Ilham Aliyev’s Gift

 Editorial, 18 June 2016

More than 3,000 years ago the Trojans were duped when they opened their city gate to the wooden horse the Greek invaders had offered as symbol of Greek decision to pull out from the ten-year war. As a result of Trojan naiveté, the city perished. Unlike Trojans, today’s Armenia authorities can’t blame outside enemies for the decline of their country. In the past quarter-century, the RoA elite constructed its home-made Trojan horse which now threatens Armenia’s existence.

The Armenian Trojan horse is the country’s widespread corruption—a proclivity which takes many guises. Since independence corruption has penetrated every nook and cranny of the government and society: cronyism; government-approved monopolies; “mafia” gangs; nepotism; fraudulent elections; lack of transparency and accountability; harassment of political rivals; looting of Diaspora donations; heavy-handed patronage; cowboy mentality; influence peddling; bribery;  tax evasion; pillaging the treasury; dubious auditing ; under-the-table sweetheart deals; non-transparent application of tax, customs and regulatory rules; weak enforcement of court decisions; close ties between high-ranking government officials and business barons; excessive privilege for the select few; untendered government contracts; venal bureaucracy; ministers owning businesses in blatant conflict of interest… a mayor who is part owner of his city’s bus line; university professors who boost a student’s grades if the student greases the professor’s palm with silver; corrupt judiciary, executive and legislative branches; a culture of impunity for the elite, plus the misdeeds of fellow oligarch-Catholicos Karekin II.

 Editorial, 18 June 2016

More than 3,000 years ago the Trojans were duped when they opened their city gate to the wooden horse the Greek invaders had offered as symbol of Greek decision to pull out from the ten-year war. As a result of Trojan naiveté, the city perished. Unlike Trojans, today’s Armenia authorities can’t blame outside enemies for the decline of their country. In the past quarter-century, the RoA elite constructed its home-made Trojan horse which now threatens Armenia’s existence.

The Armenian Trojan horse is the country’s widespread corruption—a proclivity which takes many guises. Since independence corruption has penetrated every nook and cranny of the government and society: cronyism; government-approved monopolies; “mafia” gangs; nepotism; fraudulent elections; lack of transparency and accountability; harassment of political rivals; looting of Diaspora donations; heavy-handed patronage; cowboy mentality; influence peddling; bribery;  tax evasion; pillaging the treasury; dubious auditing ; under-the-table sweetheart deals; non-transparent application of tax, customs and regulatory rules; weak enforcement of court decisions; close ties between high-ranking government officials and business barons; excessive privilege for the select few; untendered government contracts; venal bureaucracy; ministers owning businesses in blatant conflict of interest… a mayor who is part owner of his city’s bus line; university professors who boost a student’s grades if the student greases the professor’s palm with silver; corrupt judiciary, executive and legislative branches; a culture of impunity for the elite, plus the misdeeds of fellow oligarch-Catholicos Karekin II.

The above has forced a million Armenians to leave their homeland while 30% of the population who have stayed live in poverty. Meanwhile, oligarchs ride their high-end cars are shadowed by flotillas of Humvees on Yerevan’s Northern Avenue protected by preposterous, 300-lbs hoods in bullet-proof vests, black leather jackets, oversized Rolexes and ferocious aftershave as if looking for walk-on parts in “The Sopranos”.

On top of this rank heap sits President Serzh Sargsyan–the man who two years ago spent $186,000 for a one-week stem-cell rejuvenation treatment in South Korea. How can he afford the treatment considering his modest salary? Easy. Together with his gangster brother, the president has stashed millions of dollars overseas. His predecessor—Robert  Kocharian aka Great White Hunter—similarly wallows in ill-gained lucre. Sargsyan and Kocharian are the heads of the two major oligarch pyramids dominating Armenia’s economy… pretty good for the two impecunious veterans of the Artsakh War.

Many Diaspora Armenians, who knew about the corruption-gnawed Armenia, kept their counsel. “Sargsyan might be corrupt, but his tough regime is making Baku think twice about threatening our homeland” was the idée fixe of these Diasporans who believed silence is golden when the subject is Armenia corruption.

And then surprise: the impious Azeris attacked. How dare the ineffectual foe challenge the jingo pronouncements of the fat-cat Armenian political leaders?  Suddenly, senior military officers’ boast that they would “have tea in Baku” if the Azeris were unwise enough to attack proved to be banal. Did these generals believe snappy military uniforms and salad on their chest equaled military superiority?

During the brief war some Armenian tanks became sitting ducks because they had fuel for no more than a few kilometers. There were reports that senior officers had sold the fuel. Soldiers had fought with empty stomachs and no water. Others had few bullets and were fighting with ‘80s weapons against a high-tech Azeri arsenal. Some soldiers had no sleeping bags. There was shortage of radio communication devices. The soldiers discovered the Azeri army wasn’t the army their fathers had fought in the first Armenian-Azeri War. In addition to the unsustainable casualties, the Armenian side lost 800 hectares of land which Baku says gives Azeris strategic advantage in several locations. Despite all, the heroism of the junior officers—many in their early twenties—had saved the day.

Midway the mini-war it became obvious that corruption had spread to Armenia’s vaunted army. People asked how $10 billion could leave the country in the past decade. Azeri President Aliyev gave a credible report that it was the Armenian side which had asked for ceasefire.

In response to the public outcry for the inexplicable battle losses, Sargsyan and PM Hovik Abrahamian launched an anti-corruption drive. Faster than you could say Vasag Seuni, the pair donned the reformist garb and fired or imprisoned a dozen or so senior military and defense ministry officials. They promised to streamline government expenditure, investigate state procurement processes, improve the domestic business environment, curtail featherbedding, and downsize government agencies. The Republic of Kleptocracy was to be stopped on its tracks. The government would lend an ear to the Anti-Corruption Centre which in 2015 reported the government had awarded 70% of its procurement contracts without competitive tenders.  Abrahamian promised to target conflict of interest among senior government officials,  improve transparency and oversight. Sargsyan and Abrahamian promised a crackdown.

Were they blind or in denial all these years? Hadn’t the UN Development Programme, among other international agencies, condemned corruption in Armenia concluding it was a “serious challenge to its development”? Didn’t the men who rule Armenia know that Armenia’s corruption index is at par with Mali, Mexico, Gambia, and the Philippines? The miraculous awakening of the pair to the corruption around them reminds one of sly Capt. Renault of “Casablanca” who famously said to Major Strasser: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here,” as he pocketed the money the croupier handed to him.

When Sargsyan and Abrahamian are among the beneficiaries of the rotten edifice how could they claim innocence with a straight face? But they did.

Is Sargsyan serious about reform? Doesn’t he know the problem is not one of individual corruption but of the system?

Nothing less than re-inventing the state will stave off collapse. For more than a decade citizens had tried to deliver the message to their government only to be met by indifference and repression.

Is it too late to make meaningful and fundamental change? How can one overhaul the chronic, widespread and systemic corruption within a few months, especially when the “reforming” twins have been at the core of the rotten system for so long?

Before the Azeri attack the Armenian government, business, intellectual, and media circles lived in a fool’s paradise believing that although the country was mired in corruption it was robust enough to withstand Azeri aggression.

And then came the Aliyev surprise… or more accurately the Aliyev Gift.

The Azeri attack was a wake-up call for Armenians. Even the dense and complacent government leaders and oligarchs (often interchangeable) realized it’s impossible to have a strong army when the state is riddled by corruption and the population is demoralized by the crimes of the country’s elite.

Aliyev’s Gift awakened Armenians that the country can be lost if drastic and swift measures are not taken to overhaul every aspect of its corrupt modus operandi.

Will Armenia’s leadership understand that it’s almost 11 p.m. and not much time is left before the midnight knell?

The Armenian leaders who have assumed the stewardship of the country should ask themselves: “Is this the state our people had been praying for since 1375 when the last Armenian kingdom collapsed? Is this why our 1915 martyrs refused to be turkified? Is this what our pitch-fork carrying farmers fought for at Sardarabad?”

13 comments
  1. Wow!

    Wow!

    I am speechless at this crystal clear airing.  I am sure it is space that limited this comprehensive expose'.  Let me try to complete it here:

    1) The ARF joined this regime (yes, they claim in private that they did so in order to 'fix' the system, but we've been there before and only blind fundamentalist, or pretend, Dashnaks continue to believe this).

    2) The other catholicos was the first to congratulate this regime on it so blatantly stealing the recent referendum vote. Speak of 'speak no lies'.

    3) The Hntchak and Ramgavar parties, for what they're worth, ditto as number 2.

    4) The AGBU has welcomed more medals from these people than can be housed in the Melkonian School.

    5) The All-Armenian Fund is headed by the very busy same head of the kleptocracy, and is yet to provide an audit worth the paper it is printed on to the diasporan public.

    6) Meanwhile the acting patriarch in Istanbul is trying to figure out how to compete in open thievery with his holy Echmiadzin brother, and how to betray genocide and nation better than the Armenian oligarchy.

    7) Oh, let me end near to my professional home. It is the 2011-2013 head of the Armenian American Medical Society who arranged that Korea stem cell rejuvenation trip of the busy president of the oligarchy and All-Armenian Fund.  The AAMS is the largest Armenian Diasporan medical association, based in Los Angeles. As for AMIC, the Armenian Medical International Committee… oh let's just say they do nothing.

    8) Heck, why would I stop with the doctors? Where are the various other professional associations? The jewelers, other businessmen, engineers' association, heck the American Bar Association?  Has one of these condemned the blatant theft of the referendum vote, or raised a peep about the reality so well known to them, so well detailed in this Keghart editorial?

    Where are all the above? I tell you where:  they and their spouses are doning their best clothes to go revel in the great upcoming papal visit, and stand as close as possible to Sargsyan and Hovik Abrahamyan.

    Below from "Anlreli Zankagadoun" (Sevak), Ghoghantch Herosagan:

    Ա՜խ, ի՛մ ժողովուրդ,
             Ես դեռ չկայի՜,
    Բայց կտրիճ որդիք մի՞թե քիչ կային,
    Որ – հողի՜ տակից – զենք էին պեղում
    Եվ քո արյան դեմ սև արյուն հեղում:
             Սասո՜ւնը…
    Արդեն ո՞րերորդ անգամ
    Նորից տեր դարձավ նոր Դավիթ մանկան,
             Որ – ինչո՞ւ սակայն –
             Կոչվեց… Անդրանիկ:
    Ահեղ ջարդերի ճարակող բոցում
    Ամեն սասունցի դարձավ Սասնա ծուռ,
    Սասնա տուն դարձավ ամեն ընտանիք,
    Սասնա դյուցազուն՝ թե՛ մեծ, թե պուճուր,
             Որ – բավակա՜ն է –
    Քառսունծամ կույսեր, հարսներ արմաղան
    Օսմանցու համար էլ երկանք չաղա՛ն,
             Որ – բավակա՜ն է…

    9) Where is Sassounian?

    10) Where are Sassountsik?

  2. Excellent editorial

    Excellent editorial. Every single word is correct unlike other editorials in the Diaspora papers who keep peddling the corrupt & criminal regime for the sake of state medals and their own interests.

    Berge has said all that I was going to say. Well said Berge.

  3. Our Enemy

    So our enemy is our government, not Aliyev? Therefore, we must praise the Lord that Alyev woke us up to see that we have hired just a little bit corrupt government engaged in the business of writing a little bit fat salary checks for themselves and gradually donating our heroically regained country to dear landless poor Alyev in increments of 800 hectares, for now? Am I correct? Is somebody lying here? Please Hye joghovourd, help us understand that. Shnorhagal. Amen.  

    1. Our “government” versus Aliev

      Artash,

      I agree that mixing Trojan history into this editorial does not really work, but I guess the editorialist was looking for a catchy way to start the article. The point though is to shed light on what WE (the Armenian people) can do to better protect ourselves against Aliev and his army. I don't expect WE have any way to make Aliev and Azerbaijan agree that Artsakh is Armenian and leave us in peace. But WE can govern ourselves in such a way as to make OUR country strong.

      How can ANY Armenian accept to be ruled by thieves and thugs?

      How can ANY Armenian accept leaders who are gravely weakening the very foundations of our army and society?

      … and this while we are under threat from committed enemies.

      We think and write to each other to figure out what WE can do.  I for one can't find any way to accept that MY Armenia's leaders are not focused solely and exclusively on protecting and strengthening OUR country.

      To hell with Aliev and Azerbaijan. I want MY country to do well.

       

  4. Հայաստանի Օլիգարխները……

    Բողոքել եւ հաշիւ պահանջել այս կորսուած Օլիգարխներէն, համայնավար մանկլաւիկներէն եւ գող աւազակներէն, բոլորն ալ ինծի համար հայ չեն եւ իրաւունք չունին Հայ կոչուելու։ Իսկական Հայը վեհանձն, պարկեշտ եւ գիտակից իր պարտականութեան, իսկական Հայը այդպէս ճանչցուած է։

    Շատ ցաւալի եւ ողբալի, այստեղ մենք տակն ու վրայ կ՚ըլլանք ինչպէս օգտակար ըլլանք մեր Հայրենիքին, այս գող աւազակները ինչեր կ՚ընեն, ամէն ինչ չափ ու սահման ունի։

    Առաջին մէկ օրէն այս համայնավար մանկլաւիկները վերացուէին, բոլորովին նոր մարդիկ եւ սփիւռքն ալ մաս կազմեր կառավարութեան, այս պիտի ըլլայ եւ ըլլար արդար ձեւը։

    Լուծումը հետեւեալն է.–

    Արդարութիւնը վերահաստատելու համար այս գումարները ետ կը բերուին, Հայրենիքին տնտեսութիւնը զարգացնելու եւ Հայկական բանակը արդիականացնելու։ Փոխանակ արտագաղթ ըլլալու, փոխարէնը կ՚ըլլայ ներգաղթ։։

    Ան որ ականչ ունի թող լսէ։ Հակառակ պարագային բոլոր աւազակները դէպի ժողովրդային դատարան հաշիւ տալու։ (ժողովուրդի դատարան ոչ թէ կառավարական դատարան)։ Բարեւ հասկցողին, յարգանքներս գործադրողին։ Հայ ժողովուրդը պատրաստ է պայքարելու մինչեւ վերջին յաղթանակ ի սէր Աստուծոյ եւ Հայրենիքին։

  5. Editorial

    In the words of the 20th century's greatest philosopher, Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

    (By the way, Renault was with Rick's owner (Bogart) at the time he was closing down the place.)

    1. “My homeland right or wrong”

      According to Avedis, criticizing the corrupt government of Armenia makes one enemy of the Armenian nation. This mostly Diasporic "my homeland right or wrong" mindset has buttressed the criminal regime and the oligarchs to the detriment of the Armenian nation and particularly Armenians living in their homeland. This same attitude contributed to the complacency of the Armenia's ruling classes whose corruption and incompetence were exposed during the recent mini-war. God save us from Armani-suited Yerevan politicians and boastful military leaders whose shortcomings have made Armenia so vulnerable. When will these apologists of the regimes (Ter Bedrossian, Kocharian, Sargsyan, and Catholicos Karekin II) stand up and say: "Enough is enough"? Will they come to their senses only when they hear the death knell "will the last person leaving Gyumri turn off the lights please"?
  6. Editorial

    "Nothing less than re-inventing the state will stave off collapse." !!!!

    How can this objective be achieved? The ills are too many, the problems deep rooted, and there is no practical path to reverse the trend  and to totally restructure the government, the system, the regime and the mindset of the population (what is left of it) in Armenia, who supposedly vote? and the Diaspora which is divided, fragmented and morally incompetent.

    What course of action can be taken that can accomplish the objectives and be successful?
    The editorial though mainly factual, is disheartening, discouraging and does not exude hope or confidence in our future.

    A very sad picture.

    Vart Adjemian

     

    1. Repy to Vart Ajemian

      A very sad picture. Nevertheless a very real one. The only solution is systematic and quick reform which will start by removing Sargssyan's regime from power. 

      1. Reply to Garbis Korajian

        Your proposed solution is broad and not specific. It is a wish; a dream.

        What are the pragmatic, achievable  steps and actions that can and should be taken to achieve the objective of removing Sargsyan's regime from power? Who will lead the effort? Who or what organization will make that happen?

        Admittedly there is consensus that regime change is needed to reform all that is ill in Armenia. Disappointingly, I have not seen a complete suggested plausible plan of action to achieve that.

        Vart Adjemian

         

  7. Reply to Response

    How Vahram (and all the other possible Vahrams out there) could ever think that I belong to the “my homeland right or wrong” group puzzles me. First, because my “homeland” is the United States of America and if I am not the loudest critic of the stupid antics of the U.S. since the Second World War, I have yet to meet the person who is more critical; and, second, because I was opposed to Soviet Armenia leaving the USSR and setting up as an independent country because I knew that it wasn’t capable of self-government.

    How did I know this?  Because I saw how the Armenians in the Diaspora behaved–and are still behaving.

    How did I know this?  Because Raffi, looking into his crystal ball, more than 140 years ago, saw what was to happen when an “independent” Armenia emerged in the late 20th century, and said, in “The Fool”: “An Armenian is the greater danger to Armenians than any outsider.”

    How did I know this?  Because every one of my several attempts to help Armenia failed miserably. When asked by someone if I offered bribes to the officials with whom I spoke, and I said “No,” the look on his face more than emphasized his words, “I didn’t think you were that stupid not to know that you have to offer bribes.” When I said that my [odar] colleagues had built in the under-the-table payments, he replied that “we” had to be more open.

    How did I know this?  Because an American friend who worked for an American NGO said, in frustration, “The only honest politician in Armenia is the one who is out of office.”

    But, enough.

    As one with a small brain and a broad back, I will accept any criticism except that I am a chauvinist when it comes to Armenia. I don’t need a country with borders, and a flag, and a national anthem, and a postal system to be Armenian. Therefore, that oligarchic kleptocracy over there is not one about which I give a damn.

    Have I made myself clear(er), Vahram?

    Avedis Kevorkian
    Philadelphia, PA.  USA

  8. So sad, so true

    For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, this harsh and tragic reality numbs the soul.

    The corruption is a cancer that has and will devour little fledgling Armenia. I also agree that despite great and amazing individual accomplishments in the world by Armenians throughout history, something we all claim and identify with and rivaled only by the Jews; as a group, we are petty, provincial, jealous, dishonest, vulgar and unworthy of the high ideals of democracy and freedom and self governance.

    One can not penetrate the Armenian cliques, whether in Armenia or the Diaspora. It is an inbred, know-it-all, arrogant, smoking, smug, crass, ignorant of other cultures and self absorbed insignificant group of kughatsis. In the words of Bernie Taupin, It's sad, so sad, it's a sad sad situation…and it's getting more absurd. Help us Lord Jesus.

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