Politics and foreign affairs
President Valdas Adamkus made his annual review speech and scolded the government for exacerbating the economic woes from the 1999 economic disaster. Adamkus accused earlier governments for not dealing with the crisis and for pushing through unrealistic budgets that are still causing damage. Adamkus also called on politicians to admit "failure" with the agricultural policy and challenged the government to come out with a sensible alternative. Adamkus also attacked anti-Semitism, directing his remarks at Kaunas Mayor Vytautas Šustauskas (see this week's Amber Coast for more on radicalism in Lithuania).
Prosecutors in Vilnius dropped the criminal case against former Premier Adolfas Šležvičius for abuse of power. Šležvičius caused an uproar, when it was revealed that he withdrew all his money from the Lithuanian Stock Innovation Bank just days before it collapsed.
The ruling Conservatives carried out their threats to expel rebel members, by kicking out nine MPs from the party. The group, which left the main Conservative faction in the Seimas and joined the Moderate Conservative faction led by ex-Premier Gediminas Vagnorius, has still not said clearly if they will found a new party. The opposition is using this as reason to suggest a confidence vote against Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, who now technically has the support of less than the majority of the Seimas with all the splits in the two centre-right parties in the government.
The Seimas passed the actual law that requires the partial shutdown of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant by 1 January 2005. The first unit of the controversial power plant is to be phased out by that date. Opposition criticised the move, saying that the funding had to be sorted out before setting this in stone.
The Catholic Church in Lithuania apologised for past errors, including silence during the Holocaust. The Lithuania Bishops Conference, the highest ecclesiastical body in the country, took the cue from the groundbreaking statement by Pope John Paul II earlier this year, and apologised for its passive stance while some 95 per cent of Lithuanian Jews were killed by Nazis and local collaborators. Earlier this year, the Conference also apologised for its members colluding with the KGB, during the Soviet occupation, and urged everyone in society to come forward to ask for forgiveness. The Conference also issued a warning on the resurgence of anti-Semitism.
Prosecutors say that with the new law allowing for genocide trials to be held in absentia, the cases against suspected Nazi criminals Aleksandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas will begin by late April. The law allows for trials to proceed without the defendant being present; the accused can follow proceedings via closed-circuit monitors if unable to attend the trial due to ill health.
The trial of Zigmas Kašėta, a former NKVD officer, began again. He is accused of betraying resistance fighters, which led to their deaths.
The opposition sponsored confidence vote against Education Minister Kornelijus Platelis failed by a wide margin, with only 18 supporting his ousting and 82 voting in support.
Spending for the recent local elections by parties totalled LTL (Lithuanian Litas) 3.56 million, with the Conservatives spending most (LTL 844,000), followed by the Centre Union (LTL 659,000), New Alliance (LTL 354,000) and the Democratic Labour Party (LTL 280,000).
It also turns out that former premier and head of the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists, Bronislovas Lubys, donated about one-tenth of all funds, via his two companies: fertiliser giant Achema and the Klaipėda Shipping Company. However, it appears he was quite even in giving his money, with his Klaipėda Shipping Company focusing on the centre-right and Achema giving funds to the centre-left. It is somewhat disturbing, however, that the companies also gave money to radical and nationalist parties, such as the Freedom League of Kaunas Mayor Vytautas Šustauskas.
The Interior Ministry officially transferred the prisons department over to the Justice Ministry.
Economics and business
The Economics Ministry issued some pessimistic predictions for GDP growth for 2000 and 2001. The report said that in an optimistic scenario, GDP growth would be two per cent in 2000 and 3.5 per cent in 2001. However, in a bad scenario, GDP growth will only hit 1.3 per cent in 2000 and 2.5 per cent in 2001.
Oil giant Mažeikių Nafta and BP Amoco have agreed to a supplies deal, where BP Amoco would purchase the processed products from the Mažeikių oil refinery. However, that comes too late for Q1 results, as Mažeikių Nafta lost LTL 17.2 million, according to preliminary results.
Electricity utility Lietuvos Energija also reported losses, saying in 1999 the company lost LTL 117 million, according to preliminary results.
The Seimas passed a law giving the government power to enact protective trade measures. If the government deems that local producers are threatened, import tariffs or quotas could be imposed.
Social and local interest
Vilnius public transportation workers announced a one-day strike for 18 May. The workers have staged several mini-strikes and have threatened to paralyse the city's transport by day-long walk outs. They are incensed about back pay, as the transport company itself is in a serious funding crisis and nearly unable to pay utility bills, not to mention wages.
A party popularity poll by Vilmorus reflects much of the recent local election results. The New Alliance (Social Liberals) was most popular at 20.3 per cent, followed by the Liberal Union (12 per cent), Centre Union (8.9 per cent), Farmers Party (7.2 per cent), the Democratic Labour Party (5.6 per cent) and the Conservatives (5.2 per cent). No other parties crossed the five per cent barrier in the poll.
The monthly Vilmorus poll also said that Lithuanians trusted the press most, with a positive rating of 57.1 points, followed by the church (44.9 points) and the Presidency (43.4 points). Lithuanians trusted the Seimas least, with a rating of -54.2 points.
And finally, the same Vilmorus poll indicated that President Valdas Adamkus had the highest rating at 56.2 points, followed by MP Kazys Bobelis (49.3 points) and Vilnius Mayor Rolandas Paksas (48.4 points). Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis sat at the bottom of the list at -64.8 points.
Sadly, as it has become traditional, several Nazi flags went up around Vilnius on the anniversary of Hitler's birthday on 20 April. They were quickly removed and officials are launching investigations into the matter.
And in other news...
The Russian State Archives sent its Lithuanian counterpart microfilms of seven books of the Lithuanian Metrica, the records of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The original archives of the Grand Duchy were taken as loot, after the infamous partition of Poland-Lithuania by Russia, Prussia and Austria over 200 years ago.
As of 21 April 2000
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||6.33|
|1 German mark||1.92|
Mel Huang, 21 April 2000