Political differences among Armenian newspapers manifest themselves even in Friday's press commentary on an apolitical subject such the 13th anniversary of the 1988 earthquake. The government’s handling of its remaining consequences comes under scrutiny.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the notion of a “disaster zone” remains very topical more than a decade after the tragedy. “In fact, the whole of Armenia has become a disaster zone, if not in a political, then in a humanitarian, legal and spiritual sense.” The buildings in the areas hit by the quake will eventually be rebuilt. “But throughout these years we have been losing, not gaining, values that are necessary for building a state with a future,” the paper says.
“Hayots Ashkhar,” by contrast, sees real government efforts to eliminate consequences of the vast disaster. Construction work in Gyumri, Vanadzor and other places has visibly accelerated in the past several years, and the region is “at least physically ceasing to be a disaster zone.” The problem is that the reconstruction process is not accompanied by the creation of new jobs. Local authorities, which have become accustomed to seeking help from Yerevan, are also to blame for the dismal economic situation in Shirak and Lori. For them, reliance on the central government has become “a mentality, a way of life.”
That things are slowly getting better in the northern regions is also asserted by the head of the Yerevan office of the US Agency for International Development. Keith Simmons tells “Yerkir” that he hopes the prolonged reconstruction process will be completed in a few years’ time, something which will allow the USAID to concentrate on other parts of the country.
In an interview with “Hayots Ashkhar” Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian defends his agency’s decision to charge the presidential bodyguard who beat to the death a man in a Yerevan café with involuntary manslaughter. Tamazian says the bodyguard, Aghamal Harutiunian, did not intend to kill Poghos Poghosian but should have foreseen consequences of the severe physical abuse. The chief prosecutor also promises to publicize all details of the criminal case in view of its public resonance.
“Iravunk” takes the view that Karen Galustian was sacked as energy minister because he was serious about putting the corrupt energy sector in order. The paper says his ouster fits into the pattern of “clan relations” in the Armenian leadership where it is “impermissible to touch certain spheres and certain individuals.” “The presidential camp never prepared to crack down on non-payments [for electricity] and so-called super-losses in earnest because the annual ‘losses’ of about $60 million and astronomical abuses in the gas network allow not only to have a network of people benefiting from those perks but also to collect so-called extra-budgetary resources for the future [pre-election] presidential funds.”
In another commentary, “Iravunk” hails the decision of five opposition parties to push forward a joint draft constitution in the parliament. The paper finds their cooperation extremely important. “It means the formation of a serious opposition force around a constructive idea of strategic significance.” The ruling “oligarchy” will thus face serious resistance to its attempts to make merely cosmetic changes in the Armenian constitution.