PM: “Only those political forces that unequivocally support the values of the 2018 Velvet Revolution will be represented in Armenia’s next parliament”
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivered concluding remarks following the approval of the 2019 State budget performance report in the National Assembly.
“Honorable National Assembly Speaker,
Dear Deputy Speakers,
Dear Members of Parliament,
First of all, let me wish good health to all members of parliament and all our citizens infected with the coronavirus. I will not talk about the budget performance figures for 2019, because I have already talked about it many times, instead, I will talk about burning issues, including the ones raised on this floor. Let me start with democracy.
Just a month ago, the most authoritative international organization, which monitors the freedom-related situation, stated that Armenia had made the highest ever two-year progress in democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. In general, this is a record made by similar organizations around the world. Nonetheless, today we are talking about restrictions on freedom of speech.
Show me a period in the Third Republic’s history when at least three or four, if not four or five, six or seven TV channels nationwide aired talk shows filled with the stench of rotting political bodies from morning to evening. You just asked me to cite a specific case, of course, I cannot give an explanation at least at this moment, but the competent authorities will give clarifications, if necessary.
While you were talking, I had a reminiscence of October 27, 1999. Maybe the associations are wrong; maybe I am mistaken about the job people did at that time, but on October 27, 1999, on the last page of the notorious newspaper belonging to the well-known political party, where, if I am not mistaken, the person you mentioned was working, a picture was published with a dead body just in the middle of the Republic Square. And it is still a mystery how come that picture appeared in the newspaper on that very day, I think there was even a corresponding caption.
Let us look at it from a different point of view in order to understand the level of freedom of speech and the way it works in Armenia. At today’s cabinet meeting, I had the opportunity to note that in compliance with your criticism, the Human Rights Defender’s appeals, we lifted the restrictions on freedom of speech during the state of emergency considering that after all it was matter of national importance. But look at what happened next.
And one of the main reasons behind the current situation is that we were wrong to comply with your request. While we are not going to give up on that, we must state that the forces that spread stench are pushing people to death. After all, the forces that spread the stench believe that the more people in Armenia become infected with the coronavirus, the more people will die, the higher their chances of speaking.
They keep talking about newspapers. Yes, we have declared that political parties, media outlets and non-governmental organizations should be 100% transparent in the Republic of Armenia, so that the so-called former presidents could not use their stolen money to finance battalions of “fakes” and other media outlets by waging a hybrid war against the people of Armenia.
I do not understand why the government should be 100% transparent and others not. Those who have funded as many as 3,500 fakes under their control, coordinated by a member of the National Assembly, are now talking about fake outlets from this podium. While you think of yourself as advocates of democracy, we must protect democracy from some, because democracy does not imply laxity. Democracy cannot rely on political parties that make deputies sign a deed of surrender.
You say political persecution. We have actually witnessed political persecution for the past 30 years. Where did you see that a court refuses to detain the victim of political persecution? Why did they not refuse to arrest us, just because they knew they would be lost in five minutes? We need to understand who those judges are.
Yes, we reject the practice of unlawful influence on the judiciary. But this does not mean that the former systems of influence should continue to operate nowadays. No, they will not be allowed to do so. Let them show up and show who’s who.
We will explain why the issue of courts has not been resolved yet. Not solved for one simple reason. We did not want to replace the old puppet system with a new puppet system. We want to have truly independent law-courts in the country.
We will praise and value the judges that will rule according to their convictions, conscience, without old corruption ties and corruption nostalgia. Such judges are the pillar of this country and our statehood. And we will do everything we can to protect those people, and we will do everything we can to get others out of the judiciary. Nothing may stop us. By the way, the court has at least confirmed that there is a well-founded suspicion in your judicial act.
I am surprised at the allegation that a political force has boycotted the hearings, yet the government is indifferent. The political force has destroyed itself, because it is trying to deny something that all citizens of the Republic of Armenia know: everyone knows without exaggeration. In other words, is it news that there are political forces in Armenia that have distributed election bribes? Is it news that the Prosperous Armenia Party has been elected through electoral bribes? Is it news for anyone? When you decry something that everyone knows very well, you destroy yourself.
They are not here today not because they are being persecuted, but because they are not there today, because the political force that looks right into people’s eyes and tell lies cannot engage in political activities in Armenia.
Yes, today a major reform is underway in Armenia - the reform of the political field. Those who used to be ruled behind the scenes like puppets will no longer allowed a niche in the political field of Armenia, and those who have ruled the puppets behind the scenes will not have a place in the political arena.
Yes, let me predict that only those political forces that unequivocally support the values of the non-violent velvet revolution of 2018 will won seats in the next parliamentary elections. Some of these forces are criticizing us today. Indeed, they are entitled to do so, and we are not at all offended, but feel sorry about such criticism, because we think that they do well to criticize since the future is theirs.
Today there is a lot of talk about who the future government is and who the future opposition is. Both the future government and the opposition are 100 percent those who stood up and empowered our people. Apart from them, no one will have a place in this parliament. I say this not as Prime Minister, I say this as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, and I reserve the right to say, at least I know our people a little better than others.
If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t have been present here today. All those who believed that they had cheated the nation and broken down our people’s determination to live and struggle were mistaken and publicly admitted their mistakes.
And now the coronavirus has fallen on their heads like a celestial mama. They feel that the coronavirus can give them a chance to rise from the dead, and the political bacillus has a chance to revive. They are talking about famine and social uprising, because they are afraid of social revolts similar to the one that took place a couple of years ago, because their ill-earned mansions and Bentleys will be smashed in social unrest. Go ahead, provoke a social revolt if you want social unrest, and we can see where you will end up following a social uprising.
They keep saying that the opposition is being pressured and rallies are being banned. But they thereby ignore a small detail: our rallies, too, are banned by the same logic. We have seen so much of your rallies: you spend half a million dollars and can only gather 200 people. They come and stand without masks and say there is no coronavirus. Now they are ashamed to say that protesters got sick and take turns getting sick with the coronavirus.
Please do not scare us with a rally? You had better scare us with your money, with your ability to embezzle and rob as it seems to be really scary. In the meantime, I would advise you to get off as the plane has landed.
Now let us speak about criminal cases. They argue that if the search took place in February, why has there been no proper investigation so far? I myself wonder and ask the same question. The matter needs to be clarified and it has been clarified. Concrete decisions have been made to that effect. But I have been saying for a year and a half that the law enforcement system does not properly investigate corruption-related cases; that is what we are talking about.
Those who used to give out bribes, and who privatized half the country just tell us: “Get out of Facebook and face the reality?” It remains to see when they themselves will get out of their kitchens.
But I still want to get back to the 2019 budget and to the worst thing about the state budget: the return of corruption money. At the same time, it is primarily related to security, because during the electoral campaign I said that we should be able to spend USD 1.5-2 billion on the armed forces and enhance our security over the next few years, and that money should be generated by recovering the funds stolen from the people. This is the cornerstone.
Corrupt systems are fond of money, and they do not want to give up their money. To this end, a law on confiscation of illegal property has been passed, which will soon come into force. We boast serious achievements in corruption cases, but we have legal issues that we must try to tackle now. By the way, similar challenges are faced in the European Union and around the world, for instance, the problem related to money laundering.
Judicial practice is now changing around the world so that things are moving in that direction. And what are they doing? They are trying to get us involved in a meaningless dialogue. We say for example that Serzh Sargsyan’s family stole Dzorahek, practiced smuggling with Spayka; the Hilton Hotel and the Opera Suite Hotel are theirs, etc. In fact, you forcibly took away Armenia, Shant and other TV companies from their owners. We say that there was systemic electoral fraud orchestrated by Serzh Sargsyan’s family, from polls to exit polls, and by staging election incidents in specific polling stations.
When there was news of electoral fraud in a polling station, all journalists and observers ran there. During that time, “the turnip did its job.” And how was it staged? There was an attempt to vote with someone else’s passport, and the election fraudster was caught trying to vote with someone else’s passport. Naturally, all the observers, both international and local, rushed there. In the end, it turned out that a 50-year-old citizen mistakenly took his wife’s passport and the name of that 50-year-old citizen was predetermined by the Republicans, or rather by Serzh Sargsyan’s family who told him “Dear citizen, at some point you will accidentally take your wife’s passport, not yours, and you will go to vote.” There will be ballyhoo; the performance will last for an hour, until we solve the problems in other polling stations.
Now they are telling us that we are smugglers, we are corrupt, etc. They want to portray me as Serzh Sargsyan realizing that their own image was the main driving force behind the revolution. Since they want to carry out a revolution, they want to portray me through ‘free’ media as Serzh Sargsyan.
This is their primary goal, but that trick will not work. There is a famous Russian film with a very famous dialogue, which says: ““You think money is power, but there is no power without truth.” There must be no doubt that we will subject that corrupt system, all of them in a single basket, to capitulation because there is only one thing behind us, on our minds and in our hearts: the truth.
We will push ahead with the path of truth; I am sorry that many have hopelessly lagged behind.
Armenia is facing one crisis in 2020, the coronavirus crisis; the other crises stem from COVID-19. The moment we curb this crisis, others will automatically return to themselves very quickly. We will be back to the starting point, and will go even further.
I would like to remind that there is a coronavirus epidemic in the Republic of Armenia, and I want to call on all our citizens to abide by the prescribed anti-epidemic rules: wear face masks, observe social distancing, and disinfect hands. All MPs, government members, employees of state institutions, non-governmental organizations should do their utmost in this regard. Each of us must dedicate 10, 20, 30 minutes or an hour daily to the fight against the novel coronavirus.
I recently asked to provide me a reference note on which opposition forces had at least once called for compliance with the anti-epidemic rules. The reference note made up only 1/5 of an A4 paper; it seems that all the others are instead waiting for the coronavirus to grow and prosper in Armenia.