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Wednesday 16.01.2019 | Name days: Lida, Lidija

Saeima argues over request to assess attempts to cancel «morality amendments»

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUDuring a meeting of Saeima’s Inquiry Committee, certain members and NGO representatives exchanged harsh words on Saeima opposition deputies’ request to Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on association Papardes zieds’ protection of interests for the cancellation of so-called morality amendments.

Explaining the submitted request, opposition deputy Jūlija Stepaņenko (Concord) said deputies want to ask the prime minister to assess if Latvia’s sovereign power is at risk from the practice of «purchasing laws». According to the request, deputies are concerned about the funding the association has received from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, as well as the fact that Society Integration Fund has provided funding to the association, supporting its efforts to cancel ‘morality amendments’.

The president of Papardes zieds association Reinis Āboltiņš says the opposition’s request is aimed against the association and the NGO sector as a whole. In addition, he says it represents an attempt to limit the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. «This request is aimed against NGO sector and democracy as a whole. […] I believe this request is a dangerous precedent,» he said.

He stressed that Papardzes zieds has existed for 20 years, working to educate society about health. However, the association needs funding to operate. The association searches for funding from different sources. Because of that, the fund’s experts may be paid their wage from NGO fund, have their coffee break financed using foreign money, and other activities – by money from other sources, said the association’s leader.

Kristīne Zonberga, director of Latvian Civic Alliance, also said this request from Concord is an act aimed against Latvia’s society, which, according to her, represents a lack of understanding of how NGO sector works.

Zonberga said defence of its own interests is normal for NGOs, and may include activities aimed at cancelling law amendments. Even Culture Ministry’s Public Integration Department’s director Sanita Rancāne-Delekolē said during the meeting – if a section of the law becomes controversial or outdated, NGO sector may request it to be redacted. The ministry’s representative stressed that SIF’s decision to allocate funding for Papardes zieds was independent and objective.

SIF project selection office manager Linda Mežviete said there are only good things to be said about Papardes zieds association, because it has been responsible for realization of many different projects for years. SIF has no complaints to address to this association. In addition, funding was provided to Papardes zieds because it passed a rigorous selection, in which other associations were evaluated based on very strict criteria.

Mežviete stressed that one of Papardes zieds association’s main functions is protection of interests. Introduction or change of regulations is a sign of democracy and civic activity, said SIF representative.

At the same time, what NGO sector’s representatives said during the meeting upset several deputies. For example, deputy Inguna Rībena (National Alliance) said she does not understand what gives NGO sector the right to turn against laws approved by the Saeima. She believes that by turning against laws, the association thereby wants to undermine the foundation of the state.

At the same time, Rībena mentioned multiple times during the meeting that ‘morality amendments’ are needed to protect children.

Harsh criticisms towards authors of the request were voiced by deputies Veiko Spolītis and Astrīda Harju from Unity. Spolītis said he does not understand «the exchange of odd opinions« and «absolutely does not agree with the request and the claim that laws are bought in the Saeima». Harju added that it is very important to educate children about their health and tolerance towards others.

At the same time, Stepaņenko told NGO representatives that she has always supported public organizations, and added that Saeima deputies were elected by residents, which is why people representing residents’ interests should be treated with respect.

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