- January 13, 2014
Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL) protests against repressions on the Day of Freedom Defenders
Yesterday, on 13th January, during celebrations of the Day of Freedom Defenders, deputies of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania left the room of Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania to express their protest against financial repressions for using native language.
The immediate cause of such an unprecedented decision of EAPL’s deputies was a speech of Vytautas Landsbergis, the Member of European Parliament, the honorary leader of Lithuanian conservatives and the first leader of independent Lithuania. On the anniversary of the events of 13th January 1991, he criticized the struggle of Poles living in Lithuania for the right to use their native language. A primary aim of his performance was the draft of the Law on Ethnic Minorities.
This project allows using ethnic minorities’ language together with the mother tongue, in areas densely populated by such a community. It refers, for instance, to Polish language in Vilnius region where Poles mostly live.
“When these rules come into force, Lithuanian state language will be eliminated from some places. This will no longer be the Lithuanian state.” – claimed Landsbergis.
He also attacked regional civil servants from the Vilnius region by expressing his view that some of them are not loyal to Lithuania and – as he added – “it is worth to adopt a few amendments in order to eliminate from the state serve all people who does not obey the law”. This Landsbergis’ utterance was cheerfully approved by Lithuanian deputies.
Deputies of EAPL ostentatiously left the ceremony in protest.
“We did it in protest against financial repressions for using native language. Recent events in ethnic minority politics have risen these objections, as well as the offensive speech of Vytautas Landsbergis who supports fining Poles for using their mother tongue.” – explained Rita Tamašūnienė, the starost of EAPL.
Rita Tamašūnienė emphasized that the protest was not under no circumstances aimed against Freedom Defenders Day’s ceremonies since the deputies of EAPL had actively participated in the rest celebrations on 13th January. The starost of EAPL deplored the underestimation of loyalty and fair work of ethnic minorities towards Lithuania.
“Polish ethnic minority has always been sustaining the idea of rebuilding Lithuanian independency We held our hands during the Baltic Way, on 13th January we defended Lithuanian independence together and we would like to pay our respects to the victims of those events. Unfortunately, instead of word which would connect Poles and Lithuanian, Landsbergis had given a speech that would start a quarrel! It means that even though we had all fought for independence, now, after 23 years, we are no longer needed…” – said Tamašūnienė.
She claimed that she understands that due to this protest, though justified, Polish party in Lithuanian Seimas will be criticized again.
“We have always been criticized a lot, so we are prepared for that. Most importantly, citizens supports us.”– stressed Tamašūnienė.
The protest of EAPL’s deputies has not been noticed by politicians in Poland. “In protest against financial repressions for using native language, deputies of EAPL left the room of Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania” – Radosław Sikorski wrote on Twitter, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs.
FRAGMENTS OF EAPL’S STATEMENT
Right after the events on 13th January in the Lithuanian Seimas, EAPL published a statement in which they explained the reasons of their deputies protest.
“Unfortunately, as the latest events showed that loyalty and solid work of ethnic minorities in favor of Lithuania are underestimated. The new version of the Law on Ethnic Minorities has still not been passed, and all legal solutions that was adopted in the times of independence and are now included in the draft, are being rejected. Even the re-adoption of legal norms form 1991 which have been binding during the last 20 years, is constantly thwarted. It cynical that the same political force – the conservatives – who signed the Law on Ethnic Minorities by their leader V. Landsbergis and then canceled it, is now protesting against the re-adoption of this law. They are also preventing from including the Law into the agenda of the plenary session. What is more, on Christmas Eve, on 23rd December, 2013, Boleslav Daškevič, the Director of the Administration of Šalčininkai district was fined of 43 400 litas for not removed bilingual street signs which were placed on private houses. ”
We would like to stress that those bilingual sings had been put there a long time ago and legally – according to the Law on Ethnic Minorities from 29.01.1991” – is written in the statement.
The decision of the Vilnius Regional Court concerning bilingual street signs in the Šalčininkai district is called to be a political one, in the opinion of members of EAPL.
“Basing on the fact that fines are imposed for using an ethnic minority language in the area which is populated in 79 per cent by Poles, this decision of the Court is simply a political procedure. Sadly, it overshadows the system of justice in our country for in the civilized and democratic state it is hard to imagine a situation in which higher courts increase the amount of the financial penalty almost hundredfold.” – the statement says.
Tłumaczenie by Ewa Żakowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewa Żakowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.