- May 25, 2011
Gag Poles in Lithuania
As we have reported before, Lithuanian nationalistic organizations have launched an offensive on the Polish media. They want to introduce a ban on defending the Polish minority and representing its side in the conflict between the authorities on the question of observing the national minorities’ rights.
The media was attacked after the “Kurier Wileński” newspaper revealed outrageous and offensive statements about Polish people made by some representative of the politicians ruling conservative party the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats, as well as representatives of the “Vilnija” organization, which is notorious for its anti-Polish comments and actions supported by the conservatives.
Our paper has Publisher, among other things, the outrageous statements made by those activists that Polish kindergartens “educate Hitlerjugend”, and Polish schools are breeding ground for a fifth column”. “Vilnija” did not like that, and their representatives sued “Kurier Wileński” at the Journalism Ethics Commission. “Kurier Wileński” was also “denounced” to the highest officials in the country, also to the Parliament president Irena Degutienė. She ordered the Parliamentary Ethics Commission to take care (sic!) of our paper.
Meanwhile, the Commission took care of the statement made by the MP of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania Jarosław Narkiewicz He had to explain why during a Parliamentary session he said that Poles in the Vilnius region would not give in to deprivation of their national identity, just like they had not given up to the tsarist authorities, the occupation authorities of the fascist Germany or the communist authorities. This statement was made on 17th March after the Parliament had passed by a majority vote the bill on education discriminating the Polish education in the Vilnius regions.
“(…) In reference to the position taken by some, that they crushed Poles in the Kaunas region, and now it’s time to do the same in the Vilnius region I would like to say that we were not crushed at the tsarist times, nor by the German occupation or the communists, so you will not be able to do that either. We will strive after real democracy in our country”, Mr. Narkiewicz said after the voting.
He referred to the statement made by the conservative vice-president of the Ethics Commission Vida Marija Čigriejienė. Although Narkiewicz did not disclose whose statement he was talking about, according to the proverb “if the cap fits, wear it”, Mrs. Čigriejienė put it on. She excused herself in front of the co-members of the Commission that at the notorious conference dedicated to signing the Suwałki Agreement (during which a photojournalist from “Kurier” was attacked by the president of “Vilnija” Kazimieras Garšva) she allegedly said “there are no problems with Poles” in the Kaunas region and she was surprised Poles present problems in the Vilnius region. She even admitted, as if to justify herself, she had Poles in her family.
“I have two Polish women in my family. They only talk in perfect Lithuanian, and they even gave their children Lithuanian names. There’s no problem with them,” said the vice-president. When her colleague from the conservative party Julius Dautartas remarked that when talking about the national identity it is essential the Poles from her family speak not only Lithuanian but also their mother tongue, Mrs. Čigriejienė assured him they do know the Polish language.
Yet in the context of Mr. Narkiewicz’s statement, the vice-president of the Commission announced that although she, being an exile of the communist regime, had to study in Siberia at a Russian school and in the Russian language, she holds no grudge. She also said that even today she is more than happy to visit the place of her exile in far Siberia.
Mr. Narkiewicz noticed, with all due respect to her fate, it is regrettable she does not understand the needs of the national minorities representatives in independent and democratic Lithuania.
Mrs. Čigriejienė, along with her colleague from the bench Gintaras Songaila and a few other MPs, including members of the Commission, sued Mr. Narkiewicz at her Commission. She was planning to join the group petitioning in the case of Mr. Narkiewicz, but finally she realized that she is one of the interested parties and she cannot petition to the Commission as she was the author of the complaint.
The prosecutors of the MP from the Electoral Action of Poles appealed to the members of the Commission, asking them to consider not only the specific statement made by Mr. Narkiewicz, but also the activities and statements of all the MPs from the Electoral Action of Poles, the party’s activities, as well as the Polish media in Lithuania, in particular netizens who leave on their websites unfavourable for the national authorities comments.
Tłumaczenie Małgorzata Karaś w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Małgorzata Karaś within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu