says Garbis Korajian, an Int’l Consultant and Trainer at World Bank and United Nations on Good Governance, Ethical Leadership, Anti-Corruption Education and Social Accountability
Recently, USA Armenian Life TV commentator Appo Jabarian and and Garbis Korajian discussed a variety of issues. The discussion was televised on Los Angeles-based Armenian Media Group of America TV (AMGA). The discussion focused on the “Separation of Church and State Powers” in Armenia. It also tackled such issues as widening public criticism of Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians on the latter’s neglect the need of the Armenian people. Alice Soghomonyan’s criticism of the letter written by Karekin II unjustly requesting “the release of Robert Kocharyan from prison;” Korajian is a consultant for the World Bank, Canadian Int’l Development Agency (CIDA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nation Development Agency (UNDP), the Government of China and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Nagorno-Karabakh; a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Public Administration specializing in Ethical Leadership, an international consultant and trainer on Good Governance, Ethical Leadership, Anti-corruption education and social accountability, WATCH at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=7QIVXdKwf5g&t=51s
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 1 TPS LUR TV (Armenia): Alice Soghomonyan deals with the issue of the letter written by Karekin II, requesting the release of Robert Kocharyan from prison. TPS LUR TV (Armenia): Ms. Soghomonyan starts her comments with an expression of unwavering respect for the Holy Sees of Echmiadzin. However, she feels her respect for Karekin II is none existent, as he has distanced himself from the people and has ignored their suffering since his election as the supreme religious leader of all Armenians. After 20 years of silence, she is surprised to see Karekin II interfering in the legal matters of Kocharyan and asking for his release from prison. TV HOST APPO JABARIAN: What can you say, Dr. Korajian on Ms. Soghomonyan’ GARBIS KORAJIAN: Has Karekin II forgotten the fundamental constitutional law that stipulates the separation of state and church? GARBIS KORAJIAN: Ms. Soghomonyan suggests this interference in the judiciary affairs is unconstitutional. She also likes to remind the Catholicos many of the atrocities that were committed during Sargsyan’s presidency, including the merciless killing of the Avedisyan family in Gyumri. More crimes were committed on March 1, 2008 when the private Army of Kocharyan, in cold-blood, assassinated 10 peaceful demonstrators in the center of Yerevan. She also reminds her audience the killing of the “bread carrier” who was shot by the police. GARBIS KORAJIAN: Did Karekin II forgot all those atrocities committed on peaceful citizens. All of a sudden, now, he is speaking shamelessly, asking for the release of Kocharyan from prison. Is the fear of the Coronavirus a justifiable reason to let Kocharyan walk out of prison? How about the rest of the prisoners? Does he care about them? Perhaps, all that Pontiff cares about is his personal interests. She asks the brazen Catholicos if the people will ever listen to what he has to say? Most likely not! Instead of speaking unnecessarily, she wants him to resign and leave the Holy Throne to a real, more deserving Catholicos, a new Catholicos whose words would be listened by all Armenians.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 2
FACTOR TV (Armenia): This segment deals with Karekin II coming in support of Kocharyan.
It is worthy to mention that Echmiadzin became the guarantor for the release of Samuel Mayrabetyan who was charged on fraud and corruption. He was released from jail and has since left Armenia for medical treatment and has failed to return. Armenian National Assembly Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan speaks of the separation of state and church powers. He says Karekin II should not breach his constitutional limitations. However, he also says Karekin II is a citizen of Armenia and has the right to speak. Armenian National Assembly Deputy Speaker Alen Simonian speaks of the unusual behavior of Karekin II, his coming in the open and requesting the release of Kocharyan, while in the past 20 years, he has refused to say a word on similar issues, when other citizens were facing legal challenges. He continues to say, the ones who were arrested in the past were beaten and were subjected to all forms of abuse by the Police, unfortunately, Karekin II remained silent. Mrs. Hranoush Karadyan says Karekin’s behaviour and his support for Kocharyan comes out of obligation for the return of past favours received from the former president, something like reciprocity. Haig Hagopian speaks of March 1 and the atrocities committed. While these atrocities were taking place, the First President, Ter-Petrosyan pleaded to Karekin II to interfere as a spiritual leader and mediate a violent situation that was getting more dangerous by the day.
Unfortunately, Karekin II refused to interfere. Aghasi Tatiosyan stresses the fact that Echmiadzin under the leadership of Karekin II, is not a clean and transparent institution. However, he also stresses the fact that Karekin coming in defence of Kocharyan is somewhat an obligatory act. He also warns Armenians to be careful of discrediting Echmiadzin, as it is an institution that serves as a uniting force for Armenians. Coming to the charges laid by the Justice Department against Arch. Navasard Kchoyan for embezzling 11.5 million dollars from Paylag Hayrabedyan, Etchmiadzin comes in support of Arch. Navasard Kchoyan and declares his innocence. In fact, Etchmiadzin says this is a witch-hunt and an act of revenge. As the charges laid on Arch. Navasard Kchoyan happened only one day after Karekin II had openly spoken in support of Kocharyan, is a proof of the witch-hunt.
TV HOST APPO JABARIAN: Does he have any connection with the fraud charges laid against Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan?
GARBIS KORAJIAN: The Constitution of 2007 and later on the amended one of 2015, clearly stipulates state and church separation. Based on this constitutional premise, Karekin II should clearly stay away from such unconstitutional behaviour and stop interfering in judicial matters that are outside his scope of responsibility. Karekin II and the church should stay within the parameters of spiritual and religious issues concerning the public as well as well as the right to manage its own assets. Nothing more and nothing less.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 3
KENTRON TV CHANNEL (Armenia): This segment deals with Karekin II capturing the church and running it as if it was his own fiefdom.
Citizens demonstrating in front of the church are demanding the resignation of Karekin II. In many words, they are saying, “Armenia needs a new Catholicos.” Father Goryun is leading the sit-in demonstration with citizen Garen Bedrosyan. While the demonstrations are in progress, Vicoe of Catholicosate (Chief of Staff) Bishop Arshag Khachadryan is denying all the allegations made against Karekin II. In fact, he says this is a form of blackmail against Karekin II, a deliberate act to discredit him, without providing any proof. Citizen Garen also raises the issue of Karekin II having fathered a daughter, Khtoun Grigoryan, which the Bishop denies. The citizens demonstrating vow to continue their protest until Karekin II resigns.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 4
HRAPARAK TV (Armenia): This segment is about a priest who says “I want to live like a King.”
In his sermon, a certain priest speaks of the duty each and every citizen has in providing him a life of a king. He says people have to thank him for all the hard work he performs for the church. He mentions the rigorous work he does, including 4 funeral services he had performed in 4 days, that his job is extremely tiresome. He also talks about his duty as a priest in serving God faithfully. He refuses to become a businessman in order to serve God; therefore, his constituency has the obligation to look after him and provide hi a life of a king. He also challenges Araying Haroutunyan, and says he has no idea on the sacrifice priests makes on daily basis and their divine work. He says priesthood is a more prestigious job than that of an ambassador. The whole speech is a claim of entitlement to royalty and all the good life that comes with being a king.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 5
ARMTUBE TV (Armenia): This segment is about the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan lashing out at Karekin II.
This video is directed to Prime Minster Pashinayn. The speaker on this video openly criticizes the PM of being tolerant to the crimes of Karekin II. He says, the PM was not only tolerant of Karekin’s behaviour, but he was instrumental in sending the police to disperse demonstrations who were asking for his resignation. Unfortunately, the help Pashinyan provided Karekin II, has backfired and has haunted him since. Karekin has become his enemy and has turn against him. In many words, this Pontiff has shown to be an ungrateful person who is trying to sabotage Pashinyan’s government. Karekin’s II support of Kocharyan clearly shows where his loyalty rests. The speaker continues to say, Karekin II was and still is an accomplice to Sargsyan and Kocharyan. He is also involved in many corrupt acts including offshore money laundering and other major incidences of corruption. As you have promised the nation to make this country a land where the rule of law is supreme and equally distributed to all, and the fact that you have declared war against corruption, Karekin II has to be punished and should be removed from his chair.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 6
FACTOR TV (Armenia): In this segment, Pashinyan says he has a mandate from the people to punish people involved in high level corruption.
Pashinyan raises his concern of grand corruption that existed in the past and still exists within high level public officials. He vows to stop this unlawful act immediately. He speaks of the mandate he has from the people to fight corruption and prosecute the culprits and confiscate their assets, that were acquired illegally. He continues to say this is the expectation of the people from him and that he would comply. Accordingly, the actions taken so far by his government is a testimony of how serious he is in mitigating corruption and punishing the culprits. To mention a few of their exemplifying job, the confiscation of a property from former Mayor of Yerevan, is a testimony of how serious we are in mitigation corruption. He continues to say, the charges of embezzlement laid against Yebisgobos Navasar, Serj Sargsyan, Gagig Khachaderyan and his sons are all good examples that proves we mean business. However, many of these corrupt individuals are still free of all charges and walk freely in the streets of Yerevan. Other examples of people who are still not in jail are the brothers of Serj Sargsyan, Levon and Sasha, Suren Khcaderyan, Aram Harnikyan who had embezzled 14 million, Mihran Boghossyan, Hovig Abrahamyan and may others who remain free and live lavishly in their mnsions. In all this, Pashinyan still talks about confiscating their mansions and punishing them. It has to be made clear, the people are waiting patiently, wanting to see some positive results.
TELEVISED DISCUSSION SEGMENT 7
FACTOR TV (Armenia): In this segment, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly Alen Simonyan states that the corrupt individuals will no longer own castles because they were acquired illegally and that this is not a Vendetta.
Q: It has been two years since the revolution has started. Some individuals who are suspected of crimes are still fighting in court, and some are in prison. Don’t you think two years is long enough to provide justice to these people? Shouldn’t they be allowed to go free. Don’t you think this is abuse of due process of the courts?
ALEN SIMONYAN: The process took place fairly and still continues in a timely manner. The accused will understand, there is the law in this country and they will be punished if they break it. This will help them understand to restrain themselves from repeating such crimes. People should also understand that legal cases take time and cannot be done quickly. However, we will be fair and we will do it in a timely manner.
Q: How will the process accomplish its goal?
ALEN SIMONYAN: The process will accomplish a lot, as it is based on the rule of law
Q: Can the previous corrupt individuals continue to carry on as they did in the past?
ALEN SIMONYAN: They have to understand that today everyone is equal in front of the law. Corruption like they knew it, does not and should not exist in Armenia. The people should also restrain from giving bribes.
Q: As for property and buildings, how is it possible for a few individuals to own such expensive and lavish estates when they were on basic salaries?
ALEN SIMONYAN: These castles were built on money illegally acquired through corruption. If you take a close look at the city of Yerevan, there are no kindergartens left. Our children do not have a place to study. The rich oligarchs have illegally kicked the kids out of these homes and have turned them into restaurants and other businesses. Such robberies are not tolerated any more. We will confiscate these buildings and return them back to the people.
Q: Many people say what your government is doing is a form of Vendetta?
ALEN SIMONYAN: These illegal and corrupt elements have committed “white revolution” on the people of Armenia. How is our action of persecuting these corrupt individuals who have enriched themselves at the expense of the country be called vendetta, I do not understand? Their assets will soon be taken away and returned to the state.
Q: Markaryan says former associates such as Atom Ghaguryan are working with Pashinyan. What do you have to say about this?
ALEN SIMONYAN: Former associate of Sargsyan who were elected by the people, are legitimate and can work with Pashinyan without any problem. The problem with Markaryan is that he cannot see his own dirty and tries to smear our government. He should first look at himself and his corrupt behaviours before criticising someone else.
Q: Some opposition members say the Velvet Revolution should be replaced by a tougher government who is willing to implement serious measures to mitigate the problems of Armenia. What is your opinion?
ALEN SIMONYAN: Our government does not like to engage, and will not engage in illegal methods to mitigate Armenia’s problems. Our velvet revolution is clear of any guilt and will continue as such.