YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–At his July third news conference–Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defense–National Security and Internal Affairs Vahan Hovanessian summed up the results of the Committee’s one-year activities. He stated that the Committee will try to work in an atmosphere of maximum transparency and present regular reports to the public.
According to Hovanessian–this year cannot be considered effective as far as the Committee’s activities are concerned–as the tragic events on October 27 temporarily paralyzed all the government structures. The hardest blow was delivered to the National Assembly–where the events were taking place–but the Parliament was able to get through it.
The Committee was mainly engaged in drafting urgent bills and bills on human rights. Considering the fact that most of the Committee members are inexperienced in law-making activities–an expert council was set up which includes 17 lawyers and several former and incumbent high-ranking officers of the Ministry of Defense–Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security. During the period under review–the Committee drafted the bills "On Police"–"On operational investigation"–"On struggle against corruption"–as well as the bills "On civil service"–"On the declarations of incomes and expenses of high-ranking government officials". The two last-named bills bear a direct relation to the bill "On struggle against corruption".
The second stage of parliamentary hearings dedicated to the struggle against corruption is expected to be initiated in the near future. According to Hovanessian–the struggle against corruption "has now become a topic of fashion"–and there is hardy any official-be it the prime minister or a minister-who is not speaking about it. Hovanessian believes that this struggle is not "officials’ business" and when he sees officials "who are beating their breasts in this connection"–he has certain suspicions.
The Committee is also drafting the bill "On struggle against terrorism". A governmental working group is simultaneously drafting a similar bill. Hovanessian stressed that if the government fails to submit its bill to the National Assembly before September–the Committee will submit its bill.
The Committee did not restrict itself to law-making activities–and–keeping within its powers. It sent its members to military units and studied the problems of the army. Hovanessian stressed that at first–the Ministry of Defense was not too enthusiastic over the visits of the Committee members to military units–but the Committee succeeded in breaking the privacy of the system. He also pointed out that if an agreement is reached with the Ministry of Defense–the participation of mass media representatives in such visits can be ensured. The murders committed in the army are in the center of the Committee’s attention. According to Hovanessian–"unfortunately–murders are still committed–and they either remain undisclosed or their disclosure does not inspire confidence–as the people have lost faith. "Without going into specifics–Hovanessian pointed out that in addition to objective reasons–the press also plays its role in the public losing faith.
The Committee states that corruption also exists in the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of National Security. He pointed to the free escape of ANM Board Chairman Vano Siradeghian and to the Oct. 27 events. According to Hovanessian–the latter testifies to the fact that the Security Council is not an actually operating body–and the country’s security is not ensured.
Hovanessian also said that the Committee has reception days and during the period under review it received 200 citizens. The Committee received 600 applications and replied to them–320 of the replies being in written form.