- January 24, 2014
The statement issued by the vice-president of the Seimas, Jarosław Narkiewicz
The statement of the vice-president of the Seimas, Jarosław Narkiewicz, issued on behalf of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania on 23rd January 2014.
The translation of the statement below:
Exactly a month has passed since the Vilnius District Court issued a repressive and discriminatory decision, fining the administrative director of the Šalčininkai District Municipality 43 thousand litas for not having removed bilingual signboards from private houses.
This decision has drawn a widespread reaction not only in Lithuania, but also beyond its borders. It is a clear example of Lithuania’s “progress” from depleting minority rights towards repressing the citizens financially.
The Poles of Lithuania, along with other national minorities, have accentuated and protested against their deteriorating situation on numerous occasions, since the Law on National Minorities’ expiration. We have informed Her Excellency President Dalia Grybauskaite about this fact more than once (62 thousand signatures have been collected), but what we got instead of the improved situation were unfounded accusations against us.
Realizing the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council’s significance, we refrained from protesting during that period. We cooperated with the ruling coalition in silence, searching for methods to renew the regulations of minority rights adopted on 29th January 1991.
Unfortunately, these actions have encountered the resistance on the part of conservatives and Her Excellency Dalia Grybauskaitė. We suppose that such derogatory court decisions are connected with our actions.
We have been forced to bring up the topic of the existing situation in the European Parliament, in reaction to our present condition. President Grybauskaitė’s hostile attitude towards us, as well as her reluctance (or fear) to solve national minorities’ problems, have contributed to this necessity.
What is astounding is the fact that Her Excellency Grybauskaitė has failed to acquaint herself with the reports of some important international organizations. I believe they mirror the existing situation adequately and objectively:
1. The Report of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in which ECRI voices its concern over the abrogation of the 1989 Law on National Minorities, concerning the practice of protecting national minorities. The law was abrogated in 2010. The report emphasizes that it is possible to solve the majority of national minorities’ problems on the basis of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe, ratified by Lithuania in 2000. It also recommends that the Lithuanian government should pass a law on national minorities, regulating their rights in detail;
2. The Resolution of the Committee of Ministers from 2012, concerning Lithuania’s compliance with the decisions of the Framework Convention. It contains references to national minorities’ language rights, lack of laws regulating the protection of minority rights in the country, strengthening the system of consulting national minorities’ representatives in cases regarding them. Resolution CM / ResCMN (2012) 19 on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Lithuania;
3. The Report of the European Network Against Racism, mentioning the aggravating situation of the Polish minority in Lithuania;
4. In February 2011, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in Vilnius (HRMI) in its Alternative Report based on Lithuania’s Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, emphasized that “Lithuania is characterized by a low level of human rights awareness among decision-makers, public servants, judiciary, media and population, in general. The state has yet to develop an efficient institutional and legal framework for the protection of human rights in Lithuania”;
5. The Report of Freedom House, criticizing the new Lithuanian Act on Education, adopted in March 2011, which forced the students who took their final high school exams (matura exams) in 2013 to pass the same Lithuanian language tests as their fellow students from Lithuanian schools.
6. The Report of Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, on the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, from May 2012.
The question is whether Her Excellency President Grybauskaitė have intentionally misled the international community, or not. It is possible that she has been misinformed by her own counselors. In the latter case, she should follow the TS-LKD’s representative’s advice and “take control of” people responsible for disseminating false information. Such lies, aimed to deceive the international community, discredit Lithuania.
We currently witness bad, insulting, and even humiliating statements aimed against national minorities, appearing in public life. What is strange is the fact that a person publicly insulting a national minority in Lithuania was to pay 260 litas, while the director of municipal administration, who carried out the court decision but did not trespass on private properties, was punished with a draconian penalty of 43 thousand litas. Is there any room left to talk about justice?
However, it has to be made clear that our attempts to defend ourselves meet with a negative reaction on the part of people, the majority of whom are misinformed. And all the more when Head of the State disseminates false information. It is, therefore, essential that the representatives of the state not only inform the citizens objectively and without lies, but also seek methods of improving the national minorities’ situation.
The EAPL faction officially announces its solidarity with MEP W. Tomaszewski and the support for his struggle for minority rights in Lithuania. We also lend our support to Renata Cytacka, a citizen and a mother, who openly voices her opinion. We declare it unacceptable that a person clearly and openly expressing the objective truth be persecuted.
In a democratic state, tolerating the tendency towards humiliating and pressuring a person who speaks truth is inadmissible. Celebrating and elevating another person, who disseminates false information, is equally intolerable. We may expect that our problems will be solved only through assessing the truth in an explicit and courageous manner. Truth should be promoted, lies – denied.
The EAPL members call on everyone to work out the problems jointly, and to stop concealing them. We have always observed such rules, despite others’ disapproval, and we shall always propagate truth. “In the name of this Lithuania” we are ready not only to voice even the unpopular truth, but also to seek solutions to the problems. Truth always wins.
Vice-Chairman of the Seimas
Tłumaczenie by Agata Weronika Chrobak w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agata Weronika Chrobak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.