By: Shwan Zulal
Mas'ud Barzani, Kurdistan Region President, met with his government yesterday, spoke about the need for reform, and made it clear that the government would carry out reforms but the president would define its pace. Barzani made it clear that he cannot be pressured to do anything and said: "Government need to work in order to address the demands of protesters". Meanwhile he made the point that only his government can take credit for any reforms, which would be carried out in the coming days and month. This was a jibe at the opposition because they claim, if it were not for them pushing the government, reforms would not take place.
Due to latest clashes last week between the protesters and security forces, for the first time, Maidani Azadi committee has issues a statement calling on the president to go. The committee is also demanding the resignation of the PM and cabinet as well as the dissolution of parliament. Further details should emerge later today about the committee's proposals as a roadmap for reform in Kurdistan.
In the meeting with PM and government ministers, President Barzani accused the opposition parties of having their own agenda and made it clear that the opposition and protesters demands are different. He went on to say;"Opposition demand must not be listened to and government cannot acquiesce to their demands." The tone and the language used by the president are not of a unifying figure speaking but of a dividing one. In the meeting, Barzani's partisan approach shows deep resentment towards anyone who disagree with him especially the opposition parties. It appears that Barzani forgot that he is addressing the government in his capacity as Kurdistan Region president and not head of KDP.
The statement Barzani issued went on to say, "It is strange that in Kurdistan many believe, if the opposition even make mistakes they should not be punished but government should". These assertions sounds like someone sulking, and in the same time accusing the opposition and saying that they have a hand in what has in the protests. Another self-indulgent quote from the president is that: "opposition must stop saying that any reform carried out it in Kurdistan, is because of pressure from them". The comments once again are very party political and the unilateral approach taken by the president is not helpful. If government is serious about reforms and want to be credited with it, the incumbent should have thought about it first without being pushed to it by protesters. Once again, personal pride is getting in the way of reforming KRG and making Kurdistan a better place.
In the recent days and month the president has been repeating the rhetoric that he is Peshmerga (freedom Fighter) and no exception this time as he went on to say" I am not obsessed with position and power ... but I am a Peshmerga and serve my country like one... do not accept that anyone push their agenda on me". The president repeated the rhetoric while saying he does not accept being told what to do, meaning opposition and protesters calling for him to go. The linking of the two sounds like threat rather than a rhetorical statement. Furthermore, Kurdistan needs wise politicians, and competent ministers at this stage of its development not guerrilla fighters.
Since the start of the protest, KRG has been trying to compare protester and that security official who shot nine people and injured over 120. The president said: "the law must be observed and those who have encouraged protesters to use aggression and those shot protesters are the same in the eyes of the law". This is a clear misunderstanding of the law by the president, or more likely a deliberate statement saying; they would not prosecute culprit who shot and killed protesters unless the protest leaders put behind bars. Anyone with commonsense realises that throwing stones and shooting unarmed people are completely two different category in the eyes of law but the president seems to be deliberately comparing the two. It is true in week three of the protest, one security officer was killed during the clashes and it is only just to bring those responsible to justice, but the intention of the statement is not about justice but defiance of the authorities.
The statement mentions the ministers makes recommendations and proposals in the meeting.one of the other issues discussed is accusing protesters of using children in the protest. Last month one of the victims of the heavy-handed government response was shooting and killing Garmyan, a 12-year-old boy from Chamchamal. The ministers are implying that it was the protesters and oppositions fault for letting a child come to the area, and the people who shot him are not to blame.
Barzani concluded the statement by saying the government "needs to address the issue of trade monopoly of few companies, ... agricultural ministry to submit report about land unjust land confiscation... and returning all government property... establish a committee to tackle corruption, a auditing committee and sharing electricity in transparent way...". Admitting there are issues above and many more is welcomed but it contradict president's earlier statement that he would not be pushed to carry out reform and does not want to listen to opposition. PUK and KDP have been running Kurdistan Region for over 20 years and if they are introducing reforms now as they say, why these reforms have not been forthcoming before people took to the streets.
President's statement in Kurdish, English version to follow