Leftist-Green Chairman Defends Committee - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Leftist-Green Chairman Defends Committee

Published September 23, 2010

In an exclusive interview with Grapevine, Leftist-Green chairman Steingrímur J. Sigfússon defended the work of the committee that recommended four former ministers face charges of negligence, and believes their argument for a trial is “convincing”.
While saying he found it “sad” that parliament was faced with pressing charges against its former members, “this was to be expected in light of the SIC Report findings, from reading them it was clear that we needed to examine this part of the collapse just like the others.”
Steingrímur defended the work the committee has done, telling Grapevine: “Since we did have to do it, it was very important that we did it with care and commitment to detail and regulation I think the parliamentary committee did just that; they turned in a very good 200 page report detailing their findings and arguments and reasoning. … I believe the committee did a good job. I think their argument is convincing and that there is a strong case to follow their suggestions.”
The chairman explained that the ministers in question could be facing charges “dealing with failure to do their duties and take action to avert danger” and “at the core the charges pertain to what the committee portrays as a staggering recklessness, a near-criminal negligence. They are being accused of not taking action, or not taking the action they were obligated to.”
When asked if he was particularly worried that indicting former members of parliament would set a precedent, Steingrímur dismissed these concerns.
“Any future effects a possible indictment against these ministers will have is beside the point,” he told us. “We would be on thin ice indeed if we started worrying whether these findings will set a precedent that might eventually be used against other ministers, or ourselves for that matter. This is a separate and independent case and what I or anyone else would prefer do to do is really beside the point. This is a question of each MP reaching a conclusion on the right course of action in this case and voting according to that. We have this responsibility that we cannot shun.”

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The above quotes are an outtake from our massive interview with the Minister of Finance, to be published in tomorrow’s issue. In it, Steingrímur tackles various subjects and gives some pretty revealing answers to stuff we’ve been wondering about (like: why does Parliament seem so utterly incompetent).

Below is our full exchange on this particular subject. Read our full interview on-line and on the streets tomorrow!

Parliament is now in session again after a hefty summer break. What noteworthy things are happening there?

We just received a report from a special Parliamentary committee that investigated the collapse as it relates to Parliament’s work. In their findings they suggest that four former ministers be indicted. This is a big and difficult topic, but it needs to be resolved like the rest of them.
What’s your personal opinion on these findings?

Well, I try not to voice my personal opinion. Of course I think this is very sad… I never imagined Parliament would be faced with indicting its former members. But this was to be expected in light of the SIC Report findings, from reading them it was clear that we needed to examine this part of the collapse just like the others.
Since we did have to do it, it was very important that we did it with care and commitment to detail and regulation. I think the Parliamentary committee did just that; they turned in a very good 200 page report detailing their findings and arguments and reasoning. And the majority of the committee, seven of the nine members, are of the opinion that. There is a large majority within the committee that believes Parliament has a duty to indict at least three ministers. Now Parliament must vote on it.
What would they be charged with?
The report lists a few separate charges. Firstly there are so-called negligence charges dealing with failure to do their duties and take action to avert danger. Their failures to involve the government in the lead-in to the collapse and seek measures to steer us from harms way, or at least minimise the damage. Things like not actively trying to move the IceSave accounts into foreign subsidiaries, which would have cleared the Icelandic state of responsibility.
So they are being accused of criminal negligence?

Yes, at the core the charges pertain to what the committee portrays as a staggering recklessness, a near-criminal negligence. They are being accused of not taking action, or not taking the action they were obligated to take.
As an acting minister, what’s your position in this case in regards to the future. Indicting people with negligence, with failing at their jobs… how will this affect the future work of Parliament?

Of course this is a certain turning point, since this option has not been used until now. But we need to keep in mind that it isn’t every day that such a catastrophic and serious thing as the crash occurs, with devastating effects on society. The danger that was accumulating during these ministers’ reign was  enormous, and the consequences have been vast.
Any future effects a possible indictment against these ministers will have is beside the point. We would be on thin ice indeed if we started worrying whether these findings will set a precedent that might eventually be used against other ministers, or ourselves for that matter. This is a separate and independent case and what I or anyone else would prefer to do is really beside the point. This is a question of each MP reaching a conclusion on the right course of action in this case and voting according to that. We have this responsibility that we cannot shun.
I have first and foremost sought to study the report extensively, to review the committee’s findings and arguments and their supporting documents. After doing that, I believe the committee did a good job. I think their argument is convincing and that there is a strong case to follow their suggestions. That doesn’t mean I am convinced that the indicted parties will be convicted, but that the case is put forth in such a convincing manner that we are obligated to pursue an indictment. Then, of course, no one is guilty until a verdict is passed. My position on that matter will be revealed when we vote on the resolution, but as I may have implied I can’t see that their logic is anything but sound and credible.
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