Stark War of Principles Brewing in Lithuanian Parliament: Ruling Coalition MPs to Cross Swords

Stark War of Principles Brewing in Lithuanian Parliament: Ruling Coalition MPs to Cross Swords

by Vytautas Bruveris, Lietuvos rytas

Even representatives of different camps within the ruling majority are set to cross swords. This war of positions will come to the fore in parliament because of the activities of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania currently besieged by scandal.

Tomas Raskevičius, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Human Rights Committee and a member of the ruling Freedom Party, believes the Office of State Auditor needs to thoroughly investigate the Genocide Center and says there could be many different problems there.

The Human Rights Committee exercises parliamentary supervision of the Genocide Center, but the Lithuanian parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee chaired by conservative Laurynas Kasčiūnas has taken the reins over the Center into its own hands. Further, a special working group empaneled by parliamentary speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen is set to begin investigating the activities of the Genocide Center, a working group which will also feature a diversity of opinions.

Complaints about Money, Too

A group of Genocide Center staff including the main historians and researchers there are accusing the agency’s leadership and general director Adas Jakubauskas of usurping power and attempting to politicize academic research. Jakubauskas and his advisor Vidmantas Valiušaitis who has already resigned his post stand accused of trying to turn World War II, Holocaust and post-war research performed at the Genocide Center into an implement of radical right ideology.

Staff opposing the leaders at the Genocide Center wrote an open letter to the Lithuanian parliament and met with parliamentary speaker Čmilytė-Nielsen. A group of the nation’s best-known historians and the heads of Vilnius University and the Lithuanian History Institute expressed support for the dissident group at Genocide Center. Genocide Center directors denied the accusations, explaining some employees were dissatisfied because of reforms underway. The leadership went further and got a larger group of Genocide Center staff to sign off on a letter expressing support for the leadership.

Some staff who spoke with Lietuvos rytas said the people who signed the complaint were doing so based on personal experience and according to the information available to them. Human Rights Committee chairman Raskevičius told Lietuvos rytas it was very clear to him that the Genocide Center is afflicted by a number of different problems, and so in any case must be investigated by the Office of State Auditor who will present their findings.

History Mixed Up with Politics

The Human Rights Committee, chaired by Raskevičius, a politician best known so far for defending the rights of sexual minorities, was long the only committee to which Genocide Center answered in parliament, now has competition. This is the National Security and Defense Committee, appointed to supervise the Genocide Center by the parliamentary leadership during the current legislative session.
Behind the scenes in parliament, people are saying this isn’t a surprise. After all, National Security and Defense Committee chairman Laurynas Kasčiūnas, who is being mentioned as a candidate for defense minister, is known for close ties with the ideological camp which the current head of Genocide Center represents, and also with the propaganda apparatus of the Lithuanian military. Lietuvos rytas has further learned right-wing politicians planned to take parliamentary control over Genocide Center entirely out of the hands of the Human Rights Committee and turn it over to the parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory.

This commission was chaired by Valdas Rakutis, former advisor to the military command and a member of the staff at the military’s Strategic Communications Department, who recently resigned his chairmanship on the Commission following scandal erupting over his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that Jews themselves contributed to the Holocaust, and that among the Jews there were many Communists who carried out a “different kind of Holocaust.”

Full article in Lithuanian here.