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Saturday 22.02.2020 | Name days: Rigonda, Adrians, Ārija

Exclusive | ReRe’s [ir]responsibility and Maxima Tragedy’s dusty trails. Interview with Artuss Kaimiņš

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Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš

«Six years have passed since the tragedy in Zolitude. However, [construction company] SIA Re&Re still has not accepted responsibility. And then the news suddenly surface with New Riga Theatre, as a result of which the State Real Estate made a decision worthy of praise – the company that is one of the main involved parties in Maxima tragedy had a construction object taken away rather than provided,» Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš told BNN.

It is worth mentioning that he was also a member of the parliamentary committee responsible for investigating the tragedy.

Society’s social memory lasts only two weeks

Kaimiņš believes what happened with New Riga Theatre is a good «escalator» for society. «I’ve often said that the social memory in Latvia is two weeks. What I mean is a tragedy happens, and then Maxima shows an advertisement that nuts get a 30% discount and all parking spots near supermarkets are full again. All 54 dead are just ‘something that happened’.»

It is worth mentioning that at the end of July State Real Estate had decided to terminate its contract with ReRe Būve 1 for the reconstruction of New Riga Theatre. The reason for this decision was the multiple violations committed by the company. This included improper assessment of the project’s documents prior to commencing construction, issue of false information to the client, major violations in work safety regulations, State Real Estate reports.

«The fact that the surrounding buildings are old was known well before ReRe started drilling. If course the vibrations cause cracks in the old buildings. They have to know this – it is their profession. And again they [ReRe] refuses to take responsibility [for what happened],» comments Kaimiņš.

«On top of that, of the 100% of tasks they were supposed to accomplish in a year, ReRe had accomplished only 3%.»

State Real Estate has submitted a plea to court to enforce a penalty from the construction company. ReRe Būve 1 has announced plans to appeal State Real Estate’s decision as null and void.

Referring to ReRe’s criticisms towards architect Zaiga Gaile, Kaimiņš says: «Now ReRe will try to retreat using its dusty trail – redirect responsibility to someone else. I don’t think socially responsible companies do that.»

The Saeima deputy believes ReRe should have «went through peaceful resolution and admitted mistakes, and acted diplomatically, not legally offensive». He stresses that the construction company should take financial responsibility for what happened, because «this is the only way for people to learn their lessons».

«We can yell at them and point our fingers, but the situation changes as soon as a fine is introduced.»

Gaile had previously mentioned that with State Real Estate decision to terminate the contract with ReRe Būve 1 «a war is declared against the mafia of large construction companies». Meanwhile, New Riga Theatre stage director Alvis Hermanis said that he found «entrusting New Riga Theatre’s reconstruction to bloody hands» unacceptable from the start, referring to Maxima tragedy.

Kaimiņš hopes that what Gaile and Hermanis have said will last longer in people’s minds, and that the fight against irresponsibility from the construction company will have a lasting effect, not be forgotten after a couple of weeks. «This way, our social memory will likely become more lasting. I very much hope there will not be a two-week discussion about how we don’t have a New Riga Theatre, ending there.»

SIA Re&Re was involved in the fire at Riga Castle

Construction company Re&Re is one of the companies that had participated in the restoration of Riga Castle. The company’s name appears in the list of parties involved in Riga Castle. «Once again taxpayers’ money was put in, and the president was moved to the House of the Blackheads. The situation is similar with New Riga Theatre, which has moved to Miera Street,» says Kaimiņš.

«Who was responsible for the fire? A spark. And who was responsible for the tragedy with Maxima? A screw. A screw and spark are Latvia’s biggest criminals. But who tightened the screw? Who was responsible for the spark? Simple questions,» says Kaimiņš.

«When a person goes to a store to buy tomatoes, they are not interested in who owns the land, who built the walls and who set up power lines. People are not interested in all of that; they are interested in the safety of the tomatoes they are purchasing. But if something bad happens, no one wants to take responsibility. Re&Re, of course, is one of the companies that have not taken responsibility [for Maxima tragedy],» says the deputy.

Deal with society first, then sue others

Explaining to how the company should act after the tragedy the company was involved in, the Saeima deputy references the tragedy in Ukraine, when an airplane was shot down, killing 298 people.

«At the time no one knew who was responsible – Ukrainians or Russians. The only thing that was clear is that a tragedy had occurred. The first thing the airline that owned the shot down airplane did was pay compensation to families of all passengers who were killed. This was done to preserve the good name of the airline. Only after this was done, the airline had gone to court against insurers, the one who fired the missile and others.»

He stresses that this was socially responsible course of action. «Compensations were paid first and only after that involved companies started suing one another. The fight with companies involved in Maxima tragedy lasted five years. A parliamentary committee was formed a year after the tragedy because no one would take responsibility. Re&Re was involved there as well. To this day [six years after] the company still has not taken responsibility.»

The Saeima deputy ironically mentions that Aivars Lembergs’ case is a very «good» example of how quickly court processes progress: «A ruling will come when I turn 50. I am 38 now.»

«In the case of Maxima tragedy it should be stated strictly – fulfil your duty before society and then start infighting all you want. Sue each other as many times as you wish. Whatever – do what you want. But first deal with society, because your business earns you money,» stresses the deputy.

People should not suffer from papers

«The current situation is thus – Maxima tragedy lead to three times larger level of bureaucracy. To build something, five papers instead of one are needed because everyone is afraid to take responsibility.»

Kaimiņš stresses that it is necessary to organize a new tender so that New Riga Theatre is able to «return home» as soon as possible. «People should not suffer from papers in this situation. If there is a crack in the wall, it needs to be fixed.»

An audit is needed for State Real Estate

As for State Real Estate’s managed buildings, the deputy said: «Another necessary task – is performing an audit at State Real Estate, because this institution has a lot of buildings managed in the capital city. These buildings are managed to varied levels of quality, some are put on hold. Meanwhile, we are building other buildings – somewhere some work is performed simply to build something. We put money in concrete, not people. For example, the old building of Latvia’s National Library still stands – empty. There are other such buildings in Riga,» says the Saeima deputy.

Justifying the necessity of the audit, Kaimiņš says: «Simply put, I believe a lot of money is diverted to many unnecessary positions that do not even need maintaining.»

Leave a reply

  1. Zerry says:

    Generally it looks like a word responsibility does not belong to Latvian words. With public authorities it is often heard ”go to court if you are not satisfied”. It is fast and easy way to avoid responsibility because court-way is too expensive for many of us. With public as well as larger private businesses possible complaints are rounding around from table to another WITHOUT ANY RESPONSIBILITY. Lack of backbone or something.

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