PBLA supports referendum on security law changes

The World Federation of Free Latvians has added its support to calling a popular referendum on the fate of two controversial changes to Latvia’s security laws.

The board of the federation (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA) adopted a resolution April 11 supporting President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga’s March 10 decision to freeze implementation of the amendments.

The resolution further notes that 32 stations have been set up at Latvian embassies and consulates so citizens living abroad can sign petitions asking for a referendum on the amendments. More than 600 stations are open in Latvia itself.

The amendments to the National Security Law and the State Law on Security Institutions were pushed through in January by a Cabinet of Ministers decree while the Saeima, Latvia’s parliament, was in recess. The parliament approved the amendments on Feb. 1, but Vīķe-Freiberga vetoed them eight days later. The parliament overrode the veto on March 1. On March 10, Vīķe-Freiberga for the first time in her eight-year presidency invoked her constitutional power to freeze implementation of a law, which set in motion the call for a popular referendum.

Just days before the petition drive began April 3, the Saeima rescinded the changes, returning the security laws to their original wording before January’s decree. However, the process of collecting signatures must continue. Some observers have said that if a referendum occurs, it will be a test of the measure of confidence voters have in the Saeima and in the government coalition led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis.

Although the PBLA resolution does not explicitly say it, Jānis Andersons, head of the federation’s represenative office in Rīga, clarified in an e-mail that the board did not agree with the amendments. Among changes in the security laws was the makeup of the National Security Council, which has oversight of the country’s security institutions. Under the amendments, the council would be led by the prime minister and would consist of the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior and justice—rather than the heads of the security institutions themselves.

The PBLA is an umbrella organization representing the American Latvian Association, the Latvian National Federation in Canada, the Latvian Association of Australia and New Zealand, the European Latvian Association, the South American Latvian Association and the Russian Latvian Congress.

The American Latvian Association on March 31 also adopted a resolution supporting the call for a referendum and urging Latvian citizens in the United States to sign the petition.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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