Letter from Lowry Wyman
February 12, 1991
Dear Vice President Stankevicius:
I feel it is my duty to inform you that what the Parliament did yesterday, in enacting a so-called "Constitutional Law", was the height of lawlessness. On principle, a legislative body cannot enact a law that has constitutional stature, because the legislative branch is subordinate to the Constitution — otherwise, what point is there in having a Constitution! Lithuania cannot free itself from its lawless past by short-circuiting the fundamentals of lawfulness. Lithuania must not pollute its constitution-building process with manifest contempt for the basics of government under law.
I tried to discuss this terrible dilemma with you the moment I heard about this proposed "constitutional" enactment. I attempted to get your attention during the Presidium meeting, but you brushed me off the moment I told you this draft "law" was a big mistake. At your bidding, I discussed it with your colleague, Deputy Lapinskas. He appeared to understand, but would not take any action, saying "it is probably too late." At that time we still had almost two hours before the plenary session, and we could have come up with a constitutional solution — which, incidentally, I proposed — namely, calling the document a Proclamation. Indeed, the very best solution would have been for Parliament to proclaim that the people had spoken, and that the people's will would henceforth be Parliament's command.
After talking with Deputy Lapinskas, I went to Mr. Sinkevicius and Mr. Zilys. Mr. Sinkevicius cited the Czechoslovakian Constitution and then noted that the Parliament was probably going to be "adopting" the next constitution. I objected to Czechoslovakia — another communist country — as a legitimate model for constitutional lawmaking, especially as I had sent several documents last May with commentary from renowned experts to the effect that the new Czechoslovakian constitution was a disaster! I also reminded him of the utter absurdity of the legislative branch "adopting" a Constitution. Mr. Zilys agreed with me that your so-called "Constitutional Law" should be a proclamation, and ultimately both Mr. Zilys and Mr. Sinkevicius urged me to speak personally to President Landsbergis. But his secretary would not allow me to speak to him, so I delivered, through another deputy, a copy of a letter that Barnabas had just written -translated into Lithuanian — to President Landsbergis. As a final effort to stop this absurdity, I spoke to Deputy Serksnys, who said it was too late.
It is never too late to remedy legal incompetence or to renew respect for the law. I must say that at this juncture both Barnabas and I feel that you and your colleagues are showing great disrespect for the law — whether out of ignorance, stupidity, Lithuanian pride, or politics. This is very dangerous, and the result will not be a constitutional democracy but a society in which the law has no meaning, and thus where dictatorship will inevitably reappear.
Lithuania's 1922 Constitution was an utterly incompetent document -an invitation to constitutional crises, which is exactly what Lithuania thereafter had. Later constitutions were even worse. Your present "Constitution" has served you very badly (for example, the functions of head of state and head of government are utterly confused), and it will continue to bedevil Lithuania until it is replaced by a constitution-building process that is competent, law-abiding, and free from absurdity.
I sympathize with Lithuania's plight, but I cannot countenance legal absurdities. We are told that Lithuania is at war, and cannot afford legal niceties. But don't you understand: Lithuania is at war with communist lawlessness, Soviet absurdity, institutionalized idiocy -and you can only fight against these by turning your back upon them and embracing law, reason, wisdom. The law, to be worthy of that name, cannot — must not — be absurd. In this connection, I must say very candidly that all the laws produced by your legislature during the past several months are utterly absurd, incompetent. This is a calamitous situation! My husband and I have been reluctant to be so candid, but it has become clear to us that your country's legal incompetence is just as serious a threat to your future happiness and prosperity as is the Soviet Union. The theory and general conception of a new Constitution of Lithuania that we have prepared (and are now having translated) is the only vehicle or recipe for Lithuanian liberation from communist lawlessness and absurdity that we can see having any chance of saving your country not only from Soviet domination but also from internal incompetence.
The struggle against lawlessness and contempt for the law must be waged, first and foremost, in your own Parliament. If you don't attend to this problem immediately — if you don't make it absolutely clear that the law — processes of lawfulness — must be respected, nourished, and cherished — you and all your colleagues will be responsible for Lithuania's failure to seize this historic opportunity to create a genuine constitutional democracy. Parliamentary lawlessness will "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" — and the historic opportunity for genuine reform will be lost, perhaps forever.
You are a very nice person, warm-hearted, devoted to your country; I believe that your intentions are good, as are those of your colleagues; but I am honestly very worried about your understanding of the role of law, and your devotion to the rule of law. Unless I am convinced that you and your colleagues are determined to create a genuine constitutional democracy, a real government under law, I cannot serve you.
Lithuania will never truly be free unless the people who make the law know what the law is and devote themselves to preserving it for themselves and future generations.
Very truly yours,
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