Ministers wanted to stop Estonia report

Estonian cabinet ministers wanted to stop the publication of an interim report into the Estonia ferry disaster, according to a government source. The report is contraversial and gives credence to a number of theories on the sinking.

When the latest interim report landed on the cabinet's table in Tallinn last week, certain ministers wanted to stop its publication, according to TT's source in the government.

Although the twelve page report had been ready for three weeks, only prime minister, Andrus Ansip, and justice minister, Rein Lang, had been allowed to read it in advance. A leak was feared before a decision about publication could be taken.

The sensitivity is obvious. Contraversial questions around the sinking of the Estonia, previously only asked by so called conspiracy theorists, have now been taken on in an official document by the Estonian government's expert inquiry. One of those questions concerns the possibility of an explosion occurring onboard.

The four members of the inquiry panel report to justice minister Lang of the Reform party. Now, the leader of the Centre party, Edgar Savisaar, has got approval for his suggestion that the communications minister appoint a fifth member.

Sources in the Centre party have told TT that they simply want some insight in the inquiry's future work. There are fears that pressure will be put on the panel. Chairmain of the inquiry, Margus Kurm, is now described with a certain amount of pride in the Estonian press as an agitator.

Estonians still recall Swedish accusations of substandard Estonian maritime safety in the aftermath of the disaster. Now, the 29 year old assistant prosecutor general has, to everyone's surprise, turned an irritating spotlight on the Swedish authorities.

The turn of events has occurred following more than 80 interviews, including a number in Sweden.

One which can be said to have gained legitimacy in the new report is the interview with the unofficial Swedish investigator and maritime safety expert, Anders Bjrkman.

Bjrkman claims that the cause of the disaster was not that the bow doors broke, but that water poured in through a major leak on the starboard side. The international inquiry's experts have dismissed that theory. But the Estonian inquiry has now repeated Bjrkman's claim and maintained that a leak due to an explosion cannot be discounted.

The inquiry supports the theory partly by referring to a video-taped account of a secret Swedish diving operation said to have been carried out days after the accident. The operation is supposed to have discovered a four metre wide hole on the starboard side, which would have been consistent with an explosion.

It's clear that the first expert investigation which the Estonian government has ever appointed has ventured into a political minefield.

Andy Butterworth


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