Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 105

Lithuania’s ruling Fatherland Union (FU) yesterday cleared the way for the appointment of Mecys Laurinkus as general director of the State Security Department. President Valdas Adamkus had proposed the appointment, but FU was reluctant to lose Laurinkus’ seat and services in parliament.

Laurinkus, 47, was stranded as a child in the Russian Far North during the deportation of Lithuanians there. Later trained as a philologist and literary historian, Laurinkus became one of the founders of the Sajudis national movement, and served as the first security chief of the restored Lithuanian state in 1990-92. He returns to that post after the interlude of Democratic Labor Party (LDP) rule and of the Algirdas Brazauskas presidency, when Jurgis Jurgelis was state security chief. From 1993 to date, Laurinkus headed the parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission. In that post he sought to halt the erosion of Baltic solidarity.

Controversy has broken out over Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius’ measure to force the resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis and appoint his own protege Stasys Sedbaras, 40, to that post. Adamkus initially proposed another candidate, but went along with Vagnorius’ choice of Sedbaras, who was sworn in on May 26. However, Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis has launched a rearguard action against the Sedbaras appointment. Long-simmering differences between Landsbergis and Vagnorius have thus, for the first time, erupted. Landsbergis and Vagnorius are–concurrent with their state roles–Fatherland Union’s chairman and chairman of the board, respectively.

On May 23, the mass-circulation daily Lietuvos Rytas published poorly substantiated allegations that Landsbergis had misused a security unit within the Internal Affairs Ministry in order to spy on political opponents. The opposition LDP, along with some elements within the governing coalition, construe a “Lithuanian Watergate,” and are calling for Landsbergis’ resignation now and an investigation afterward. Landsbergis categorically denies the allegations, but recalls having asked that unit to check on several individuals who had sent him written threats of assassination. The checks were legal, since the unit is subordinated to the chairman of parliament under a law dating back to 1991, when the Parliament faced the threat of a Soviet crackdown. The LDP did not change this section of the law during its 1992-1996 rule. Adamkus now proposes to rescind that section and to update the law. (BNS, May 27 through June 1).