from day one, we did not even get 100 days, which some now claim we are not entitled to. But even intentions to do something were viewed as bad.

– You are speaking of the overall situation, but this is a specific story.

Perhaps circumstances matched that this specific story snowballed to such a scale due to objective and subjective reasons.

To accuse, seek problems, claiming that the news media is doing something wrong, that would be incorrect because it is performing its mission.

In my opinion the means selected were varied, some were odd, to put it lightly.

We can talk whether certain bounds were exceeded, but the news media must find answers, especially when it can see and understand that it is not answers that are being provided, but more questions are being involved.

Everyone’s professional ambition is to find and be among those who will untangle that knot. We should avoid illusions of attempts to intentionally do harm.

Did this situation get used by some interest groups? It would be odd if it were otherwise. Did our political opponents make use of it? We would be naïve to say that the opposition should not have reacted. It is natural, political opponents have to use it.

This situation shows that we are firm. The government and for now the fraction, the Seimas majority, they are all able to do the work the people gave them a mandate for.

– The Seimas majority and R. Karbauskis are not the same. This story is specifically linked to him, with certain details of his life. So perhaps we shouldn’t link this to the whole party.

And probably R. Karbauskis’ statement was not discussed with the party, which would suggest it is his personal opinion.

I respect people who have their own opinion and are unafraid to express it regardless of the situation – whether it is convenient or not. There are various opinions in the fraction as well, some supported, others didn’t, there was confusion. But we will see how things will proceed.

Whether this is, as you say, just the problem of one two people or is it wider, the coming days will show.

The story should seemingly be over, a fairly painful decision has been made, but it was completely unavoidable in this situation.

– Do you know what specific circumstances pushed G. Kildišienė to resign from Seimas?

Over that week numerous circumstances surfaced that would make it difficult for her to work in Seimas.

– However in the end it is still unclear – whether about the former theft or the car rent from Agrokoncernas?

I really do not know the specific reasons, but I believe the main one is that it would be difficult for her to continue working in Seimas and the fraction.

– It was a wise public relations move – withdrawing the person so that the story would not be developed any further.

I do not believe it was related to public relations. If there was adequate PR consulting, specific proposals, the decisions would have been different and made much faster.

It would appear that the member of Seimas’ decision was made based on various circumstances. An inevitable and the most correct decision.

– What would happen if something similar happened to another fraction member in the future?

R. Karbauskis has said that this is the first and last time and that without clear evidence, that is to say without a court ruling, all other fraction members should not resign. How do you view this?

Every member of Seimas has very different views of circumstances. They are free, this is guaranteed by the Constitution. It is important that they would not be connected to any sort of links.
I would not want to see such or similar stories from either the position or the opposition because we had a common goal – to restore the authority of the Seimas.

I would not want people disappointed due to the actions of members of Seimas.

Each member of Seimas has to evaluate situations themselves, I am no preacher and I have no right to preach.

– You have known R. Karbauskis for a time now. From how he interacts and reacts to certain situations the impression arises that he is a person who handles criticism poorly. Would you agree?

Perhaps some have had less criticism in life, some were fortunate in that their word was final and conclusive.

Facing a first crisis shows how resistant the person is. Other people who have been in politics less, but had difficult jobs, react differently to criticism.

We cannot say that we are glad and applaud each time we are critiqued. But we have to realise that if the criticism is justified, there is no reason to be angered and insulted, when the media is critical.
If the questions are formulated in order to receive answers, but without revealing false claims in one form or another, you have to realise it.

If there is no criticism, there can be no progress, it helps greatly.

But criticism has its limits. There is rational criticism and criticism which seeks not to display or reveal certain flaws, but can be used as a form of pressure.

There are various people and those who are not used to criticism are having a difficult time now. Those who are used to it are making different conclusions.

– It is clear that R. Karbauskis is an emotional person, so in the future similar situations can occur. What do you plan to do? Perhaps a chat man to man is necessary so that he would blow off some steam?

We are all emotional people. I do not believe that those who are unemotional and who do not care what is going on can create anything. They can float along the flow and be comfortable.

What the limits of those emotions should be is something left up to the individual. Sometimes we go too far, it is natural, it is human. Afterward you think that it could have been done otherwise.

There are many emotional people, they are natural and straightforward. And various talks happen – both manly and probably womanly.

– In the middle of the scandal President Dalia Grybauskaitė said that this story is beginning to harm the Peasant and Greens Union‘s reputation.

I understand that you constantly communicate with the head of state. Did you discuss this?
It will take some getting used to that discussions between the highest ranked officials will remain between them. What we have to say, we will.

I will not deny that this was not talked about because we discussed all work questions related to state affairs.

G. Kildišienė remains in the ranks of the “Peasant” party

– Having relinquished her mandate in Seimas, G. Kildišienė also temporarily suspended her authority as Peasant and Greens Union deputy chairman. This request was granted by the party management.

– Yesterday MEP B. Ropė was re-elected management chairman.

– The management confirmed former member of Seimas, 61 year old agronomist A. Bauras as the “Peasant” candidate in the Anykščiai-Panevėžys electoral district where G. Kildišienė was elected. Currently A. Bauras was working as the head of the Anykščiai region municipality administration agriculture department.

– The repeat election is set to happen on 23 April, along with the mayor elections in Jonava and Šakiai.

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