PASADENA–Opposition leader Vazgen Manoukian pressed for national unity as more than 2,000 community members gathered at Pasadena City College’s Sexson Auditorium for an Armenian Independence Day celebration Sunday sponsored by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee of Western US.
Manoukian–who was Armenia’s first prime minister and later defense minister–was the opposition candidate during the 1996 presidential elections representing an alliance of six political parties including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
In his remarks–Manoukian emphasized the importance of rallying all Armenia’s–in the homeland and the Diaspora–behind fundamental ideals and principles of nationhood–and called for national unity to persevere on the road to realizing national interests and aspirations.
Manoukian–whose speech lasted more than 45 minutes–spoke of the socio-political issues existing in the Armenian reality both in the homeland and in the Diaspora. The leader summed up his ideas in eight general categories.
Speaking of Armenia’s statehood–Manoukian emphasized the importance of cooperation among various segmen’s of the Armenian nation. Although–he said–the independence of Armenia is not directly threatened by its neighbors or any other force in the region–it is nevertheless essential that Armenia’s everywhere devote themselves to the continuation and strengthening of Armenia’s independence and statehood.
Manoukian went on to address the pursuit of the Armenian Cause in the diaspora and Armenia. Contrary to various assertions–he said–the Armenian Cause–and its central element–the Armenian Genocide–are not past and forgotten issues. The people of Armenia were gravely affected by the Genocide–and the oppression of rights and human dignity of the time–has never been justified or rectified. The key to the success in this arena–is the cooperation of Armenia’s government and the Armenian people. "The Armenian authorities extended their hand toward Turkey–and their hand was left in the air," he said. Turkey should work toward becoming worthy of the opportunity for cooperation from Armenia.
The government of Armenia can put more effort into the pursuit of Hai Tahd–and the Diaspora and the people of the homeland must–once again–gain their strength in fighting for the rights of the Armenian nation.
Addressing the Nagorno-Karabakh issue–Manoukian said that the military victory over Azerbaijan was a victory of not only the military intelligence of the Karabakh republic–but also the victory of Karabakh’s intellectual and practical prowess. He noted that during the war the information and technological systems of Karabakh were developed and that contributed largely to the victory of Karabakh over Azerbaijan.
The political figure then emphasized that this victory was one for all Armenia’s–all over the world.
Manoukian said that although powerful governmen’s and oil companies stand against Karabakh’s independence–there cannot be a compromise of security and stability for the people of Karabakh. He noted that whatever political differences there may be among various segmen’s of the Armenian population–the Karabakh issue is one of unity and cooperation–as–according to him–he witnessed at the Armenian National Committee of America offices in Washington.
Manoukian–did say–however–that if there is serious distrust and division in regards to the Armenian government’s policies and operations–then this will pose a serious threat to the struggle for a just solution in the conflict. And this–he said–would be a betrayal of unimaginable magnitude–of those young men and women who shed their blood for the freedom of their nation.
The former presidential candidate stressed the need for a democratic government in Armenia. He said although there are opportunities to stage rallies and make the voices of the Armenian people heard–there are no democratic norms in place in Armenia.
Manoukian continued on the issue of economic development by declaring this the key to an improved Armenia. The Armenian economy is in the hands of a select few–who are profiting personally–while the rest of the nation is in dire need of assistance. Armenia is not a crossroads of trade–but it has the ability to produce and this aspect of the economy is what is in desperate need to be developed.
The former prime minister explained that the profit of a few should not occur at the cost of the entire nation. He said 13.5 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty–while 36 percent lives below the national poverty line. 34 percent–he said–is just at the poverty line–12 percent are categorized and lower middle class–while 4.4 percent are absolutely wealthy; ironically those classified wealthy are either in a position of governmental power–or they are family and friends of such officials.
Manoukian continued his points by emphasizing the integral role the maintenance of the Armenian culture and spirit plays in the national aspiration of Armenia’s.
He explained that the world Armenian population must come together to fight assimilation and to develop the Armenian culture.
The leader concluded on the issue of Armenia-Diaspora relations by saying that which was dreamed during the communist era has not been fully realized as it relates to the relations among the two segmen’s of the Armenian nation. "The question of limited citizenship for Diaspora Armenia’s is such an obvious matter–which I am not going to address–but against which the current authorities are fighting," said Manoukian.
The authorities’ approach to the issue has been one of disdain–because of their vehement desire to control diasporan life–by declaring that all diasporan activities must take place in and around the various embassies and consulates.
But–he said that relations between the two entities must take place in a bilateral setting–in which the benefits are reaped by both sides. Diasporans are valuable resources within their own countries of citizenship–and they can be the same in Armenia. It is impossible to create one organization or authority to oversee Armenia and diaspora life at the same time.
It is also an imperative to have a democratically elected government which pursues the interests of the entire Armenian nation.
Present at the program were ARF Bureau member Apo Boghigian–members of the ARF Central Committee–representatives of the Armenian Relief Society–the Armenian Youth Federation–the Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouting–the Armenian National Committee and the Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Association–as well as representatives from other Armenian political organizations.
The evening’s message–which was eloquently delivered by Dr. Roubina Peroomian–focused on the imperative of independence for the Armenian people.
In a brief–yet detailed–retrospective on the legacies of the first Armenian republic–Peroomian went on to stress the importance of democracy–which–she said–served as the backbone of the first Armenian Republic.
She also discussed the great lengths the communist leadership in Armenia went to discredit the first Republic–calling its leadership–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–traitors who sold out to the Turks.
"Sell out to the Turks? Sign a treaty with the Turks for the sake of hanging on to power? The ARF was never adept of accomplishing such a fete," remarked Peroomian.
She also said that the Armenian people must take lessons from the first Armenian Republic.
"We had a lot to learn from the past–but we did not," Peroomian said–adding "in the dreams we had woven–the leadership of an independent Armenia was to realize justice–democracy–right to free speech; the void between the Diaspora and the homeland was to have been lifted; the exodus from Armenia was to have been halted; the leadership was to have been elected by the people; and the interests of people living in Armenia was to have been protected. But these were not realized." Peroomian added that the ARF’s "mission was–once again–to assist in the strengthening of Armenia’s statehood–to assist in the reform of social–economic and political structures in Armenia–and to continue the struggle until the establishment of a united Armenia.
In the realization of national aspiration of the Armenian people–the ARF has much to give and do–both in Armenia and in the homeland–concluded Peroomian.
In remarks delivered in English–former Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Governmental Affairs Director Raffi Hamparian discussed the meaning of independence to Armenia’s living in the US and elsewhere in the Diaspora.
In a moving speech–which also became a tribute to his late father–he recalled how as a child he had asked his father about the meaning of independence–adding that his father had asked him to inquire in 20 years.
He explained that while he never got the chance to ask that question of his father–due to the latter’s untimely death last year–he was able to deduct that Armenian independence meant action toward the realization of Armenian national aspiration.
Hamparian outlined that the Turkish and Azeri lobbies in Washington were disseminating lies about Armenia and Armenia’s–and pleaded with the attendees to not sit idly while Armenia’s reputation is tarnished through blatant lies from those Turkish sources.
He concluded by stressing that Armenian struggle should continue until the establishment of a truly free–independent and united Armenia.
The ARF Central Committee of Western US representative Krikor Atchekian also discussed some of the realities facing the current Armenian Republic and also stressed the importance of the establishment of a democratic society in Armenia.
Atchekian also discussed the ARF’s mission within the current Republic having taken lessons from the historical experiences during the first Republic.
The program commenced with a flag ceremony conducted by the Homenetmen Pasadena Azadamard scouting troupe–with the singing of the US and Armenia national anthems by Souren Hazarian–accompanied on the piano by Noune Bagdasarian.
Renowned Armenian folk singer Rouben Hakhverdian entertained the crowd with three of his medleys depicting daily Armenian life and some of the treacherous realities facing the citizens of Armenia.
National songs were also performed by Nersig Ispirian and Harout Pamboukjian.
The Los Angeles Hamazkayin Ani Dance Troupe also performed a moving dance number–with modern choreography.