By Shake Avoyan
Scores of residents affected by massive redevelopment schemes in downtown Yerevan protested outside the government building on Thursday as the new Armenian government were holding their first meeting inside.
Activists representing hundreds of citizens controversially evicted from their city center homes to give way to multimillion construction projects accused Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian of going back on his promise to meet them and discuss ways to settle their problems.
Vachagan Hakobian, who set up a nongovernmental organization to advocate the property rights of evicted citizens, says the authorities’ inaction to provide solutions to their problems made them resort to a protest action again after a two-month interval.
“During the pre-election campaign we hoped that the premier would fulfill his promise after the elections. But two months have passed, people feel disillusioned and have decided to go outside again,” Hakobian told RFE/RL, adding that the protest was staged at a very short notice and therefore was not attended by all who would wish to join the action.
Many residents whose homes were demolished by city developers are unhappy with the modest amount of compensations they got from the state, alleging high-level government corruption. Some have resisted eviction by filing lawsuits and even building barricades as they protested the government action as illegal and unconstitutional.
“We will push for a meeting with the prime minister,” the activist said. “He’d better personally tell us whether he will keep his promise or not so that we decide on our further action.”
Meanwhile, the Cabinet members sitting inside seemed untroubled by the protest action and proceeded with their meeting as usual.
Before passing to the discussion of agenda issues, Premier Sarkisian urged his Cabinet to work as effectively as possible and show everything it is capable of. According to him, the need for this is prompted by the short-term nature of the current government, which is likely to be dissolved in an eight months’ time in view of the presidential election in the country.
The government plans to finalize its program of action and submit it to the National Assembly for approval by the end of this month.