Time for Oskanian to Put His Cards on the Table

Aram Adamyan, Toronto, 14 October 2012

Developments regarding the accusations against Vardan Oskanian have echoed widely in the Armenian Diaspora. While many Armenians interested in the issue–in Armenia and in the Diaspora–agree that Oskanian is being persecuted for his political aspirations as the Republic of Armenia presidential election campaign is about to be launched, there remains the unanswered question of  why the Armenian Diaspora is selective in its condemnation.

In his parliamentary speech Oskanian expressed his concern in the RoA phenomenon of the persecution of political opponents. It can happen to other politicians in future. This is only half the truth. He is not the first person to be persecuted for political activities in Armenia. He has also never expressed his concern for the persecution of others in Armenia. Had he publicly condemned the persecution of political opponents of the government, he might not have faced his current problems. Many have tried to understand Oskanian's silence when Kocharian’s regime was harassing its opponents and expanding the power of an oligarchic economic system. 

Aram Adamyan, Toronto, 14 October 2012

Developments regarding the accusations against Vardan Oskanian have echoed widely in the Armenian Diaspora. While many Armenians interested in the issue–in Armenia and in the Diaspora–agree that Oskanian is being persecuted for his political aspirations as the Republic of Armenia presidential election campaign is about to be launched, there remains the unanswered question of  why the Armenian Diaspora is selective in its condemnation.

In his parliamentary speech Oskanian expressed his concern in the RoA phenomenon of the persecution of political opponents. It can happen to other politicians in future. This is only half the truth. He is not the first person to be persecuted for political activities in Armenia. He has also never expressed his concern for the persecution of others in Armenia. Had he publicly condemned the persecution of political opponents of the government, he might not have faced his current problems. Many have tried to understand Oskanian's silence when Kocharian’s regime was harassing its opponents and expanding the power of an oligarchic economic system. 

Four years ago, during the March 1 events, when Oskanian was minister of foreign affairs of Armenia, he sided with the oppressive regime. Today, after experiencing huge disappointment with Levon Ter-Petrosyan, I am speculating whether Oskanian, cognizant of the two evils, chose the lesser. He probably had grounds for this assumption that Ter-Petrosyan would not be able to bring the changes needed in our country. Moreover, the first president would harm the country's foreign policy. 

This is just a speculation. But we have to acknowledge that in case Ter-Petrosyan re-emerged as president and faced the same fiasco as he had in the post of opposition leader (left with nearly no followers and supporters), Armenia would have been in much worse condition than it is now. So Oskanian probably served Kocharian's regime with not much personal satisfaction in the internal policy but his justification was that the alternative would have been worse for the country. 

Whatever his allegiances or take on the Ter-Petrossian and Kocharian rivalry, Oskanian was never involved in corrupt business activities, unlike other ministers. Furthermore, Oskanaian’s Civilitas, especially through its online TV channel Civilnet and independent of the regime's TV, has been very helpful, by the introduction of fresh ideas and political style, to the development of a civil mind of the Armenian society.

According to many, Prosperous Armenia party, founded and led by oligarch Gagik Tsarukian, is under the actual control of  Kocharian who created it in the last years of his presidency to have a platform for a return to power. This party lacks an ideology to be called a real political party and largely consists of the same type of regime-fed members as the ruling Republican Party.  Thus Oskanian is an asset for Prosperous Armenia to eventually acquire political and ideological features. Oskanian, on the other hand, had his own interests to join Prosperous Armenia. Adhering to this party could be another attempt to bring a positive outcome and offer alternative solutions even if that means the cooperation of an ambiguous organization, making use of an established structure and its resources. However, many believe that Kocharian is behind the decision of Oskanian to join the Prosperous Armenia. In any case, Oskanian with his style and experience is so alien to Prosperous Armenia that he may decide to leave that party, unless he is given full control.

Oskanian may have joined the party thus drawing a parallel with the transformation witnessed with the Republican Party of Armenia that currently has nothing in common with the original party established and run by Soviet-era dissident Ashot Navasardyan and now controlled by Serzh Sargsyan. If Oskanian succeeds in transforming the Prosperous Armenia into a real political party he might be able to justify why he joined it. However,if he joined the party not by choice but rather because of Kocharian’s order then his image, knowledge, experience and personal safety are being served to bring back a regime that is no better than the current one–at least in its internal policy.

There is a huge lack of transparency in this battle between the old and current regimes in Armenia. Every such encounter instead of being a debate over ideas ends up in the persecution of the older ones by the current rulers. In this regard, irrespective of whether Oskanian represents himself or Kocharian, it should never have resulted into a criminal prosecution we are witnessing. Oskanian on his turn has to explain publicly why he was silent while others were going through the same experience. Finally, the Armenian Diaspora should be persistent and consistent in its defense of human rights in Armenia. The Diaspora, while actively raising its voice in support of Oskanian, has to condemn every political persecution in Armenia, rather than act only when the person suffering  has a Diasporan origin.

 

6 comments
  1. Ոսկանեանը անձ է կազմակերպութիւն չէ

    Ոսկանեանը անձ է կազմակերպութիւն չէ. եթէ ժամանակէն առաջ խօսէր ճիշդ Րաֆֆի Յովհաննիսեանի օրին կ'՛իյնար: Եթէ դաշնակցութեան պէս կազմակերպութիւն մը այդ ոճրագործութիւնէն ճիշդ յաջորդ օրը իրենց համար Հայաստանէն կտոր մըն ալ իրենք առնեն ըսելով կառավարութեան հետ սեղան նստան, այս տեսակ փառքերով ժողովուրդին ղեկավարութեան հասնելու ձեւը, երեւի իրեն պէս շարժիլն է․

     

  2. Excellent points

    Sireli Aram,

    You raise many important and valid points; your analysis is very timely and addresses a lot of questions that Armenians must ask themselves.  And I believe that you are right.  Oskanian must come clean himself.  On the other hand, besides being a good man, he is also likely a pragmatist.  He understands that the road to power must today pass through the gatekeepers of the oligarchy.

    Ultimately though, I think, your last point boils down to a simple statement.  We are truly a divided nation.  Not only Eastern vs. Western, Armenia vs. Diaspora, Orthodox vs. Catholic, the Hayasdantsi vs.the myriad of the other -tsis that we pride ourselves to be.  We are divided in our souls from the other.

    We live our Armenian identities in intellectual, spiritual, emotional, political and personal solitudes. Denis Donikian, the great French-Armenian, has captured those issues remarkably in his essays.  I think your arguments are a strong confirmation of this.

    We are all challenged to, first of all, realize this self-inflicted limitation, and secondly to do something about it.

    Thanks for bringing up this important issue.  Please continue to write.

    Paregamoren

    Viken L. Attarian

     

    1. Divided Nation

      Dear Viken,

      Thank you for your supportive comment. 

      In an earlier article I wrote that our belonging to the same nation is not so much by our informed choice as much it is by being identified by odars who use the same word "Armenian" for all of us. The only unifying, informed choice for us should be a strong and fair statehood in Armenia, serving as an object of national pride. This is a test we have no right to fail.

      Aram.

  3. My Take on Oskanian

    Mr. Oskanian was deprived of the immunity that his status conferred as a member of the Armenian National Assembly over alleged misuse of funds from an NGO (Civilitas). The misuses of the funds have not been alleged to be towards political ends. The non-governmental funds were allegedly misused for personal use, the penalty of which may be 20 years of imprisonment.

    Does not the Armenian National Assembly have an ethics committee that oversea the good conduct of its elected officials? Is there not in Armenia the equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service of the US which reviews the appropriateness of taxes filed? If such an independent body existed in Armenia, I doubt they would refund overpaid taxes.

    Oskanian, as a pragmatist and a realist, is well aware of the repercussions should he break the rules. By the stripping off his immunity, Oskanian has been declared guilty for many in the court of public opinion in Armenia and in the Diaspora. Oskanian does not deserve this and the government of President Sarkissian should not have shown such partisan posturing against a good servant of the RoA. I doubt that we will see the likes of him and Raffi Hovhannissian who emigrated from the Diaspora.

    Two messages are sent by this episode. People who oppose those who have attained power to run the country, beware: we will resort to any means to stop you from challenging us and our authority. You will do the same when you get to power. That is the nature of things in Armenia. The other message is directed to the Diaspora: stay away, mind your business, continue to nurture your good sentiments towards your motherland Armenia, visit us as often as you can as carefree tourists and do not forget to send us money, without any strings attached.

     

  4. Aram Adamyan Essay

    In his well-argued and well-presented essay on the Oskanian matter in Yerevan Aram Adamyan raises several valid points, but, alas. since many of us in the Diaspora have already commented, it is too late to try to put the toothpaste back into the tube.

    Because of Oskanian’s silence to date, Adamyan’s essay and this response have to be, of necessity, full of “perhaps.”

    Adamyan asks why the Diaspora has been selective in its reaction to the events in Yerevan. Perhaps, it is that the reputation of Yerevan is so negative that even the most innocent and unbiased of observers must assume the negative in this matter.

    However, the more important point that Mr. Adamyan makes is Oskanian’s silence––not only today in his own defense–but also in the past at the obvious-in-the-West corruption in Yerevan. It is a good question and, also, there is no good answer.

    Perhaps Oskanian did so quietly, feeling that any public comment would weaken his position as foreign secretary and would be harmful to Armenia. After all, he was a servant of RoA and not of the governing party or any other party and, therefore, serving the country dictated his silence.

    Of course, we don’t know if Oskanian did say anything privately, and it is foolish to speculate––unless one can assume that had he said anything negative he would have been relieved. We don’t know that, and some people may prefer to think it.

    Adamyan suggests that had Oskanian spoken in the past about corruption and attacks on others, he perhaps would not be a victim now. Of course, had  he done so, perhaps he might have been attacked then.

    It could be that Oskanian is guilty of his own hubris and felt that during the critical period in which he served as foreign minister only he could have done the job that was necessary. Speaking personally, and based on what I have seen of him “in action,” I would agree that only he could have done the job that was necessary.

    Digressing from Adamyan’s letter, I commented in my essay on the matter that much would depend on what instructions Oskanian had from the Huntsman organization regarding the money. A copy of the letter from the Huntsman organization has now appeared elsewhere (a copy of which both the parliament and the so-called “justice” department have) and it indicates that the money for Oskanian’s Civilitas organization was to go there via Oskanian. It would appear, therefore, that Oskanian was following instructions, since the money is, indeed, where it was expected to be.

    I bring it up because Adamyan rightly decries the lack of transparency, and the release of the letter at this late date is evidence of the lack. Both the Armenian National Assembly and the so-called “justice” department have copies of the letter and, yet, went through with the farce that goes by the name of “justice” in Yerevan.

    The problem we face in the Diaspora is that our ideas of fair and unfair, good and bad, justice and injustice, right and wrong, and, even, legal and illegal differ from that which exists in Yerevan. 

    And, alas, Oskanian will be tried by Yerevan rules, not Western rules.

    Good try, Mr. Adamyan.

    Avedis Kevorkian
    Philadelphia
                                                           
     

  5. Those Worth

    Selective is much too mild a word. All participants in this heated issue agree that Armenian Diaspora means the United States, Canada and (just) maybe Western Europe. The rest — who?

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