Saturday, 22 September

Who Really Cares About Inconvenient Details?

Our leaders are building a nation; stop complaining already! I

was really happy when the Tatev cable car launched its first maiden voyage high above the valleys and gorges of Syunik. I also had good feelings towards Russian-Armenian businessman Rouben Vardanyan.

This projects of his was unlike any other Armenia has experienced. Deep within the bowels of Mother Russia, Vardanyan was able to keep free of the web spun by Armenia’s criminal oligarchs. That’s to say he isn’t like the homegrown Armenian model. My respect for him increased when I saw how humbly he behaved at the day of the cable car’s opening. He didn’t strut around boasting or fawning for attention. He was comfortable taking a low-keyed approach. This impression of Vardanyan would most likely have stuck in my mind had it not been for a reporter’s photo showing   Tatev and Halidzor villagers hanging from a nearby fence. They were mostly the elderly and children and women. I saw no young adults. Officials hadn’t let the locals enter onto the grounds of Tatev were the opening ceremonies were taking place. People told me I shouldn’t be paying so much attention to minor details like this; that the day in question was to be enjoyed by invited guests and other assorted big shots. My simple reply is that these “unwanted” villagers should have been the main attraction that day. After all, one of the supposed reasons for building the world’s longest aerial tramway is to improve the lot of the local economy, and hence, these very people. They are more than just inconvenient details. It’s due to them and their forbearers that Tatev has stood, bowed but intact, for so many centuries. This, in turn, allowed the cable car to be built here, in the historic province of Zangezour. “Details”…I don’t think so. Now we all know what sort of people organized the Tatev event and their pretensions of grandeur. But what about Armenia’s president? Didn’t it cross his mind to ask – “Where are the local folk?” And what about the head of the Armenian Church? Why didn’t he ask, “Where is my flock?” The local residents kept on the other side of the fence should have been the “guests of honor”; seated or standing at the front row occupied by Zori Balayan and the other “esteemed” guests. Let’s face it, who can be deemed more “esteemed” than actual representatives of the very people who call Tatev home. Don’t you think the villagers had an aching desire to stand under the sacred walls of Tatev on that special day, rubbing shoulders with the invited guests from far and wide? The day came to a close in Goris. Organizers prohibited a few regional reporters from participating in the meeting between President Sargsyan and diaspora journalists, even though there were plenty of empty seats. Sousanna Shahnazaryan, a reporter based in Goris, wrote the following to Hetq about the experience. “It’s great that Armenian journalists have their own special holiday. But it turns out that regional reporters were again regarded as the world’s outcasts. What’s worse is that President Sargsyan mentioned the Artsakh War in his speech, when all the time there were reporters locked out of the meeting who were in Goris during the height of the war, preparing TV reports and bringing back newspapers from Yerevan by hand. Why were we slighted? Is it because the impression is that we reporters out in the sticks have nothing to say to the nation’s president or that we are less concerned with regional problems than our colleagues in the capital or overseas working in incomparably better conditions? But we all know that this national holiday is for all of us, equally…” To add insult to injury, I doubt that those reporters from Yerevan and overseas who filed into the meeting hall to hear the president actually considered the possibility that those regional reporters, shamelessly barred from the event, had more of a right to be there than they did. I asked one of the council members of the ruling HHK (Republican Party), if the party’s “inner sanctum” had ever debated the issue of Samvel Aleksanysan producing bogus vodka. “After all, it’s a question of your party’s credibility. They just might start calling the HHK the party of bogus vodka makers,” I told him. For the uninformed, Samvel Aleksanyan is an HHK MP and his “Aleks Group” company was taken to court and fined 7 times by the State Commission for Economic Protection for vodka copyright infringement laws. The company hasn’t paid a dime in fines and has pooh-poohed the rulings. The company’s lawyer has argued that the rulings are politically motivated. Of course, the lawyer could claim that Samvel Aleksanyan is being targeted with political persecution. Again, he could, but he doesn’t go so far; he’s let the authorities off the hook. In court, Aleksanyan’s cronies don’t dispute the fact that they’ve been up to monkey-business. They accept the charges, but say that the cases were launched on the say-so of the Ukraine ambassador. (Much of the vodka they were producing was made to look like well-known Ukrainian brands). I guess if Samvel Aleksanyan doesn’t get justice in the Armenian court system, he will take his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. Now that would be one for the books. Aleksanyan just doesn’t want to pay, and he’ll probably get away with it. But, this isn’t want I want to get across, but rather the answer I got from the HHK council member at Tatev that day. “Why are you digging up the details? The man has invested $100,000 in a sugar factory,” he replied. Really, why get bogged down in the “details”? Who really cares about the plight of villagers, bogus goods, or illegally felled trees? The environment you say? Get serious; who cares? These guys are building a nation and we’re pointing out inconvenient, worthless details.

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