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Hraparak: Current situation in Armenia 'stems from government's crucial mistakes,' says former …

Hraparak Daily has interviewed Artur Vanetsyan, the former director of the National Security Service (NSS), over the epidemiological situation in Armenia and the domestic political developments.

Below is an excerpt from the interview:

Mr. Vanetsyan, the prime minister asked one question to himself – and the Armenian society – as he announced the daily number of the [coronavirus] infections [665 new cases]: ‘What are we doing wrong?’ What is your opinion on that? What do you think we are doing wrong at the moment?

Given that the problem concerns our people – every family in essence – I will try to answer that question point by point.

1. First, it would be more correct to ask what have we done – rather than we are doing – wrong The situation today stems from a range of gross, at times even crucial mistakes which our government – and [Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan personally – have committed. Are we ready to understand him and accept the mistakes that have caused tens of thousands of infection cases, hundreds of deaths and a still unending tragedy?

2. Those mistakes were made at all the stages: (a) the fight against the epidemic was belated, with the prime minister rallying crowds [as part of the campaign for the constitutional referendum]; (b) the declared quarantine came to bear a formal character in the country, falling short to yield the desired outcome; (c) the healthcare sector missed a very important period, failing to properly prepare itself for this volume [of work]; (d) the move to ease the [lockdown] restrictions on May 4 – without serious preparatory activities – is also among the crucial mistakes.

3. Is there any explanation at all as to why the authorities attached importance to the practice of wearing masks only a fortnight later and are now making the kind of calls all day roun? We lost 14 days as a result, coming face to face with an unmanageable spread of the infection.

4. Among the unforgivable mistakes is also the inconsistency between the public preaching made and the personal behavior demonstrated by the governing elite. I don’t mean at all the well-known photo shoot in Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh]; let us not forget that the practice of wearing masks was not until recently mandatory at the cabinet meetings and the National Assembly sessions.

The list of the unforgivable mistakes may go on. They will certainly be a subject of a serious debate and investigation, because it comes at a very high price: the health and life of our citizens.

But we hear the authorities state repeatedly that our society is undisciplined, that they very often fail to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Masks actually remain the only tool enabling the authorities to pursue their struggle. I have great doubts that no proper assessments are beiing made presently regarding the anti-epidemiological situation – given that masks alone are not enough to mitigate it. The moment for using masks as a dominant tool was omitted. It is obvious at the moment that the overwhelming majority of the population are wearing masks; hence it wouldn’t be honest at all to accuse them. So seeing the problem only in masks is not serious at all; it is like turning a blind eye to all the rest of issues.

The main mistakes at the moment are in three domains:

1. The government does not have a strategy to fight this epidemic. All the solutions are spontaneous and adopted on the spur of the moment, depending on the prime minister’s mood. Without a specific strategy, it is not possible to mobilize the resources in the country; it is not possible to have a sequence of steps and present the projected outcome to the people.

2. An obvious problem deals also with management. This government lacks the capacity of an anti-epidemiological management. No epidemic in the world is possible to overcome by speaking only all day long. Our state has all the opportunities to resolve, in just a couple of days, the the existing problems with the beds in hospitals and tests, leaving no person without medical assistance and bringing the situation under control.

3. Armenia needs international assistance, but Pashinyan prioritizes his own interest over our citizens’ life and health. What we need is to frame the volumes and quality of international aid in a literate manner and receive it through all the possible channels.  The small-sized assistance received very occasionally reaches here only through different personal connections and upon the initiative of the countries which themselves offer the assistance, not as a result of our state’s requests.

4. The authorities’ contact with the people appears to be very difficult indeed – given that the population is no longer able to understand which words should be taken seriously and which shouldn’t. The authorities change the tone of their discourse every day, stratifying the people – and targeting them – based on political preferences; they provoke tension among different social groups. In this difficult period for the country, controversial criminal cases are pushed to the foreground to evoke a higher resonance, setting people out against one another with all the consequences stemming therefrom. At the same time, the authorities are concentrating all their propaganda resources on persuading the public that certain ‘dark forces’ are interested to divide the society. Fortunately, though, the majority of people do see the reality. And those propaganda resources are a pressing demand today for a real anti-epidemiological struggle.

5. The National Assembly and the Government push ahead with all the laws and normative legal acts having no direct relationship to the epidemic and its economic consequences; they push ahead with political and criminal persecutions against the political opponents, causing the people to take to the streets to protect their rights or those subjected to political persecutions and creating thereby a great risk in terms of the spread of the virus.

Read original article here.

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