“Our faith in the future has faded a little, but we must restore it together” – PM Visits Armavir Marz
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan today traveled to Aragats, Myasnikyan, Alashkert, Nalbandyan and Artashar communities, Armavir Marz. The Premier met with the locals, talked about the situation in the country, the Artsakh war and the Government’s upcoming programs. The meetings began with a minute of silence observed in memory of those Armenians perished during the 44-day war. In each community, Nikol Pashinyan read out the names of heroes killed in action and visited their graves.
Addressing the locals, the Prime Minister said: “Dear people, thank you for the warm welcome. In every community we visit, we make sure to visit the local pantheon, we start our meetings with a memorial ceremony, and I think about what we need to do for our martyrs, how we should live and how we need to act to be worthy of their memory. No matter how much I think, I cannot find another answer besides the following: we must build a really strong, free, happy country, we must build Armenia in a new way and we must build Artsakh anew. But to be honest with their memory, we must also look back and understand what we have done wrong over the past 30 years.
After all, we live in the 21st century. In the meantime, as we visit the provinces we see that there is no sign of prosperity as such. There are streets drowning in mud, half-destroyed fences, colorless houses, and buildings. And this is not a problem of an individual village, this is the case everywhere in Armenia. I mean somewhere a little better, somewhere a little worse, but, in fact, communities are in the same condition all over the country.
What is the main reason that everything turned out that way? I look at the statistics, out of 444 thousand hectares of land available in Armenia, half or 49% is not cultivated at all, 74% of arable land does not have access to irrigation water in our country. Meanwhile, the amount of water generated annually in our highlands can not only meet the domestic demand, but we actually boast a large surplus of water.
What have we done in 30 years? All of us, and you in the first place, have made many sacrifices for the sake of Artsakh, for the sake of security, for the sake of the army. But what do we have today? Our sacrifices were not used in such a way as to prevent us from facing such situations. Unfortunately, for 30 years victories have been talked about, while defeats were woven behind our backs. Today we must address this issue.
You saw what happened after the war. It turned out that there were 5 thousand people ready to attack the government building, while the attack had to be launched elsewhere. It turned out that there were politicians in Armenia who, as they themselves admitted, called the generals during the war and told them not to go and not defeat the enemy, but to come and deal with the authorities in Yerevan, because the Karabakh issue remains a means of coming to power or leaving for some political figures.
Okay, the Karabakh issue was a means to sweep to power, but what was done in Armenia after they came to power? Why should half the arable land go uncultivated in Armenia? Why should there be schools without central heating, without chairs, without desks? Why should there be teachers getting 30 or 50 thousand drams in monthly salary? Why should poverty remain a problem in Armenia?
We will pay the greatest tribute paid to our martyrs’ memory by solving these problems. Armenia should have prosperous villages, towns, families and powerful citizens, who believe in their future! Our faith in the future has faded a little, but we must restore it first of all through education. This year we will start a process, as a result of which there will be no low-paid teachers in the Republic of Armenia. We have set the following condition: the salaries of those teachers who prove their high qualifications by means of attestation will increase by 30-50% starting in November. But it is not just for the teachers, it is for our children; we are going to give teachers the opportunity to focus on their work. After that, as a result of good work, teachers will be able to add scores to their individual rating: the more the points, the higher the wages. That means that our children will get reliable knowledge.
Children are taking part in our meeting again today. Dear children, how were you taken here? Tell the truth. You were not told that if you do not come, we will give you a bad grade, do this, do this, take you to the police station or institute a criminal case against you? Why did you come?
Dear children, you are welcome. To be honest, we are criticized a lot for the fact that children are taking part in our meetings, but I am very proud of this, because this is the most important thing, because future is what we say, what we talk about, and we must talk about the future. The most important point in our conversation refers to the future of our children.
One of the most important issues which I would like to draw your attention to is that our martyrs died for the future of both their children and our children, and we must do and will do everything possible so that their sacrifice is not in vain. They died for the sake of the Armenian people; they died so that Artsakh could stand, they died to help Armenia stand on its feet; they died so that these children could have a future. We are bound by duty to thwart any attempt of turning the blood of our martyrs into a bargaining chip in political aspirations. And let us promise that we will not allow them to do that.
What do people accuse us of today most of all? They accuse us for our failure to fight corruption effectively enough. Yes, you are right to do so, but on the other hand, I want to state that, yes, it lasted a long time, but now we have already created mechanisms that will make the fight against corruption more effective. In particular, you know that a law has been passed on the confiscation of illegally acquired property. A law has been passed on the formation of an anticorruption court, and a law has been passed that introduces a system of specialized judges for confiscation of illegally obtained property. Yes, we promised you and continue to promise you that we will be consistent in the fight against corruption, and I am sure this is your demand as well.
I must admit that we have some problems with these issues, but on the other hand, look, in 2018, when you brought us to power, we promised that we would give everyone a chance. Yes, many have abused this chance, and I am convinced and agree that those who have abused their chance should be punished, because they stripped these children of a bright future, they stole the nation’s future; they stole the Motherland’s future. Yes, the one who steals from the Motherland must receive a well-deserved assessment and a well-deserved punishment.
People blame us for not bringing them to this point of punishment today, but I also want to tell you that the past three years of our government were crisis or semi-crisis years, I mean COVID-19 and the war. In 2018 there was the task of establishing post-revolutionary stability, and since 2018 we have been facing riots all the time. This history is symbolized by two riots. The first riot was committed by the National Assembly in October 2018, you remember the famous October 2 event. And the last riot is a very incomprehensible story where some people tried and to some extent managed to involve the General Staff in political processes. But today we stand in front of each other, and this is primarily thanks to you, people. I agree that we must not miss the opportunities that you have given us.
I understand and I want to apologize for all the times when we disappointed you. I also want to say the following: we have gone through so many disasters, look what happened in Armenia over the past 5 months, but not a single shot was fired inside Armenia. In this respect, we have shown that the Republic of Armenia is an unprecedented country, because you will not find another country that, after such a war, after such a catastrophe, would have a situation where there was not a single shot, not a single victim. This is also primarily thanks to you.
I apologize for the fact that from the first years of our independence all the burden was placed on the people. And during this time, unfortunately, we failed to create institutions that would have provided welfare guarantees and social security, physical security, moral and psychological security. And this is our biggest challenge.
We have a problem with the judiciary? Courts did not develop as an institution. Our next business should be this: we, yes, we have already achieved, we have already developed the necessary mechanisms. There is no doubt that all judges who are not honest with the people and the law will be removed. The corresponding mechanisms have already been launched. Today, there are dozens of disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Justice, which are in the Supreme Judicial Council.
In the village of Aragats, people told us that wolves want to come to power again, but one of those present said that if they are wolves, then we are wolves, too. So let no one hope to come to power by stepping over the people. But the most important statement about the future is this: labor is the only tool with which we must solve our problems, but labor must also be honest.
The farmers’ efforts do not produce the desired results. What is the reason why we, the government, do not support the villagers enough? We cannot afford to let half the country’s arable land go uncultivated. When we delve into the reasons why agriculture is ineffective, we can see that the way land was privatized has led to the problems agriculture is facing today.
What is the problem? Land is fragmented into small plots, the smaller the land, the less efficient it is. In many villages, a person has, say, 3 pieces of land, only 1.5 hectares of land, one here, another 5 km away, and the third 10 km away. One and the same person travels from one site to another, then to the third, spends twice, three times more energy. We must solve these problems. Which way? With knowledge. We must consolidate land so that there are larger plots. We have to provide incentives to farmers. One way to enlargement is the formation of agricultural cooperatives.
We have to encourage so that you have the opportunity to consolidate. For example, the elderly talk a lot about collective farms. They say that such good institutions as the collective farms have been destroyed. Is there really such a position? But now we want to make sure that you set up joint farms, manage jointly, while the state should provide you with cheap financial resources, so that you could cultivate larger plots of land, so that you could get greater results, so that you could combine your efforts. Of course, the most important task is to reinstate your confidence in the future and the national security.
Reforming the armed forces and the army is a very important topic for us. Today we are seriously engaged in reforming the army. Yes, I have already spoken about the judicial system; this process has been launched and will inevitably be completed. I believe that in order to ensure Armenia’s security we should deepen our allied relations with the Russian Federation. You know that a joint Armenian-Russian military group is operating in Armenia. We must develop its potential, formulate the tasks of this military group in such a way that it becomes the most powerful and effective instrument of security. But on the other hand, our long-term plan should not be war, our long-term plan should be peace.
A strategic plan is that we should look at our region from a different perspective, from a different angle. Our prejudice and history are such that we have many enemies in the region. But if we have many enemies in the region, it means that many others consider us their enemies. The more they consider us enemies, the more we consider them enemies. And increasing the dose of mutual enmity leads to crises. Yes, we should be able to reconsider our attitude toward the region, our assessment, our position, while, of course, encouraging and doing our best to make others do the same. Because if only we do this, we will gain nothing from it.
We must change the atmosphere in the region, as a whole. We have lived in this region for several thousands of years, and we will live in this region for millennia. And we must develop our Motherland in this region - Armenia and Artsakh. I repeat, we used to have and still have many dreams. But we must bring our dreams closer to reality. We must bring our dreams closer to every square meter. Every square meter under our feet should be the object of our dreams, because let us see how we have made our dreams come true in thirty years. Unfortunately, we did not realize well our dreams, because our dreams had nothing to do with reality. Let us associate our dreams with reality, and specifically with these children. Not with our children tomorrow, not in 10-15 years, let us start making our dreams come true from tomorrow, from next week, from next month.
Children should be the object of our dreams. They should get good education; they should live in a just country, they should be protected; they should know that they enjoy equal opportunities, like everyone else, no matter they come from the family of a public official, or they are from the family of an oligarch or from the family of an ordinary citizen. They need to know that they have the same opportunities, and for that they need to get a good education. It was no coincidence I mentioned that we must start with teachers’ salaries and must allow our children to receive a decent education.
Armenia’s industry needs developing. Look, today we are faced with the following problem: our economy, especially agriculture, depends on one route - the Upper Lars. More than 600 vehicles are currently stuck in Upper Lars due to bad weather conditions. The country should not have only one road. Yes, we should be able to come out of all this with renewed vigor, stronger. In order to do that, we need to be more discerning. Yes, our country must have a railroad, because without a railroad our economy will not be as strong as in Soviet Armenia. And what does it mean to have a strong economy? It implies better opportunities for these children; it means a highly paid engineer, a highly paid agronomist, a wide variety of highly paid specialists.
We are set to increase research funding. We have passed the Law on Higher Education and Science because we need to focus on building a better future for our children. A key prerequisite is reinstatement of justice in our country. Yes, our country, our people demand that those who have robbed Armenia for many years be thrown out of the political field, out of our reality, and this is the people’s demand.
After we came to power in Armenia, several criminal cases were initiated against dozens of corrupt officials. Many of them are on the run, wanted. Unfortunately, there is so much talk about salaries paid in the state apparatus, right? During this time, such problems have emerged in our country that we, for example, say to an investigator who gets 200,000, 300,000 or even 400,000 drams: go and bring to justice a person who stole a billion drams. Investigators are often asked how much they are paid. Indeed, they will not take bribes now, at least in these cases. After saying 400,000 drams, they are told to quit their job and work as a lawyer in a team, where they will be paid 3 times more in monthly salary. That is to say, today, when we talk in many cases about raising salaries in the state apparatus, they speculate, saying, “Look, instead of meeting the needs of the people, they are raising salaries in the state system. We are raising wages to be able to meet your demands effectively. Because, yes, an investigator who gets 400,000 or 300,000 drams is told: quit your job, become our lawyer, join our team of lawyers, we will give you 5 times more money. The heads of investigating authorities often tell me that they are keeping the investigators by force. We must continue to fight to overcome such phenomena.
Dear people, I want to promise you that as long as you give me this opportunity, I will continue to fight for justice, legality and truth in the Republic of Armenia. As long as I have strength, there is energy. I will fight for justice and truth. Thank you for the fact that even after all the mistakes that we made, you are still ready to give us this opportunity. This is a testament to your great generosity.
The war and the series of preceding events made us once again run for the mandate we received from the people. It depends on your will. Snap parliamentary elections should be held in Armenia, which is the only way to reset the whole process. I repeat, they say a lot about the fact that wolves want to come to power, but the wolfhounds will not allow wolves to come to power. And your task, our task is to go to the polls and reject them. This is our task. And I hope I am sure that you decide this task.
Once again, I wish to apologize to all of you for our mistakes. Yes, we made mistakes, but we are ready to bear any kind of responsibility for them. We will be held accountable, should you ask for responsibility for those errors.
Thank you. I love you all. I am proud of all of you and bow to you. And I am so proud and happy that after all this you are so strong, so brave, and there is a reason for that: yes, we were defeated in this war; let the defeat be mine, the victory be yours. You have won, you are winners, and you must win. And I promise that my life was and will be dedicated to your victory. Thank you very much.”
In conclusion, Prime Minister Pashinyan lit a candle at the Church of St. Grigor Narekatsi in Armavir.