“We must all act in the logic of law” - PM receives National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater staff
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan received a group of A. Spendiaryan National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater staff members who had been staging a protest action near the House of Government.
The Prime Minister stressed that culture and the Government’s cultural policy are of primary importance because the latest political changes in Armenia could not have been implemented without deep cultural changes.
“By saying cultural changes, I mean at least our understanding of the law and legality as such. Today’s discussion has to do with the situation around Honorable Konstantin Orbelyan. Sometimes, the media gives the impression that Konstantin Orbelyan has been removed from the Opera, while Konstantin Orbelyan has only been dismissed from the position of director, and I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that Konstantin Orbelyan, at least until that executive order, held the position of Director and Artistic Director. Now let us see the point,” Nikol Pashinyan said, addressing the guests.
The Prime Minister suggested holding an argument-based conversation. “If these arguments are correct, then either the decision is correct; if the arguments are wrong, so the decision is wrong. Otherwise, we need to adopt a very clear standard of how we value a situation. First, I can say the following about Mr. Orbelyan’s appointment as director. A document, made public by the Ministry of Justice on August 11, 2018, stated that Konstantin Orbelyan’s appointment was in breach of the applicable law. Why has this issue been discussed: because a citizen or citizens had applied for that. I mean that this discussion is not the result of an initiative taken by the Government or the Ministry.
And the law has a clear obligation to the Government and the Ministry of Culture, not discretion to discharge the powers of the person nominated for the position of the executive body or the person designated for the position of the executive body by the decision of the competent authority, if he has been appointed in breach of the law. This is a requirement of our law.
The next point, the following is said to me: During 2017, Mr. Orbelyan was sent 12 times to 110 countries, Canada, Lithuania, Australia, seven times in Russia, mainly Moscow, twice a year in the United States and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, 135 days in 2017 were absent from work. In 2018, 174 days were absent from work, another 20 days were found on unpaid vacation. In other words, 194 days in total were absent from work. The data for 2019 are also available.
The Ministry of Finance conducted inspections in 2017, as a result of which 92 million drams were recorded. Only 10 million 576 thousand 400 drams have been recovered during 2017-2018. If restored, it means that these violations have been adopted as such. Several violations of the law were registered by the Ministry several times in violation of the law, many employees were dismissed and those people applied to the Minister, the Human Rights Defender.
The Ministry’s specialists have examined the issues raised in the applications and found out that the dismissal of the mentioned staff was carried out with violations of the law. The Minister gave instructions on eliminating violations of the law, but Mr. Orbelyan refused to fulfill those instructions, presenting the baseless excuses.
Next, in mid-2016, Mr. Orbelyan was appointed Artistic Director of the Theater. By the decree of the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia on February 3, 2017, the duties of the director were put on Artistic Director Konstantin Orbelyan by Order No 39A, dated August 2, 2017, Mr. Orbelyan was appointed director of the theater without continuing to occupy the position of artistic director and the Director of the Opera Theater 2017 The order of the Principal Conductor was restored on May 29, 2003 by the Order No 228A, and at present this position is called Artistic Director-Principal Conductor.
Actually, Mr. Orbelyan has three positions in the theater - director, artistic director and conductor. In response to the question, the lawyer of the theater stated that Konstantin Orbelyan worked half-time as Artistic Director, while there were 2 full-time positions in his staff. Under the interpretation of the Ministry of Justice, Economic Development and Investments, the artistic director and director are both executive positions in Armenia's legislation, so they could not be integrated into the functions of one person. These are facts that are officially presented. Let's say in advance if it turns out that there is no fact in the presented reference that the author will be dismissed from the job.
Second, there is a very bad and wrong impression that Konstantin Orbelyan has been freed from all the posts he held at the Opera. In reality it is not so, and if you rely on this reference, it is now a fictional chief conductor. The current state of our state is that the positions of the director, that is, the manager and the artistic director, are different.
Today, such a system is effective in all theaters. If the law is bad, we can come together under the same logic, take note of arguments in order to understand why it is bad in it. If the law is in force, then we should all act in the logic of the law,” Prime Minister Pashinyan said, adding that he respects Konstantin Orbelyan and has talked to him several times.
The Head of Government noted that this problem can not be solved in the domain of personal sympathies or non-discrimination. “Today’s discussion is supposed to address the situation in compliance with the legislation of Armenia and the development of cultural life in the country. Mr. Orbelyan will continue as Artistic Director, I can assume that the Director’s responsibilities are being fulfilled by his deputy at the moment who has been appointed by Mr. Orbelyan himself, that is, at the moment, nothing is wrong with the Opera team’s activities. Please, continue working this way. I will wait for your arguments in order to make a decision together.”
Nikol Pashinyan noted that today the problem of culture in Armenia is in management and it should work together to solve it.
“I cannot put up with the situation where high-level performances are taking place in half-empty halls. I have already touched upon that topic. When I said two days ago that there was some dissonance among cultural figures, I meant that some of our cultural figures do not share this concern and say that this is an elite art, let there come only those who understand it. I say no, our policy is that more people in Armenia could understand and appreciate the noble arts. I cannot accept the situation where Hovhannes Chekidjian’s concerts are taking place in half-empty halls. I feel myself affected as Prime Minister, as a citizen and as a man, in general. This is a deep-rooted problem that must be dealt with together,” the Prime Minister concluded.