Yanukovych’s record-breaking legislative feat

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Aug. 14, 2012, 1:35 p.m. | Op-ed — by Halya Coynash

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych arrives for the Euro 2012 football championships match Poland vs. Greece, on June 8, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

Halya Coynash

Halya Coynash is a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.


Now it would not be easy to explain the staggering contempt for Ukraine’s Constitution, laws and the opinion of a considerable percentage of the population shown by President Viktor Yanukovych in signing the contentious language law on Aug. 8. It is, nonetheless, scary to think that the country is in the hands of people able only to come up with the following: “The president has signed the law and instructed the government to create a working group.” 

The President and his administration still appear to be basking in the illusion that all they need is another “working group” for astounding indifference to democratic principles, Ukraine’s citizens and the country itself to pass unnoticed.

Record-breaking stupidity or phenomenal cheek? That to a large extent depends now on the public’s response.

This latest working group is supposed to be created “with the involvement of the public, well-known figures in education, the arts and sciences, leading specialists on language issues in order to draw up and introduce systematic proposals on improving legislation regarding the procedure for use of languages in Ukraine.

The problem is not only in the mental acrobatics required to see Russian-speaking Prime Minister Azarov as a defender of the Ukrainian language. It is no easier to believe in the “involvement of the public” when by signing the Law on the Principles of Language Policy Yanukovych has broken all records as regards contempt for that very same Ukrainian public.

He has ignored:

Ukraine’s Constitution;

flagrant infringements of procedure in the adoption of the law;

the Opinion of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission

the advice of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Knut Vollebaek;

the opinion of all profile institutions of the Academy of Sciences (the Institute for Language Studies; the Ukrainian Language Institute;; the Institute for Political and Ethno-National Research; the Institute for State and Law

the assessments of the Chief Legal Department of the Verkhovna Rada; the Ministry of Finance, Justice Ministry and at least two parliamentary committees;

the appeal from the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

the statement from the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine [VAAD]

the appeal from the First December Initiative signed by prominent Ukrainian public figures including the former Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Cardinal Lyubomir Huzar; former dissidents and political prisoners Myroslav Marynovych, Yevhen Sverstyuk, Semyon Gluzman, historian Myroslav Popovych, Ivan Dziuba and others

the appeal from a number of public figures and civic organizations, including other former dissidents, writers and academics

assessments by analysts from the Razumkov Centre, the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre, the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, by Mykola Riabchuk and others;

the position of numerous scholars, writers and others, as well as of human rights and civic organizations, including:

the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine;

the Association of Ukrainian Writers;

the Secretariat of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine;

the Centre for Political and Legal Reform

the Kharkiv Human Rights Group;  and very many others;

the appeal by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union;

the Centre for Civil Liberties;

the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives; and many others.

I will refrain from rhetorical questions since it is, after all, entirely clear whose interests the President is protecting. And even if this time he may have plunged headfirst into a bog, the damage to the country is undeniable

The sole representative of civil society in the President’s “Anti-Corruption Committee” warned some time ago that he would leave if the President signed a law legalizing corruption (he did), and this language law (ditto).

There remains only one question: why anyone would continue to take part in the dangerous and increasingly unconvincing imitation of public dialogue offered by all these working groups and committees.

On second thoughts, that too is purely rhetorical.

Halya Coynash is a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group.


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