Archive for March 14th, 2012

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Invitations and refusals – President and opposition

March 14, 2012

Two days ago saw the conclusion of the latest Council of Europe (PACE) meeting and amongst many statements made about many nations, Ukraine was one.

The Council of Europe statement was, as you would expect, critical of Ukraine and also the current situation with Ms Tymoshenko and her past colleagues.

Now Ukraine has given assurances behind closed doors that it will abide by any ECfHR ruling relating to Ms Tymoshenko and others.  That ruling however seems to be months away even in the fast tracked system.  This is really the only legal way the President has of releasing Ms Tymoshenko without breaking the law himself unless she asks for a pardon which she categorically states will never happen.

However, in light of the Council of Europe statements, the Presidential Administration issued invitations to the Speaker of the RADA and heads of parliamentary factions to discuss what can be done about the issues raised.

In response to those invitations, the political parties of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko, who happen to be the parties that have the most high profile people in jail, point blank refused to attend because others would be there.

This leaves the rather bizarre situation where the President, RADA Speaker, leader of the ruling PoR and several leaders of other opposition parties will meet for 2 days and discuss issues amongst which relate directly to the two opposition parties who flatly refuse to attend but should have the most interest in being there.

Is it reasonable for BYuT and OU-PSD to refuse an attempt at an all-inclusive discussion on matters criticized by PACE?  After all only 2 years ago BYuT and OU-PSD were in power and many of the issues unrelated to their party members incarceration but mentioned by PACE in its statement, happened and were left unchanged under their watch.

Do they want no others present so that any misleading or spurious allegations they may wish to make after any such meeting can go unchallenged?  (A common phenomenon in Ukrainian politics.)

Should they not be participating in this meeting for the voters who elected them and that have relatives in prison under the conditions highlighted by PACE?

The PACE statement is not all about Ms Tymoshenko and their political colleagues, but also about the conditions and suffering of relations of some of their voters.  Conditions they did nothing to change when in power and therefore BYuT and OU-PSD have a responsibility to discuss and address them with the President and current government for the sake of Ukraine and Ukrainian society.

Childish behaviour and refusal to attend and discuss such serious matters does nothing but undermine their self-appointed misnomer label of being democratic.  Continued refusal to engage through publicly open invitations for dialogue diminishes the claims that the current authorities are autocratic or a dictatorship as they orate.  Who is refusing to speak to who here and what message does that give to the Ukrainian public (and foreign observers)?

Diplomacy, negotiation and democracy all require dialogue and the willingness to take every opportunity for meaningful engagement when and where those opportunities arise.  That is even more essential when your political legacy is also being questioned by prominent external actors.

What will happen should the government put everything to the liking of PACE?  What part can BYuT and OU-PSD claim to have played in these human rights issues?  As far as the general population of Ukrainian prisons and their families go, obviously none having so publicly refused to take part in any dialogue!

One can only hope that politicians like Arseniy Yatseniuk and his Front for Change party not only continue to close the popularity gap on BYuT but overtake it and then some.  Maybe then as far as cross party pluralist democratic engagement goes in the corridors of power. the Ukrainian people will actually get to something resembling debates and discussion rather than the childish actions currently being displayed.

It is easy to look at this issue as one which relates solely to Ms Tymoshenko and colleagues, but when it comes to Ukrainian prisons and the conditions therein, it is a much broader matter and as such, BYuT and OU-PSD by not attending this meeting are not only letting down their supporters but also Ukrainian society in general.

Hardly the actions of a responsible leadership in waiting!

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