Conference in Toronto on Proposed New Armenian Constitution

Exposing the Proposed New Armenian Constitution

Renaissance Report, Toronto, 30 November 2015

Positive words about President Serge Sargsyan and the new Armenian constitution he is promoting were as rare as snowballs in the Sahara Desert at the Nov. 21 conference organized by the Toronto chapter of Armenian Renaissance. The new constitution is set to be voted by the citizens of Armenia on Dec. 6. Below is a transcript of the four-hour conference. Conference speakers delved into the details of the origins and content of the proposed constitution and disclosed concerning rather concealed elements that would perpetuate oligarchic governance of Armenia, said the organizers. The conference can be viewed at USTREAM. It is in two parts. Scroll to 20 minutes into part I for the start of the conference. A YouTube version is being prepared.

Ara Papian, former ambassador of Armenia to Canada (2000 – 2006) and founder-director of Modus Vivendi;  Dr. Armen Mazmanian, director of the Apella Institute for Policy Analysis and Dialogue and its Center for Constitutional Studies in Yerevan; and Magdalena Yesil, visiting professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in the U.S.; Davit Hovhannisyan, civic activist Varuzhan Avetisyan, until recently senior officer-lawyer in the Armed Forces of Armenia addressed the gathering. Avetisyan has held important posts at the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia as head of the International Legal-Treaty Division, and as deputy-head of the International Military Cooperation and Defense Programs Department. He has also worked at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, at the Office of Military Prosecutor, and has lectured for the Officers' Executive Course. He is spokesperson of the New Hayastan opposition group.

Exposing the Proposed New Armenian Constitution

Renaissance Report, Toronto, 30 November 2015

Positive words about President Serge Sargsyan and the new Armenian constitution he is promoting were as rare as snowballs in the Sahara Desert at the Nov. 21 conference organized by the Toronto chapter of Armenian Renaissance. The new constitution is set to be voted by the citizens of Armenia on Dec. 6. Below is a transcript of the four-hour conference. Conference speakers delved into the details of the origins and content of the proposed constitution and disclosed concerning rather concealed elements that would perpetuate oligarchic governance of Armenia, said the organizers. The conference can be viewed at USTREAM. It is in two parts. Scroll to 20 minutes into part I for the start of the conference. A YouTube version is being prepared.

Ara Papian, former ambassador of Armenia to Canada (2000 – 2006) and founder-director of Modus Vivendi;  Dr. Armen Mazmanian, director of the Apella Institute for Policy Analysis and Dialogue and its Center for Constitutional Studies in Yerevan; and Magdalena Yesil, visiting professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in the U.S.; Davit Hovhannisyan, civic activist Varuzhan Avetisyan, until recently senior officer-lawyer in the Armed Forces of Armenia addressed the gathering. Avetisyan has held important posts at the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia as head of the International Legal-Treaty Division, and as deputy-head of the International Military Cooperation and Defense Programs Department. He has also worked at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, at the Office of Military Prosecutor, and has lectured for the Officers' Executive Course. He is spokesperson of the New Hayastan opposition group.

 
In his opening remarks moderator Dr. Berge Minassian asked: Why is there disproportionate participation in Armenian Renaissance of health care providers who previously were in leadership positions in the Armenian Medical International Committee?” He answered his question that while the medical Diaspora has been able to  undertake small projects in Armenia, such as clinics, attempts at fundamentally transforming health care and education in the country have failed because of edifice of corruption. He mentioned that the current minister of health of Artsakh, while the long-time minister of health of Armenia owns the lion’s share of health care institutions of Yerevan. The other half is the private property of friends, relatives and in-laws of the president of the country. At the medical school, the excellent dean around whom the medical Diaspora and the AGBU had coalesced to modernize the school was fired and replaced by a figurehead dean controlled by the brother of President Sargsyan’s brother-in-law. The brother-in-law happens to own the massive Sourp Krikor Loussavoritch hospital. His son is Armenia’s ambassador at the Vatican. His family is one of the wealthiest in Armenia, and it recently bought a Roman villa near the Pope’s Villa Borghese.
 
“The problem is not only in the direct corruption exemplified by the above but just as much in the lies in which the country and our nation swims. The owner of Sourp Krikor, on paper, is merely the administrator, but in effect is the absolute owner,” said the moderator and that a few years ago the Toronto All-Armenia fund had sent several hundred thousand dollars to this hospital. To whom did at least part of this money go the moderator rhetorically asked.

“Returning to medical education, there are more medical schools in Armenia than in the Canadian province of Ontario. All are private businesses owned by the oligarchy producing countless unqualified physicians. It is eminently possible in today’s Armenia to become a surgeon without ever having performed surgery,” said Dr. Minassian and stressed that these were mere examples from the area he’s familiar with. The same situation permeates the entire economy, and it is impossible to impart meaningful transformational change to the country as long as institutional corruption is so heavily in place. Dr. Minassian concluded by recalling what he had read in Bishop Balakian’s genocide memoirs. The group of women who had sheltered the then-young priest nearly all the way to Der el-Zor, by then near-dead skeletons, whispered: “may this too be madagh, but let’s after this have our Armenia”. Dr. Minassian then asked: “How can we, at the centennial of the red Genocide weep for these grandmothers while we remain silent in the face of the white Genocide driving the depopulation of our country and leading our nation to oblivion?
 
Papian asked: “What point is there to our genocide-related claims if we have no Armenia left?” He said the depopulation trend is catastrophic. “The economy is worsening. This year it decreased by 14% with our prime partner Russia over last year. “The 1990s were bad, but the people had hope. The chronic unchanging institutional corruption has led to hopelessness which fuels the exodus. The knife has reached the bone and it is time we speak up, the Diaspora included. If nothing changes we will be the last generation to see an Armenia”  The former ambassador added: “I used to say ‘let’s not speak, it will pass…’ But experience has shown me that silence makes things worse and we are nearing the point of no return. That we are approaching the precipice is evident when the United States ambassador declared publicly last week that the ongoing corruption in Armenia is bringing the end of the country. If a foreign ambassador, and that of a world power, is openly saying this means something.”
           
Papian said: “They speak of constitutional reforms, but what we have is a wholly new constitution, which has gone from 117 points to 202. What is being proposed is not a change to a parliamentary system but a change to one-party rule akin to the old Soviet system. A number of Warsaw Pact countries had several parties in parliament in addition to the Communist Party, but these were mere window dressing. What is being proposed is the establishment of a shadow government that will rule the country. It is the head of the ruling party who will decide who can be a member of parliament and who will be prime minister and president–the latter two, as a result, will be wholly dependent on the party leader.”
 
The former ambassador elaborated “At the same time there is a divestment and blurring of responsibility. In the current constitution’s 49th point the president guarantees the independence and territorial integrity of the country. In the proposed constitution, no one does. If one day, hypothetically, the ruling regime decides to join Armenia to Russia or Turkey, whose responsibility will it be?”
 
The campaign for the constitution vote is being run in completely unfair manner, said Papian. “For example, the head of the military Seyran Ohanian is calling for a “yes” vote, in utter contravention of the current constitution which bars the military from taking sides, likewise the prime minister. The eye is scared of what it has seen.  Those supporting the proposed constitution claim that parliamentary systems are more democratic. This is untrue. There are equally excellent democracies of both types. It is the implementation, not the type of system that matters. It is claimed that the parliamentary system spreads power. This is not so in the system proposed in Armenia. The requirement to have a ‘stable majority’ is designed to concentrate, not distribute, power,” he added.
 
“Human rights will suffer under the proposed constitution. The proposed constitution states that the person is a supreme value but let’s compare this to the previous constitution which states that the person, his honor, and his rights are supreme values. Therefore, with the new constitution human rights become dependent on the law, and in a country where laws are manipulated, where the judiciary is not independent, human rights will be curtailed,” said Papian. “Throughout the proposed constitution key issues pertaining to human rights, compared to the current constitution, are blurred, made unclear, including property rights, assembly rights, etc. In the proposed constitution ‘morality’, ‘the country’s economic interests’, ‘national security’ become reasons by which human rights can be overruled. For example, this conference could be deemed to endanger ‘national security’ and prevented. In the current constitution one cannot be compelled to incriminate relatives. This was the case, though on paper, even in the Soviet constitution. The proposed constitution blurs this and brings in reasons whereby this basic common right is overruled by a simple decision of the police that what you have to say will not damage your relative. These are mere examples of the muddying of waters that will render totalitarian rule simpler,” stressed the former ambassador.  Also in the new constitution Diaspora Armenians can no longer serve as ministers. This includes dual citizens of Armenian birth. 
           
In answer to the question as to why the Venice Commission had approved the proposed constitution, the ambassador reported there is now evidence that what was sent to the commission was a partial version of what the people will be voting on. “Furthermore, the commission had numerous criticisms, which are not being disclosed to the public. The commission’s conclusion was: ‘if the following changes are made to the text it would be a good constitution’, but the changes were never made. Additionally, the European entities are not closely familiar with our country and the creativity of its oligarchy in circumventing the law for its private benefit. As such, the blurring in the proposed constitution is much more dangerous in the Armenian reality than it would be in a normal democracy. Finally, and related to the latter point, we should look at what is going on critically, and decide for ourselves, with our recent history, what is tightest and best constitution for our country,” said Papian.
 
The ambassador said the huge majority of the population is opposed to the proposed constitution. “Armenia’s debt was $1.5 billion eight years ago. It is now $5.5 billion. We are taking on $1.5 million in debt every day.  As a result, we are selling the country, starting with Artsakh–in exchange for Azerbaijan to enter the Eurasian Union,” he added.
 
He concluded by saying that the proposed constitution is worse than the previous one and it is being proposed for purposes which have nothing to do with ‘reforms’. “The people have reached their limit. One villager told president Sargsyan: ‘You are forcing us to revolt.’ The regime is forcing the people to outburst and revolution.  This must be stopped. The regime members should rise above their private interests and work for the people, not to rob the people. We are about to lose our country and become ourselves nothing more than subjects of memoirs,” concluded Papian.
 
The complete presentation of Dr. Armen Mazmanyan’s comments can be accessed by clicking at Ինչո՞ւ «ոչ»   The Apella Institute for Policy Analysis and Dialogue has also published a paper "Opinion on Constitutional Reforms in Armenia".
 
Here are highlights of Dr. Mazmanyan's talk. He also focused on the substantial reduction in human rights that will come with the proposed constitution. He said that what instigated the development of the proposed constitution was the regime’s fear of its impeding downfall. The 2013 ‘almost’ election of Raffi Hovhannisian showed that the regime is in danger. The original version of the proposed constitution acknowledged that the purpose is to defend against popular uprisings.
           
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the regime to manipulate elections. The proposed system reduces the number and thus expense of elections as well as opportunities for the people to take to the street and gather momentum for change. The parliamentary and presidential elections are wrapped into one, and local elections are spread out to five years,” said Dr. Mazmanian.
 
He also emphasized that the proposed constitution will lead to much more, not less, centralization. “In the current system there is separation between legislative and executive branches of government. In the proposed system they are fused into one, and because of the particularity of ‘stable majority’, basically all comes under the control of the ruling party. We have seen in post-Soviet states that when a single party has all the power, discourse and opposition fade away and turmoil rises. In Ukraine, for example, when opposing parties (West- leaning Yushenko and East-leaning Yanukovych) had leadership posts, all was well, because of ongoing national debate and give-and-take. When power concentrated in one, there was chaos and eventually revolt. In the proposed constitution, consensus building is removed and oligarchs perpetuate their control.”
 
Davit Hovhannisyan, chartered accountant and young activist who helped create the "You Won't Pass" NGO, said that there was no popular demand for any sort of constitutional change. “The proposed constitution is engendered by a man who is about to lose power. In the proposed system, there will be a monopoly of power, which will further entrench the monopoly of the economy. This will accelerate the demographic catastrophe and endanger national security.” 
All-powerful Sargsyan will yield to anything to retain power, especially.to foreign pressure. Foreign powers will more easily control the country through a totally dependent and subservient strongman. The proposed constitution will reduce the ability of the people to stop him.”
 
Varuzhan Avetisyan said: “Armenia is at the precipice and the people have to rise in peaceful civil disobedience. This will begin Dec.1 at 18:00 and will continue on through the constitutional voting day. This action has two goals: first, when the people move into the street it will be a show of force declaring to the regime that the opposition is alive and is watching and will not allow stealing of the vote. Second, it is anticipated that the constant civil disobedience will gather steam, will grow, and gradually push the regime out.”
 
The Q & A went on for one hour. In answer to a question about parliament parties in Armenia, Papian said that none of the parties (with the exception of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the early years of the republic) are true political parties. “They are nothing more than business interests there to benefit their and their friends’ businesses. Sargsyan was not a member of his party until he joined and two weeks later became its head. The Armenian political reality is that the regime rules in mafia-style with active discretization, active infiltration and an absolute fear of losing power. The regime acts in a totalitarian mode ( it feels that it needs to have total control).
 
Papian then cited an example of how the government tries to control even research into historical themes. At present he is doing research on the post-Genocide Wilsonian period. He was visited by officer guards of the president and subtly threatened not to work on historical issues without the approval of the regime. Likewise, the regime wants to be involved and control all major humanitarian work. In normal democracies, the ruling party knows that playing by the rules is crucial for the country to continue succeeding and that even its own benefits are dependent on a successful country. In Armenia, the regime will yield nothing, and if it feels threatened it will undoubtedly use force. 
 
The former ambassador reported that there have not been free elections in Armenia for one or two decades and no one believes anything will change in Armenia through elections. “Stalin said: ‘It is not important how you vote, but how we count.’ Everything is decided before and after the elections. If they bribe or threaten, it’s all before and after. By official government numbers the population in Armenia in 1995 was 3.7 million of who 2.1 million were eligible voters. The number now, as per government sources, is 3.1 million, of whom 2.6 million are eligible. As such, while we seem to have lost 0.6 million people, somehow we have gained 0.5 million eligible voters,” said the ambassador and added that ex-president Kocharyan had an arrangement with Sargsyan for a Putin/Medvedev-style switching to perpetuate their rule. However, they are now in discord and the only possibility left for Sargsyan is the invention of this new party-system through which he will control the country. This would be similar to the Stalin years when Stalin had no government post but as leader of the ruling party had total control,” said Papian.
 
In answer to a question from the audience, Avetisyan explained that the army and the police are with the people.  He emphasized that the situation is so dire that the people will eventually rebel… if nothing is done to preempt the grab for power. “The proposal for peaceful civil disobedience is the last and only resort. If the people do come to the street and do participate in civil disobedience, and if this blossoms, the regime will have no choice but to relinquish.” He said that since he is from the top echelons of the army and knows the army, the army will not fire on the people, and that the army has no interest and no organization to take power. The police will fade away, and soon will also the regime, if the people maintain civil disobedience.”  
 
In response to another question about the civil disobedience devolving into a Maydan-style protracted problem, Avetisyan said that Armenian society does not have the linguistic, religious, and ethnic divisions of other countries. “It is merely the impoverished people and the absolutist regime. There is no social background to lead to any sort of protracted conflict,” he said.
 
Avetisyan also reminded the audience that the real population of Armenia is close to 2 million, and that 35% of the people are below the poverty line as per the government’s statement.  He said that many in the Diaspora simply do not want to see these realities in Armenia…that our country is depopulated, that we do not have men to go into the army, and that the regime is giving the country away.
 
In answer to a question about Georgia, Papian described the failed state of Georgia until Saakashvili came to power. “The subsequent development of the country has been meteoric. Presently, businesses, including Armenian businessmen, much prefer to work in Georgia than in Armenia. Even the very transfer of power from Saakashvili to the opposition shows the huge democratic development that took place in Georgia and is urgently needed in Armenia,” said the former ambassador.
 
In reply to an audience question as to whether there is something hidden in the background that is prompting  interest in constitution change, ambassador Papian said that one cannot be sure, but can only speculate. He said: “The Russian media, which is state-controlled, has reported that Foreign Minister Lavrov has declared lands surrounding Karabagh, presently under Armenian control, should be given to Azerbaijan. Mardirossian, a high-ranking member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, has agreed. Markov, President Putin’s representative, has said: ‘Who are the Armenians that they should have independence? We always protected them.’ Here, the proposed constitution blurs responsibility. The president is able to say: ‘I am not in charge, you the people elected these parliamentarians, and they in your name did this or that. During Lavrov’s recent visit to Armenia, news reports were circulated that 54% of Armenians want to join Russia. Speculatively, if one day the government decides to take such a step, and knowing the working style of the Armenian regime, they would say: you the people decided so, the polls showed as much, you voted this parliament with its stable majority, and the latter acceded to the people’s wish.’”
 
The speakers also said that the Diaspora and Armenia are vanishing. “We will turn into a people with memories and then the memory will fade,” said one speaker. Another said: “Our biggest enemy is time. There is no country like us. All other countries have time and can wallow in extractive rule for any number of decades. We have no more than 20 years. After that, we will become folklore in the Diaspora.”  Yet another speaker said|: “This is the worst time in Armenian history. For the first time we have fewer people born than dying. In the demographic sense this is worse than the post-Genocide period, where in the new republic we could see that we would grow. Now, we are dying, and unless this course is reversed soon, it will be too late.”

 

16 comments
  1. Opening Our Eyes

    Finally we are opening our eyes and realizing that the THUGOCRATIC regime of Serge Sargsyan is leading Armenia to total destruction. Finally we are realizing that our own government  in Armenia is marching its citizens to Der el-Zor. We better understand that if the new constitution is approved by the people, in a short time Armenia will cease to exist as a country. It's not any more a matter of "waking up and smelling the coffee". It is a matter of survival. Let's be fully aware of the dangers and consequences of such a risky game.

  2. Presumtive

    Like Mark Twain had written about the presumptive rumors of his serious illness and demise…"The report of my death is premature."

    The politically motivated event and article sounds like another premature obituary of the Republic of Armenia.

    The "We The People…" based United States Constitution came about due to the revolt by the elite "Robber Barons" of the time…. (yes, including George Washington and John Hancock; the "Financiers" of the American Revolution… against "Taxation without representation"… which might not be an unlikely scenario in Armenia's future next, with the fast developments taking place in the region.

  3. Let’s see: I’ll start with

    Let’s see:

    I’ll start with Mr. Papian. He is a good man. Cares about Armenia. I have spoken to him at community functions. His massive  book re Wilsonian Armenia, is one of a kind. A very valuable work for our Cause. 
    But Mr. Papian has always been anti-Russia, and anti-EEU. Since day 1. RoA's pro-Russia and pro-EEU orientation is not to his liking. He'd rather RoA join EU and be under the thumb of Washington D.C. Not sure how that will benefit RoA, but that's what Mr. Papian advocates. 

    Don’t  know Dr. Mazmanian. But the position says it all:  “Director of Apella Institute for Policy Analysis and Dialogue and its Center for Constitutional Studies”.
    Another group of people that do nothing useful all day but bloviate about ephemeral, impractical ‘things’, while young Armenian men are being killed by Turks at the LOC. Nice job if you can get it. 

    Mr.  Hovhannisyan, Civic Activist. Yes, of course. I always wanted to become a “civic activist”, but was rejected at the University of Civic Activism.

    Mr. Avetisyan is presently spokesperson of the New Hayastan opposition group. I am sure a spokesman for an opposition group has no bias.

    “The ambassador, replying to another question said that the huge majority of the population is opposed to the proposed constitution. “

    How does the ambassador know ?
    If he is right, then he has nothing to worry about, correct ?
    The referendum will fail by a huge majority of voters of RoA.
    Or it will pass overwhelmingly, and the “opposition”, as usual, will not gracefully accept defeat at the ballot box and  go away, but will cry ‘foul’,  again, and launch another one of their costly, disruptive marches.

  4. Doesn’t Avery get tired?

    Doesn't Avery get tired of denigrating people by pointing associations instead of addressing contents discussed, proposed, suggested in articles and comments? Who "bloviate"s? Him or the many authors of articles and commentators?

    We got it, he is all for Russia and its presumed benevolence towards Armenia and Armenians. The elections in Armenia were allegedly fair and the majority rules.

    Give us a break! I wonder why Keghart.com continues to post, sorry for the expression, regurgitations.

    Daniel

    1. Sorry, No. Avery doesn’t get tired

      Sorry, No. Avery doesn’t get tired of rebutting, bloviating,  regurgitating, or bullying.

      Here is one reason why: “The elections in Armenia were allegedly fair and the majority rules.”
      The classic kettle calling the pot black: “allegedly” ? 
      And Avery is the one that regurgitates ?

      Yes, “fair”: By the observations and evaluation  of dozens of organizations that  had no  connection  to RPA, 1000s of independent  observers, volunteers, etc, etc, the RoA Presidential election of Feb 2013  was adjudged most free, fair and democratic in RoA to date. Example: [“Having been in the country for six weeks, we can say that candidates were able to campaign freely and fundamental freedoms were respected. Overall, the election was administered in a professional manner and real efforts were made by the authorities to improve the quality of the voter lists. The media covered all candidates in a rather balanced manner, but that coverage would have benefitted from more critical analysis and debates between candidates,” said Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, the Head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) long-term election observation mission.] (YEREVAN, 19 February 2013).

      Again, one of the main reasons I bloviate and regurgitate is the sort of misinformation the particular  sentence which you wrote represents.
      Despite all the overwhelming  evidence to the contrary, people who have some kind of a beef against the RoA President continue promulgating the lie.
      To the detriment of our Cause and our Nation.
      And it is a boldface lie: prove me wrong with verifiable facts.
      So is this: “- Serge Sargsyan already cheated in 2008 and in 2013.” (Varuj).
      Another boldface lie.

      Fact: President Sargsyan won 58% to 37%. Fair and square. A crushing landslide win for  the incumbent.
      And if Prosperous Party had fielded a candidate, Mr. Hovanissian would have gotten no more than about  5%.
      Verify for yourself: Heritage Party routinely gets no more than 5% in Parliamentary elections. Every election. 
      Prosperous gets about 20%.
      RPA gets 50%+.
      Reason Hovanissian got 37% is Prosperous-block and protest voters gave him their votes.
      He is a political nobody.
      Don’t believe me ? His calls for “massive” rallies result in 50-100 people showing up.
      Mostly pensioners looking for free entertainment.

      As to why moderators @Keghart continue publishing my posts: why don’t you ask them privately;  there is a ‘Contact Us’ button at top of the site.

      1. Thank you Avery for being the tireless defender of the truth

        I have never met Avery in person, but have followed his posts in various media and am happy there is someone like him not taking the BS we often get from those who have an axe to grind.

        Avery jan, I found an effective way to convince readers that Armenian elections, though far from perfect, did result in getting the person with the largest number of votes elected. It suffices to quote from the opposition's writings. May I suggest to the disbelievers to read an article published on Keghart.com by non-other than Karabagh-war-hero, turned opposition activist, Jirayr Sefilian, July 7, 2015 entitled "Civil Disobedience Only Solution" (just search for this title on Keghart and you'll get the article).

        In his article, Sefilyan clearly demonstrates that the Republican Party does have the required number of backers among the voters in Armenia to win without any need to cheat.

        It is unfortunate that so many of our compatriots have bought concocted stories created by the political opposition and have contributed to creating a negative image about Armenia, our homeland!

        1. Thank you for the kind words

          Thank you for the kind words, Mr. Terjanian.

          "It is unfortunate that so many of our compatriots have bought concocted stories created by the political opposition and have contributed to creating a negative image about Armenia, our homeland!"

          Exactly: negative image about Armenia, OUR Homeland!

          God bless the Great Armenian Nation. 

          1. Writing Style

            Dear Avery,

            I admire your dedication to our nation/homeland and agree with many of the things you have said re our many challenges. Perhaps the reason some people find your comments objectionable is not what you say but the way you say it.  Allow me to make two friendly suggestions: comment on the facts/opinion and not the deliverer; you don't have to crack a head to change the other side's view.

          2. Mesrob: I greatly appreciate

            Mesrob: I greatly appreciate you admiring the little I do for our Cause. But I deserve no admiration. What I do is write posts from  a safe office. Nothing admirable about that. And I can assure you it is no false modesty. Will tell you why below.

            Someone like me should not stand out. The reason I stand out is because what Mr. Terjanian wrote above: "It is unfortunate that so many of our compatriots have bought concocted stories created by the political opposition.." There should be dozens like me pointing out the outright lies about RoA  that have taken root. Not just one or two.

            Now the story as to why I do not deserve admiration: far from it.  While we were exchanging comments on the pages of Keghart past few days from our safe rooms/offices, another one of our Nation's young men was KIA defending our homeland from Turkic invaders: [According to the Defense Ministry of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR), NKR Defense Army serviceman Erik Grigoryan (b. 1995) was killed early on Dec. 4 in a gunfight following a penetration attempt by the Azerbaijani army into the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh.](ArmenianWeekly)

            Young men like that are due all our collective admiration and support. Not a wordsmith like me.
            They stand watch in cold, heat, dust, rain, shine, snow, ….literally putting their lives on the line.
            RoA and NKR at war: many of us forget that in Diaspora because we are so far away from danger.
            Because RoA and NKR are at war, I cannot play nice-nice with other posters.

            Sorry, Mesrob: under the circumstances I have no choice but to be direct.
            Take care.

        2. Dear Antoine, Please let us

          Dear Antoine,

          Please let us keep it civilized. BS we often get from those who have an axe to grind? Really? How about if someone accuses those who love Serge Sargsyan, BS from those with lucrative government/oligarch contracts, it wouldn't be fair, would it?

          You may also like to read what Jirayr Sefilyan says in" Civil disobedience only solution" that you are referring to, a second time. He says "majority of voters (about 700,000 and 800,000 unwillingly and forcibly appear  under the control of the regime". Unwillingly and forcibly means fraud in simple English. Now, you may not agree with what he is saying. But that is what he is saying, and there is no point in trying to twist it.

          1. Apologies to Mr. Varuj

            Mr. Varuj:

            I personally know several excellent patriots and good men with the first name Varuj. I love them all dearly. If you are one of them, then your use of the terms of endearment is justified.

            Please accept my apologies for using the term "BS" in describing the fabricated and exaggerated stories circulated by some partisan members of the "not so loyal" opposition in Armenia. You are correct and I appreciate dealing with people who wish the discussion to be held at a higher standard.

            On your advice, I have re-read carefully what Mr. Sefilian wrote in his article "Civil Disobedience Only Solution" and while I can see the point you are trying to make, I suggest readers look carefully at what Mr. Sefilian admitted. I am sure that a reasonable reader will understand that all the talk of stuffed ballots and "illegitimate President" we heard in the past are an exaggeration if not a total fabrication.

            I am not a member of any political party nor do I have any particular sympathies with members of the government in power or the so-called large investors/oligarchs and would have no objection at all to see a change of government in Armenia, but on condition it is done legally and democratically. I find it unfortunate that some of us have given-up "convincing" members of the Armenian electorate to switch to a better government, and have opted for a "revolution" instead.

            I, unfortunately, left Armenia the day the "revolution started" and am writing this from Africa not knowing firsthand what is happening there at this moment. In Soviet times "Radio Yerevan" reported a joke. It went like this: Interviewer: – Will Communism succeed in Armenia? Answer: – Perhaps, but why don't they try that first in Azerbaijan.

            As a good patriot that I am sure you are, I wonder what YOUR answer would be to the question: Will the Sefilyan revolution succeed in Armenia?

          2. Will the Sefilyan revolution succeed in Armenia?

            Antoine,

            I should note that Jirair Sefilyan has not advocated revolution. He advocates civil disobedience in his article.

            My answer to the question you raised.

            It is very unlikely that Jirair Sefilyan’s advocacy to bring about change by civil disobedience will succeed in Armenia in the face of the entrenched government bureaucracy and the economic hegemony of the upper class. Therein lies the reality. I find it sad.

          3. Thank you Mr. Apelian

            Dear Vahe:
            Your input and wisdom are sincerely appreciated.
            You are correct in stating that Mr. Sefilyan advocated, in the article I quoted, changing the regime through peaceful civil disobedience. He did not mention the word "revolution" in that article. He did however declare on Dec 1, 2015 that "the revolution has started".
            Revolutions have only brought harm and destruction throughout history, and I feel our people have suffered enough.

          4. Dear Antoine, Before answering your question

            Dear Antoine,

            Before answering your question let me say the following; I really don't care if the president of Armenia was Serge Sargsyan, or say, Boghos Boghosian, or Siranush Kebabjian. I even wouldn't care if that President stayed in power for the next thirty years and there were some irregularities in his elections.  I have no illusions about western democracies. All I care is, whoever that President is, that he/she is a compassionate and ethical person, a just person, and a person who will deserve the trust of the Armenians around the world. When that happens, I believe Armenia  has the potential to be one of the best counties in the world.

            Coming back to your question, I feel that, I  have neither the qualifications, nor as a Diaspora Armenian have the right to talk about Jirayr Sefilyan's revolution. All I can say, as a distant observer is that Mr. Sefilyan and many other people around his entourage have in my humble opinion the potential of becoming that trusted leader. I say potential, because as Karabakh committee member Ashod Manucharyan often states, many of the present day corrupt Armenian politicians apparently started as very honest individuals. That is why I think, Diaspora's role as a genuine watchdog of Armenian politics (presently absent) is very important.

            I have not a single doubt about your love and dedication to Armenia. We just see things differently as they stand. And that can only be healthy.

          5. Glad we are together

            Dear Varuj:

            Thank you for clarifying your position. I believe you and I agree on many things and our positions on items we agree to disagree on, aren't that far apart either..

            Armenia is in pain, and despite the huge progress I have witnessed in the past 13 years there is so much more room for improvement, and there is still a lot of suffering. To me, despite noticeable improvement, our number one problem is still "corruption", and the fact that everyone in Armenia participates in it.

            Yes, as you said, our diaspora can play a positive role. Since the legitimacy of elections is constantly being questioned and the presence of diasporan observers seems to correlate with the absence of cheating, then why not have diasporan impartial observers in all 1923 polling stations. Surely this can be done.
            For my part, I was like you, believing the exaggerated stories from the opposition vying for political power, until I observed the elections myself and took my own video footage and up-loaded it on youtube for all to see. If you are interested you can search you tube for these titles that I posted (sorry, I don't know how to add an http link on Keghart):

            -"The peaceful scene during elections in Armenia"
            – "Ant1 objects to the presence of Pres Sargsyan's portrait near voting room"
            – "Republican rally y Pres Sargsyan (2) end of speech and walk into crowd"
            – "ANC LTP rally y Apr 26,12 (9) LTP leaves stage"
            – "Republican rally y Pres Sargsyan (4) grievances-requests"

            Please note, that our group had selected the polling districts where "we" believed there was the highest likelihood of cheating in the previous election. I can assure you that I kept full track of the process in that polling district and verified the ballot counting and the results published by the Electoral Commission against the numbers we had recorded for our district. They matched exactly.

            I am a statistician by profession and have read the "Hokus-pokus" analysis by some opposition activists (or people who have an axe to grind with the regime) thinking there is statistical proof the elections were falsified. These are just "hokus-pokus".

            Armenian voters have every right and possibility to change the people who govern them, when they are convinced that the alternative is better. There is no need to demonize our own Armenian leaders. No need to create hatred among us. No need for a revolution, unless it is based on social progress.

  5. Thank You for Publishing

    Thank you for publishing the Renaissance-organized meeting report. Reading the party-controlled Diasporan media one would have thought Armenia is governed by heroes and angels and that the Alievs live only in Azerbaijan. I always wonder why you will never find in the Diasporan media questions and answers about real issues. Issues such as:

    — Why all of the dead or wounded soldiers protecting Armenia's and Artakh's borders come from impoverished families?
    – Why the commander in chief of the army (also the president himself) cannot provide proper medical care to his wounded soldiers and that families and friends have to beg  for help on the streets of Yerevan or in the social media?
    – How can the commander in chief afford a spa treatment in South Korea costing many times his annual salary? If an oligarch friend paid the bill, as suggested, how can this be allowed?
    – How is it that the son of the notorious mayor of the Syunik province (a close friend of the president) is exempt from serving in the army apparently for mental health issues as disclosed by the defense minister, but right after being cleared of a criminal case against him, could get a director's job in the government?
    – How is it that the spouses of many of the top judges declare hundreds of thousands of dollars of yearly income from gifts to the transparency groups, but they don't have to say who paid those gifts and why? Do you need to change the constitution for this not to happen?
    – What happened to the off-shore scandal in which one of the top clergymen of the Armenian church was involved? Why isn't the catholicos not concerned?

    The list goes on…

    I also wonder what motivates some Armenians to play along?

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