The Polish Electoral Action's member of Seimas Jaroslav Narkevič called for the creation of an inter-parliamentary group of good neighbourhood with the Republic of Belarus. The group was not formed and furthermore, former ambassador to the USA, conservative Žygimantas Pavilionis has described his colleague's interest in entering such a group as "subversive".
"Just the thought that counting the third decade after independence, our country's parliament has members of Seimas who want to make friends with a regime not recognised by democratic states, it should be seen as a warning that something is wrong. There should be no trying to hide behind democracy and a free mandate as member of Seimas. In my personal opinion, I could not call this anything other than subversive," the politician told Delfi.
Delfi has obtained not only the establishment documents for the aforementioned group, but also information on its membership.
The list features not only members of Seimas known for unambiguous public statements and actions such as social democrat Artūras Skardžius, Order and Justice member Petras Gražulis, former Order and Justice group member Kęstutis Pūkas, but also Seimas Human Rights Committee chairman, "farmer" Valerijus Simulk and conservative Kęstutis Masiulis.
At least two of the group's members - A. Skardžius and K. Pūkas are currently awaiting the Seimas Ethics and Procedures Commission's verdict over their behaviour and actions, deemed potentially unfit for members of parliament.
To note, the commission's chairwoman, Polish Electoral Action member Rita Tamašunienė is also a member of the inter-parliamentary group of good neighbourhood with the Republic of Belarus.
Below follows a list of the group's members and the Seimas groups they represent:
1. Jaroslav Narkevič, group chairman and group initiator. Polish Electoral Action in Lithuania – Christian Families Union (LLRA-KŠS);
2. Algimantas Dumbrava, deputy group chairman, group initiator. Order and Justice Party (TT);
3. Rimantas Sinkevičius, deputy group chairman. Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP);
4. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, deputy group chairman. LSDP;
5. Leonard Talmont, group initiator. LLRA-KŠS;
6. Michal Mackevič, group initiator. LLRA-KŠS;
7. Kęstutis Pūkas, group initiator. Mixed Seimas group (M);
8. Česlav Olševski, member. LLRA-KŠS;
9. Valerijus Simulik, member. Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS);
10. Petras Čimbaras, member. LVŽS;
11. Valentinas Bukauskas, member. Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD);
12. Rita Tamašunienė, member. LLRA-KŠS;
13. Vanda Kravčionok, member. LLRA-KŠS;
14. Irina Rozova, member. LLRA-KŠS;
15. Artūras Skardžius, member. LSDP;
16. Zbigniev Jedinskij, member. LLRA-KŠS;
17. Petras Gražulis, member. TT.
Based on document copies available to Delfi, the idea for this initiative to begin an inter-parliamentary cooperation group with Alexander Lukashenko's, who is dubbed the final European dictator, parliament was born back in November 14, 2016, the day when the Lithuanian Republic's XII Seimas members swore in.
The proposal for the good neighbourhood group to be initiated was signed by four members of Seimas - J. Narkevič, A. Dumbrava, L. Talmont and M. Mackevič.
Over three days, up to the group's first meeting being called, the list was filled up to 18 members, 13 more signing on the first day, I. Rozova on November 15 and R. Šalaševičiūtė on November 16.
A.Skardžius, Z. Jedinskij and P. Gražulis joined the group on November 17, 2016. On the same day the group's first meeting in Seimas was held.
For a time the initiative was halted by the November 23 Seimas Committee of Foreign Affairs (URK) members' recommendation to not permit the formation of an inter-parliamentary good neighbourhood group with the Republic of Belarus. This was recorded on a minute (Nr. 105-P-86(2)) signed by the committee's chairman, social democrat Juozas Bernatonis.
The URK recommendation was made on the basis that "The Belarussian parliamentary elections were not free and fair, did not adhere to the internationally accepted OSCE Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights standards."
The members of Seimas were advised to join the already existing and registered parliamentary group "For a democratic Belarus".
The chairman of this group, Conservative group member Laurynas Kasčiūnas told Delfi that this group interacts with opposition groups and civic groups in Belarus.
The good neighbourhood with the Republic of Belarus initiators were not deterred by the URK recommendations however.
On January 17, 2017, group chairman J. Narkevič signed a statement addressed to Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis, requesting to register the inter-parliamentary communications group.
According to Delfi information, the URK presented its recommendation to not register the group to the Seimas Speaker as well. He refused to register such a group and based on the Seimas Statute, also refused to inform the neighbouring state's parliament of it.
Even this did not cool the Lithuanian politicians' intentions to make friends with the subordinates of A. Lukashenko. During a June 20 Seimas evening hearing, J. Narkevič read out a statement on the formation of the new group and demanded the group be registered in the parliament. Seimas Speaker V. Pranckietis responded to this that he will adhere to the URK recommendations. The group is still not registered.
In a response to Delfi, J. Narkevič stated that "this does not matter to use. We can work even without their permission."
According to the politician, his inter-parliamentary group is "adhering to the Seimas Statute, which allows parliamentarians to freely gather into groups."
"This stubbornness is not just surprising, but also confounding. Why such persistence? Why now, when the joint military exercises Zapad will be held in Belarus in autumn? Why are representatives of specifically these political parties in the group? There are more questions than answers," Ž. Pavilionis, a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, told Delfi.
What is Conservative member of Seimas K. Masiulis doing in a group for inter-parliamentary relations with A. Lukashenko's Belarus?
Delfi contacted the politician for comments on Friday. K. Masiulis did not deny having signed as a member of the group, explaining that he signed spontaneously, with no specific motives.
"It would appear that someone was walking around and gathering signatures. You see there are all sorts of groups in Seimas, however very few actually function. Sometimes you sign on spontaneously, that's how it happened with me," said K. Masiulis.
The conservative explained that he was "misled by the group's name."
"No-one can deny that good neighbourly relations are necessary, but this cannot be an inter-parliamentary group, a group for relations with their parliament. And if he [J. Narkevič – Delfi] attempts to manipulate this, then I do not belong to a group for inter-parliamentary relations with Belarus because it does not exist, it is not registered. As for good neighbourhood groups with Belarus – it can go ahead, why not, just not as inter-parliamentary. I feel no love or friendship to A. Lukashenko," stated Masiulis.
He explained he would likely remove himself from the list to avoid interpretations.
When asked why he did not join the already existing Seimas group "For a Democratic Belarus", the conservative assured he is already in it. That said, based on the Seimas website, his name is not listed as a member.