“Aravot” blasts leaders of the parliamentary parties for being “too secretive” about their meeting with President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday. All they say is that they discussed with Kocharian the Karabakh peace talks and constitutional reform. It is expected that a nationwide referendum on a package of constitutional amendments will be held in the spring of 2002. Parliament majority leader Galust Sahakian hopes that by that time the parties will have developed a consensus on how to amend the basic law. Otherwise, he says, the referendum will proceed in a “suspicious situation.” As for Karabakh, Sahakian claims that Kocharian did not reveal anything new.
The leader of the Yerkrapah group in the parliament, Miasnik Malkhasian, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that he never understood why Kocharian invited the party leaders to his office and what his message was. Artashes Geghamian, leader of the opposition Right and Accord bloc, is also bewildered, advising reporters to read Wednesday’s “pro-government papers” to acquaint themselves with “thoughts expressed or not expressed by the president.”
Commenting on Vazgen Manukian’s appointment as head of a parliamentary commission investigating the ArmenTel monopoly, “Haykakan Zhamanak” says it has the impression that Kocharian entrust only the National Democratic Union (AZhM) with telecom-related matters. The paper reminds that another top AZhM figure, the current Minister For State Property David Vartanian, conducted a similar inquiry when he headed the presidential oversight service in 1998-99. It could be that Manukian took over the newly formed commission to prevent “unpleasant revelations” involving Vartanian, the paper speculates.
“Hayots Ashkhar” concentrates on another parliamentary commission overseeing the official probe of the October 1999 assassinations. The paper is outraged by Yerkrapah lawmakers’ attempts to hire Mushegh Saghatelian, the notorious former head of Armenia’s prisons, as a legal expert advising the commission. How, it asks, can someone who “personally tortured” suspects in the case help the legislature discover the truth about the tragedy? Some of those suspects were last year cleared by courts and military prosecutors. The paper’s editor, Gagik Mkrtchian, says he and several opposition politicians were “savagely beaten up” in custody by Saghatelian during the post-election crackdown on the opposition ordered by the Ter-Petrossian administration.
Tigran Torosian, deputy speaker of the parliament, stresses in a “Zhamanak” interview the importance of a government bill on civil service to be debated by the National Assembly later this month. Torosian says successive post-Communist governments in Yerevan have created a “new [bureaucratic] system based on old principles” of corruption and favoritism. That system has taken deep roots and stunts the country’s development.
According to Stepan Tsaghikian, an anti-corruption expert at the parliament committee on defense and security, corruption is so rampant in Armenia that it “puts our statehood in jeopardy.” He says law-enforcement bodies alone can not weed out the practice without the support of the entire state apparatus. Every government must have an anti-corruption unit. But he says the administrative measures must be backed up by a major rise in salaries of civil servants. This could be done through staff cuts in the bloated government bureaucracy.