President Kocharyan's interview to Armenian National TV 03/06/2000
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PRESIDENT KOCHARIAN'S INTERVIEW TO ARMENIAN NATIONAL TV 06.03.2000
Q. Mr. President, the statement issued by the Miasnutyun (Unity) alliance on March 3 demanding that you sack chief of your staff and director of National TV has caused serious repercussions. Virtually all political parties and mass media have expressed their position regarding this statement and qualified it as an attempt to put pressure on freedom of speech - up to establishment of censorship. What is your position concerning these developments?
A. I did not react immediately to the statement for one reason only: I did not have a desire to get mixed up in such discussions on the eve of the late Vazgen Sargissian's birthday ( March 5) and I think that the initiators of the statement should have also thought about it. As for the statement itself... I was surprised by both its style and content. It is surprising that the political force having the majority in the parliament, can issue such a statement and use such a language when addressing the president of the country, elected by the people and in general. The response that followed on behalf of political forces' and the public is another reflection of these concerns.
Q. Mr. President, perhaps, the most strange thing in the statement was the demand for sacking the chief of your staff Serzh Sargissian. If the demand to sack the head of the National TV was somehow argued and reasoned, no reasons were brought with respect to Serzh Sargisian's resignation.
A. We have to consider very closely what has happened. Actually, the Miasnutyun was angered by a news conference of the two lawyers defending Alexan Harutunian, (Kocharian's advisor, arrested on suspicion of being involved in October 27 killings) and Harutiun Harutunian (deputy director of National TV arrested on the same charges). In this respect several questions arise here. First, did the lawyers have the right to come out in the news conference?. The answer is positive- yes. The freedom of speech is one of our main achievements over the recent years, that is why the attorneys may come out with such statements ( the two attorneys claimed the investigation did not have enough evidence to prosecute the two men). Second, was the National TV obliged to cover this news conference?. The answer is yes, it was to provide the viewers with information about the process of investigation. And the third. Was it necessary to provide six minutes to the coverage of the news conference?. Perhaps, it should have been given less time. Here I can agree. There could have been 6 or 3 minutes. It appears that the whole problem is in additional 3 minutes. If those three minutes can hamper the investigation into the case and if they can arouse discontent and simply absurd statement, it means that the situation in this country is seriously endangered. It appears that the Miasnutyun alliance lacks political flair and it has not a leader who should have warned them against issuing such a statement. I think that the initiative of this statement does not belong to People's Party of Armenia ( a component of Miasnutyun alliance). As for the chief of president's staff. It is for the president of the country to decide this question. To demand his resignation is simply not correct and difficult to understand. I cannot take such demands seriously. However, the phenomenon itself arises serious concerns.
Q. Mr. President, one of the points of the statement demanded that "normal conditions be created for the investigative body to make inquiries into October 27 murders". In your opinion who and how impedes the investigation?
A. The chief of the investigative body has not presented any complaints so far. Of course, there is a pressure on behalf of the public opinion. But we ourselves have chosen this way of development and the law-enforcement bodies must be able to work under freedom of speech, democracy and when the lawyers have the right to convene news conferences to express their concerns. They (law-enforcement bodies) have to take all this into consideration. We have chosen this way and there is no alternative to it.
Q. Mr. President, the statement alleges that the National TV is under the control of the chief of your staff. What is your opinion on the status of the National TV?
A. Currently there are two draft laws in the parliament on the status of the National TV and actually they do not differ very much. I think that both drafts are acceptable. After the appropriate law is passed, all issues concerning National TV will be regulated. I think that all debates about who the National TV belongs to are just absurd. Instead of continuing these senseless debates the parliament should vote on the draft laws and adopt one of them.
Q. Mr. President, let's turn to another issue, to the reshuffled government structure. The people are in a constant expectation that the situation will stabilise. What does the new government structure mean? Is it just a reduction of ministries' number or changing of the government's style of activities?
A. Changing of the structure does not yet mean that the style of work will change too. We have discussed this issue with the prime minister and I think that the need for structural changes had really ripen. Perhaps, we should have done it gradually because only a very strong government can afford such revolutionary changes. In some cases I agreed with the prime minister, though I did not advise him to proceed to them. For example, the merging of health ministry with social welfare one. I have some concerns over this merge and I don't think that it will help solve social problems. But I would like to reiterate that the logic of these changes was in general right. Let's wait a little to see how the new government will work and only then give our assessments.
Q. The new budget will most likely be adopted, which unfortunately is seen as not a development budget but a vegetation one. When the government will have a development budget?
A. You know, I am not the head of the executive power. Under the Armenian constitution the executive power is exercised by the government. The government's work is co-ordinated by the prime minister. That was the reason why I agreed with the prime minister's plans to restructure the government. I had met with the leaders of the parliament majority to learn if they were ready to bear the responsibility for the government's plans because the government has been shaped according to their proposals. They said they were ready for it. This also refers to the budget. I think that the budget must be adopted. As for the second part of your question, I think that we shall have a development budget only in case of the government's efficient work. But this is also connected with regional processes and with the level of our participation in them. It is also tied to Karabagh conflict regulation and some other circumstances. Statements like the one made by the Miasnutyun only hamper the execution of the budget, frightens the possible investors and creates obstacles for collection of taxes. I think that the political forces must be careful when making statements. There is an impression that the Miasnutyun has created obstacles for carrying out the commitments assumed by itself.