Something to write home about? 5

Yesterday the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, an expert body of the Council of Europe, held a round table in Riga with a bunch of local experts. The speakers, drawn from various government institutions, independent research centres and NGOs, presented their views on the anti-dicsimination policies and legal provisions in Latvia, occasionally pointing to the areas where there are problems. It would have been a fairly innocent, routine event, if not for the sudden appearance of the Latvian MP Jānis Šmits.

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It has to be added, for those who are not familiar with the Latvian political world, that Mr Šmits is not your average, unremarkable MP. He is the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Latvian Parliament and, by coincidence, is widely known fro his homophobic rhetoric - so much so that whole chapters in books by local researchers are dedicated to his speeches.

Surprisingly for anyone who would expect a decent post-Communist politician to maintain double standards when speaking to international organisations, Mr Šmits did not bother to change his act at yesterday's ECRI round table. Within a few sentences he managed to claim that : A. There is no racism in Latvia, since the Latvians are a peaceful nation; B. Those who still believe there is some racism in Latvia are behaving demagogically; and C. It is true that there is some hate speech on the Internet, but it will soon end, because the new Media Law will take care of introducing really stringent Internet regulations. Further remarks by Mr Šmits on this point seem to indicate that the new, really stringent regulation of the Internet in Latvia may take its inspiration at least partly from China.

Not surprisingly, these statements created a stir in the audience and made some people fairly angry. At least one person, however, kept his head - the moderator of that lively discussion, who happened to be also the Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia. Not only did he leave the MP's remarks about the absence of racism without attention; he also appeared to be fairly vexed by the fact that the angry critics of Mr Šmits were stealing precious time from the coffee break. I hope the Ombudsman got his coffee in the end. And I hope that the members of ECRI present at the discussion heard something that might be of interest to them.

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Komentāri (5) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Komentētājs

Maria 25.05.2008 13:40
"S-body should donate money and pay for parliamentarians' work trip to Rotterdam. because this country has already long since become an ideal place for praise of folly."

Thank you ZoRRo, that was the wittiest comment I have seen on this website for a long, long time.

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Komentētājs

Juris Kaža 24.05.2008 08:38
I am begining to think we were prematurely admitted to the EU and we are NOT using our "advance payment", rather continuing to behave like the most primitive and ignorant kind of homo post-sovieticus. This is illustrated by the inability to discuss, other than with platitudes, the issue of racism as well as the savage ignorance with which any discussion of sexual orientation is conducted.
Personally, I thought it was silly to bring up the issue of the black and white computers in an advertisment as being racist. However, once I saw the reactions in DELFI to the issue being mention, with the usual ravings against black people, Soros conspiracies, etc, it was apparent that for a lot of people, even discussing race in what seemed an innocent context (I have a black MacBook laptop, so what??)brought out all the loonies and crackpots that are SOOO typical of Latvian society. It inspires a certain hopelessness that anything will ever change...

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Sigita 22.05.2008 17:01
Paldies, Marija, par šo blogu. Tā kā man bija tā laime (vai nelaime?) Šmita kunga izteikumus dzirdēt klātienē, tad savas tā brīža sajūtas varu raksturot vien kā šoku un kaunu. Man tiešām kauns par to, ka ievēlam šādus politiķus. Un kauns par Tiesībsargu, kas klusējot noklausās un nebilst nevārda. Bet tieši Tiesībsargs, saskaņā ar Rasu vienlīdzības direktīvu, ir atbildīgs par vienlīdzīgas attieksmes ievērošanu un diskriminācijas novēršanu. Un es atvainojos Šmita vieta Kristoferam un George par to, kas viņiem bija jādzird (starp citu, teikumu, ka rasisms Latvijā nav, jo latvieši ir miermīlīga tauta, Šmits atkārtoja vismaz 4 reizes - pēc katras viņam veltītās atbildes reakcijas). Viņš pats to nekad neizdarīs...

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ZoRRo 22.05.2008 10:15
"A: There is no racism in Latvia, since the Latvians are a peaceful nation;"

"Further remarks by Mr Šmits on this point seem to indicate that the new, really stringent regulation of the Internet in Latvia may take its inspiration at least partly from China."

My first reaction was hysterical laughing - the joke of the day.
The second reaction - feeling of complete helplessness. Sometimes it's just impossible to understand and to try to analyse rationally activieties of some of our Parliamentarians.

I always wonder, does Mr. Šmits really thinks and believes in everything he says or is it just a rhetorics (necessary, as he might think, for him as politician :P). And I haven't decided yet, which option would be better and less painful. Because they both give evidence how absurde has become the political environment in LV. And again it's a reason to wonder why has it be exactly my country which somehow has succeeded to accumulate in one place (read: the Parliament) so many interesting persons. S-body should donate money and to pay for parliamentarians' work trip to Rotterdam. because this country has already long since become an ideal place for praise of folly.

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DaceA 21.05.2008 15:54
In context to the new law that Mr Šmits is promising - we have to carefully watch the details of that legislative proposal because it may affect also what we're publishing here. After all, if Mr Šmits calls people like Maria and me (and many others) who think that racism is a problem and exists in Latvia, as people who behave demagogically, then maybe Mr Šmits would also want to restrict this demagogy, for example, by censuring our blogs?! ...

Citi autora darbi