Archive for January 14th, 2014

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Keep off the grass – Politics and religion, Ukraine

January 14, 2014

Firstly I should make a disclosure before readers continue – I am a Catholic.  Not a good one, not a practicing one, but raised one nonetheless.  God-fearing I am not.  God-respecting, or at the very least respectful of those that are far more devout than myself, regardless of the theology they follow, I am.

Secondly, writing about policy, politics, governance and democracy daily, I deliberately and where ever possible, try to avoid any smudging of the necessary secular/laicite dividing lines required/desired for a modern “western styled” democracy.

Quite simply put, democracy works most smoothly if both politics and religion keep from striding rudely and heavily across the manicured lawns of the other – just as it does with the other pillars of democracy such as rule of law and the media.

Each pillar of democracy generally has a “Keep off the grass” sign planted outside it that is widely and attentively adhered to by the other pillars – certainly within established, consolidated liberal democracies – which Ukraine as yet is not – and has never been.

Late August/early September last year I had to be in Kyiv on a matter of personal bureaucracy.  As is normally the case when there I try and catch up with friends amongst the diplomatic corps of various nations.  Naturally many conversations that bore my good lady to tears ensue.

In fact the only fun I can remember her having during such an occasion was the guided tour of a certain embassy outside Ukraine last year, during which she was confronted by a larger than life white bust of Lenin wearing a UK police officers helmet!

Naturally I will not identify the nation to which the embassy belonged, nor the nation in which it is situated – Certain readers who have been graciously allowed similar access, however, will know exactly about which I speak and to whom this eclectic display belongs.

Anyway, back to late summer 2013 in Kyiv and a topic my thoughts were asked to turn toward – flattery to think my opinion was asked indeed.  It was, at the time, the immediate prelude to a belated pro-EU Association Agreement propaganda/visibility drive.  A lengthy discussion relating to approaching “The Church” in Ukraine to look favourably upon – and discretely promote – the AA took place.  Pros and cons explored and all that.

Again the nationality of the senior diplomat will necessarily be subject to the Chatham House Rule.

Suffice to say I could see the obvious attraction to such a tactic in what is a fairly conservative and god worshiping nation – with the caveat of “treading lightly on grass”.  After all, every election cycle has Ukrainian  politicians of every party wheeling out a priest or pope in their propaganda displays for (re)election – so why not for the pro-EU movement too – if tactfully done?

All of this brings us in a round-about way, to yesterday’s very crude shot across the bows for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and its presence at Euromaidan.

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Threats to deprive it of its legal status due to priests attending Euromaidan and make-shift churches therein?

Whilst the political elite may, through various mechanisms, not entirely rely upon the masses to retain power in a transitional or stalled democracy – if labeling Ukraine kindly – “The Church” in Ukraine does indeed rely on the masses to remain relevant, and it thus follows that where there is a significant societal movement one way or another, The Church will respond (readily or begrudgingly) by moving toward that societal goal.

Last time I checked, societal demands for greater democracy where not deemed “ungodly” by the current Catholic Pope or any other Christian denomination.  Where would the Abrahamic religions be without freedom of association or speech?

As far as I am aware, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has not called for the overthrow of the current authorities.  It has not called for revolution.  It has not called for any resignations of the current leadership.  In short, whilst present at Euromaidan, it has been very careful not to tread too heavily on the political grass.

Yet it appears the plan of the State is not only to out-wait Euromaidan whilst chipping away at its edges by various nefarious means, not only to engage in hollow calls for dialogue with the opposition and civil society, not only to tighten, rather than release, its grip on the democratic space – but it is now to take on the Holy See and its 4.5 million (10% of the population) followers in Ukraine?

Somebody thought this to be a wise and ultimately effective policy?

Really?

Seriously?

Was whomever had this idea smoking an entirely different type of “grass”?

Undoubtedly Catholicism is a cross cutting cleavage that does not respect party lines in Ukraine – and thus the  probability for this policy to be counterproductive internally of Ukraine amongst the voting constituency must be blatantly obvious to even the most retarded of policy makers.

Externally, for the Ukrainian leadership to get into a public spat with The Holy See so unnecessarily would appear to push the boundaries of stupidity beyond belief – whether you are a “believer”, or not!

Fortunately it seems somebody is beginning to realise just how erroneous and counterproductive this threat of prosecution has been – a rowing back from a very stupid policy position is apparently underway.

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Vlasenko accuses Poroshenko of censorship

January 14, 2014

Apparently Petro Poroshenko, owner of Channel 5 TV, regular Євромайдан speaker – and probably funder in part thereof – has banned any news about Yulia Tymoshenko on his TV channel – according to one of Ms Tymoshenko’s lawyers, Serhiy Vlasenko.

Quite why Mr Poroshenko would want to do such a thing – if indeed he has – remains unclear.

No matter what is aired regarding Ms Tymoshenko  – or not – she is not leaving prison any time soon unless it suits the current leadership’s agenda.

With the change of foreign office personnel in Germany, she is no longer a (publicly at least) headline issue for Mrs Merkel’s new coalition government as this interview with Gernot Erler  clearly infers.  An impediment for continued traction within the EU when it comes to European headlines containing the name “Tymoshenko”.

Remaining in jail as she obviously will be, any damage she could do to any presidential ambitions Mr Poroshenko may have are clearly limited – if he has any serious presidential ambitions at all.  He doesn’t seem to figure in anybody else’s plans when it comes to opposition presidential scheming despite being an extremely capable candidate.

Thus despite Serhiy Vlasenko’s accusations, it is difficult to see a robust driver for such an undemocratic decision as to enforce censorship on his TV channel relating to all things “Tymoshenko” orientated.

It may be upon scratching away at the thin veneer that is the public facade of opposition unity, and entering the distrustful reality of mutually adorned opposition cloaks and daggers, a fall out between Ms Tymoshenko and/or the Batkivshchyna Party with Mr Poroshenko has occurred – However, if not, and the accusations of Serhiy Vlasenko are spurious, then such public accusations whether intentional or otherwise, add to a public perception of  mistrust amongst the opposition parties and their associated leading public figures.

Let’s be quite honest, having read this, you are wondering why Mr Poroshenko undemocratically censors his TV channel over Ms Tymoshenko – or alternatively wondering why Mr Vlasenko claims he is, if he isn’t?

An unnecessarily public incident within the opposition ranks when all is said and done.  The “democratic opposition” publicly accusing the “democratic opposition” of undemocratic censorship seems to be something of a gift for the spin doctors of the authorities.  Far better addressed privately behind closed doors – if there is anything to address at all.

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