The Riigikogu celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special sitting, where the President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas and President of the Republic Kersti Kaljulaid made speeches.
The President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas pointed out that just around the same time one hundred years ago, 117 men and women had convened in the Estonia Concert Hall. They could rightfully consider themselves the first people’s representatives in Estonia.
“Those brave men and women had no way of taking a lead from external models to solve their complicated tasks, unlike us. There simply were no good role models. Europe was only just coming out of a devastating world war,” Põlluaas noted. He emphasised: “They made their decisions fearlessly and independently. They did not think about the opinions of others. They thought about what the decisions should be like to serve the best interests of the Estonian state and nation. Their support base was their own people, the greatest possible foundation.”
In his speech, Põlluaas stressed the importance of public initiative. “Public initiatives and referendums were viewed as instruments of democracy, not as means for political parties to push their agendas. Just as it is in every country where direct democracy complements representative democracy,” Põlluaas said.
The Constituent Assembly existed for 19 months and 28 days, holding 170 sittings in five sessions. The Constituent Assembly had a wide grasp. “However, the main focus was on two topics: the passing of the Land Act, and, second, the drafting of the Constitution, the foundation of our nationhood, on which to build up the Republic of Estonia and to cement the everlasting dream of our nation – to be the masters in our own country,” Põlluaas noted.
“We have survived destructive historical storms; we persevered and restored our country. We have something to be proud of. I really hope that the members of the current Riigikogu will not forget the democratic and noble principles of the founders of the Republic of Estonia and the Constituent Assembly,” the President of the Riigikogu stressed.
President of the Republic Kersti Kaljulaid said that the parliament was a place to which different opinions convened. “They must be debated and discussed here. The parliament is a place where the people’s representatives most reasonably find their points of agreement, because we all have different wishes and opinions, and our points of agreement can indeed come out only in the course of reasonable discussions,” the President underlined.
“The Riigikogu is the representation of our people, and thus a model for our people. Your every word and opinion is under heightened scrutiny, and shapes the attitude towards not only you but the whole of our country,” the President said. She added that the same also went for the decisions taken in that session hall. If a representative body of a country has turned a hundred years old, citizens require great maturity and a greater responsibility of it, a deeper work on decisions.
“A hundred years ago, there was a lot of enthusiasm and, understandably, little parliamentary experience in the “Estonia” concert hall. By now, we have a sufficient experience, and I would very much like to hope that enthusiasm will never be lacking. We will have a more steadfast Estonia when we respect each other,” Kaljulaid emphasised.
In conclusion, the President repeated what had been said in that session hall at the beginning of April: the spirit of our Constitution is alive when we use democratic values as citizens and patriots of Estonia and let others use them as well.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Chairman of the Administrative Chamber Ivo Pilving, Auditor General Janar Holm and Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise made welcoming speeches, discussing various aspects of the history and activity of the parliament.
On 23 April 1919, the first representative body elected by the people in independent Estonia – the Constituent Assembly – convened in Tallinn. The representative body who adopted the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Land Act, and solved other issues of vital importance for the Republic of Estonia, acted as a parliament. The decisions of the Constituent Assembly laid the foundation for the Republic of Estonia.
At the special sitting, the chamber choir “Collegium Musicale” under conductor Kristel Marandi created a festive atmosphere.
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Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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