Kurdistan issues in press interviews: Sa’di Ahmad Pira

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution May 13, 2008 Kurdistan issues in press interviews: Sa’di Ahmad Pira  Kurdishaspect.com - Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

Interview with PUK Political Bureau Member Sa'di Pira: Power imbalance creates tension and hinders functional government 

Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli from Jamawar, Arbil, weekly newspaper in Kurdish, 28 April 08, p 8

[Jamawar]  You do not have any Party or Government position in Arbil, but you are active, making meetings and appearing in media? 

[Sa’di Pira][ Laughing] Leave this for the time being.

PUK members’ complaints and criticisms

[Jamawar]  Often the lower ranks of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) cadres complain that the party is not as strong and united as before and it is growing weaker every day. What is the reason for such sort of thinking?

[Sa’di Pira] A human being must look carefully and not put his mind in his eye. If you look at the streets you may see newer cars, higher and more attractive buildings, or you may notice an [inappropriate] conduct by an official of agriculture or a security officer. Or maybe when land is allocated to people, a member of PUK fails to get a piece of land. These phenomena combined with the issue of [weak] administrative performance, create a special image in people. In the past, various scenarios and speculations about the future of PUK were made, namely that PUK was about to disintegrate and disappear. I believe all these are illusions because first, PUK is not a personal property of any one, second PUK is a real and true project. The 30 year struggle of PUK and all those martyrs and all those cadres, don’t you think they can move and bring about change? But for [what you asked about] there are its specific factors. Practically [Kurdistan Region] administration has reunified but this has happened only at the top level and it has not created a general balance across Kurdistan. For example, in the institutions and agencies that have direct frontline contact with people, there is no considerable change. All the sub-district and district officials and all the directors in the areas previously [before the apparent reunification] controlled by PUK are still PUK members. All those who are in the KDP-controlled areas, are KDP members. A large section of these act with the same [rivalry] spirit they used to before the reunification. In order to eliminate this ugly phenomenon which is an obstacle on the path of better performance by the government and in order to offer good services equally to all people without discrimination on the basis of party affiliation, it is necessary to change the district and sub-district officials and directors of government offices so that a sort of balance is created and people feel that these offices belong to all of them and offer services to all of them instead of thinking that the security office of Sulaymaniyah belongs to PUK and here [in Arbil] belongs to KDP and in the same way district and sub-district officials belong to either KDP here or PUK there. If this remains without change this means that the two administrations that existed before reunification are still functioning. Besides, there are three important ministries such as the Ministries of Finance, Interior and Peshmarga which are named ‘sovereign ministries’ have not reunified. This also gives bad image to people. Therefore I believe that beautiful words and meetings in which we smile together and TVs show our smiles to people, will not heal the suffering of people in the villages and towns. Perhaps the same problems that PUK members have here [in Arbil], KDP members have in Garmiyan [Kirkuk area] or in Sulaymaniyah. The second issue is that party interference may often happen. For example the director of an office says: I do not have power, parties interfere in my work. We have instances of such occurrences all over Kurdistan. This must be eliminated. Party organs must leave managers to do their job and these in turn must not look at people from a party view point.

[Jamawar]  If the criticism of PUK cadres in Arbil and Duhok is the result of administrative failures, then what do you say about PUK cadres in Sulaymaniyah? They too are critical. In the time of local council elections, one of the election slogans of PUK was “We will improve Arbil like Sulaymaniyah”. But later in many service areas Arbil made advances and Sulaymaniyah lagged behind. Isn’t this the reason of the complaints of PUK cadres?

[Sa’di Pira]  I do not think that it is like this and nothing has been brought from Sulaymaniyah to Arbil. What existed in Sulaymaniyah is still there. What has been brought from Arbil to Sulaymaniyah are: the deputy Prime Minister, a number of ministries and general directors and cadres. Nothing else has been brought to Arbil. The budget for Sulaymaniyah is kept intact. But Sulaymaniyah administration must think more carefully about how it can implement attractive projects. They have done a lot of projects. A lot of reconstruction is seen in Sulaymaniyah. But because Sulaymaniyah was tidier than Arbil before, now the changes in Arbil are easier to feel because it had less [reconstruction] before especially in terms of transport, solving the problem of communication and some private companies, for example, the projects such as English village, American village and German village. These all will have impact on making the city beautiful. This is important for all of us because Arbil is the capital of Kurdistan. It needs to be organized in a way that the delegates and guests, who come to Arbil, can notice the beauty of the city. For example, recently the conference of Arab MPs took place in Arbil. Some of the delegates had brought their own pillows and quilts. They had an image of Iraq from TV pictures and thought that Kurdistan was the same. But when they came to Arbil and noticed all these good things around them in the place of their residence, conference and in terms of transport and services they received, they returned home carrying a very good impression. If this is one of our great achievements, it belongs to all of us. As to the cadres of Sulaymaniyah I believe that before they criticize others, let them stop hindering the good work of their Governor and Governorate. Perhaps there is a lot of interference in the work of Governorate in Sulaymaniyah but the projects that will be implemented there in future will be good ones.

PUK-KDP imbalance of power

[Jamawar]  What do you think the main reason of PUK cadres’ criticism? Don’t you think that many years after the end of internal fighting for power [between PUK and KDP], when the time came for PUK to take power it did not take it. Isn’t this the main reason for complaint by PUK members?

[Sa’di Pira] I do not think so. Power is not just concentrated in the head of Government. Power is practiced when every manager and director perform their work in a good way. This is a form of power. The work that is being done in Arbil by the joint government is something that is done jointly. If in this large cabinet that has existed, the performance of our [PUK] ministers is not appreciated, or if there is a problem between a Minister and a Director, this is a problem that cannot be solved in two or three days. When PUK extended the time of [KDP] PM in power, it is not because PUK does not want power. The reason is that this government has presented a programme, a large part of it ahs not been implemented. The second reason is that this government has not been able to create a balance at the level of lower government positions and offices. If a person from PUK becomes a PM in Arbil but the Governor, district officials, security agencies and police , all remain party-affiliated [KDP-controlled] bodies, then the PM will not be able to perform his tasks in Arbil. If PM cannot do his job in Arbil, then how can he perform his role in Haji Omaran, Sedalan and Penjwin? In order to create the required balance during this [extended] time, it was necessary that the standing PM continued in his work and implemented his programme. In the next round, PUK will take the post of PM.

[Jamawar]  Do you think within the time available for him, the PM can solve the problem of creating the balance you have talked about?

[Sa’di Pira] He should, otherwise it won’t become the government of all sides.

[Jamawar]  Then one of the reasons of not taking the post of PM is the lack of balance [of power between KDP and PUK]?

[Sa’di Pira] Yes, this is one reason. There must be a sort of independence in government. Then there are still some murky areas between KDP and PUK. It is important to end this and create more mutual trust.

[Jamawar]  But if the balance you require did not happen in the limited time, don’t you think that PUK will be a loser as a result of this?

[Sa’di Pira] This is something we must act upon. This is in our mutual interest. None of us can government by making the other unstable. We must remember that whenever there was imbalance it resulted in tension. This must be avoided especially now when there are both internal and external threats to Kurdistan.

PUK factions

[Jamawar]  There is a lot of talk about factionalism within PUK. Don’t you think that some of the complaints made come from conflict between factions?

[Sa’di Pira] I want you to know that in PUK it is not forbidden for people to speak. Expression of opinion and criticism are not forbidden either. Sometimes these critiques are expressed in organized or individual forms. But when we meet and hold conference we all think about how to solve our differences. This is the nature of PUK.

[Jamawar]  This may have been the case before. But [PUK Secretary General Mam [honorific] Jalal Talabani recently described these people as ‘adversaries’?

[Sa’di Pira] No, I do not think he used this word for critics. He used it in a different sense. Mam Jalal says that PUK and KFP cadres cannot play the role of opposition because these two parties are in power. He said these words in a meeting before the establishment of the new cabinet. The PM asked PUK and KDP to criticize the government and make suggestions through their own channels. Now if PUK and KDP cadres want to criticize something they can do so through their own [party] channels. They cannot be part of power and part of the opposition at the same time.

[Jamawar]  The criticisms made by PUK cadres are often attributed to the faction of [former PUK deputy leader] Nawshirwan Mustafa. Now as Nawshirwan Mustafa has left the party, don’t you think that his faction are engaged in stronger criticisms and are playing the role of opposition?

[Sa’di Pira] I do not have anything to say about this question.

[Jamawar]  Then what do you think of [PUK political bureau co-ordinator] Mala Bakhtyar’s strong attack against those who set up commercial companies and at the same time criticize PUK [for corruption]?

[Sa’di Pira] In general, anyone who says something must expect that he will be answered. I think these cases are normal and exist within KDP too but at a lower level. Within PUK there are people who think there is a sort of injustice. This has affected the respect of the political organizations among people. That is why it is important for both PUK and KDP and Government to present their work in a better and more transparent way and talk about it in media channels, because there are people who think that the government has not achieved anything. The government has done a lot but what has been done has not benefited these people individually or maybe they never need to use the airport, those high buildings. [The ordinary citizen] wants to have drinking water. He wants to have good roads t, school, hospital and services. I do not say the government does not have a problem and there is no corruption. But in Arbil there is no problem of drinking water anymore. Then you, journalists, do write that this is a problem that has been solved. If it had not been solved, you would have written thousands of words. Then do write that we do not have problem of water but we have problem of medicine and education system.

[Jamawar]  These days, there was a press report that PUK would not convene its conference until the issue of Nawshirwan Mustafa has been sorted out. Is this a factor? When will PUK conference be held?

[Sa’di Pira] It is a long time since KDP, PUK and other parties have not convened their conferences. PUK conference needs to be held in a convenient time. It is not possible to have fighting in Basra and Mosul, and we hold our conference here. It is not possible to hold a conference while the borders are not safe. There must be some sort of stability.

[Jamawar]  Is the internal environment of PUK convenient for holding a conference?

[Sa’di Pira] Yes, it is.

[Jamawar]  There has always been change and renewal within PUK. No official has usually stayed in one post for a long time. But now some such cases are noticed. For example, Arsalan Bayiz has kept his post as head of PUK’s internal organization bureau for 15 years! Why is this so?

[Sa’di Pira] Some agencies are related to party life and they are very important. Arsalan Bayiz who is in charge of orgnaisation bureau now knows every party cadre, sector, and committee. He can easily make correct decisions because he is aware of the minutes of these party organs. He can do a better job than one who knows only half of the party organs. If Arsalan Bayiz goes, it would be possible to identify another one within the same organization. This has not had a negative effect on the organizational life of PUK. We have similar cases in administration and finance sectors. There are some people who in the process of their work have created certain connections that could facilitate and advance their work.

[Jamawar]  It is said that Arsalan Bayiz is also heading [PUK intelligence agency] Zanyari. Is this true?

[Sa’di Pira] No, I don’t think this is true. He has no such a role. Arsalan Bayiz is member of [PUK] political bureau and this has impact on all the agencies of PUK including Zanyari. But this agency has its own head and like any other such agency in the world it is accountable to its head. It is true that someone PUK political bureau or leadership supervises this agency but it is answerable only to [Secretary General] Mam Jalal Talabani. It is not connected with any other person.

Criticism and opposition

[Jamawar]  Now often the parties especially Islamic parties issue a memorandum and level strong criticisms at PUK and KDP and sometimes they act as opposition. Do you think they can act as an opposition group while they are participating in government?

[Sa’di Pira] There are two sorts of criticism. One is directed at a certain institution or administrative unit. This is a criticism that PUK, KDP and Islamic parties use in their media channels. But if the object is the political system that we have established in Kurdistan, then this criticism is a different matter. I think these parties can express their views in Parliament, in the cabinet and in the security council, in which they are participants. They can to support their proposals, give statements and explanations to the media. What you are talking about [the latest activity of the smaller parties] has nothing to do with becoming an opposition group. They feel that the cabinet is changing and that it has been made smaller (has fewer Ministers), and they are not certain what ministries they get, this has not been made clear yet even to PUK and KDP, they, I think, have adopted to a self-defense position and they try through making these noises to put greater pressure on KDP and PUK in order to achieve more benefits and privileges for themselves. 

[Jamawar]  Can what they are doing function as pressure?

[Sa’di Pira] No, it can be a pressure. But they think so. But I think we all are in agreement that there are threats against Iraqi Kurdistan Region and therefore we need a government of national unity in which all political parties participate.

[Jamawar]  Now another aspect of Islamic parties is noticed. It is said that KDP is trying to revive and strengthen the Islamic Movement while PUK is helping the revival of the Islamic Group. You are aware that these two parties came into existence before as a result of the vacuum created by KDP/PUK conflict. Do you think at present the Islamic parties have a stronger role?

[Sa’di Pira]  I think your statement that KDP is reviving the Islamic Movement and PUK is helping the Islamic Group is not true. If it was to us, we wouldn’t like to have any Islamic party. But not everything is decided by our wishes. There is the Islamic Sahwa [in Iraq] which has relations with other parties. The Islamic Movement did participate in elections like the Islamic Group and the Islamic Union. We do not have any objection for any new Islamic party to be founded if they meet legal conditions and have legal permission. They can take part in all elections at the level of the governorate, the municipalities , the Regional and Iraqi Parliaments. I myself have never felt that within PUK there is a certain attitude towards a certain Islamic party. 

[Jamawar]  How far have you reached in the formation of the sixth cabinet?

[Sa’di Pira] It is in its final phase and God willing will be completed soon.

[Jamawar]  Is PUK happy with the Ministries it gets?

[Sa’di Pira] There are negotiations about the Ministries.

Article 140 and Oil Law

[Jamawar]  The period for the implementation of Article 140 was extended by six months. This extension is about to end too without any prospect of a solution. There is a rumour that al-Maliki government would agree another six-month extension period for holding a referendum in Kirkuk in return of the Kurds accepting the Oil and gas Law? Is this true? 

[Sa’di Pira] This is not true. The issue of Article 140 and Kirkuk should have been settled by 31 December 2007. This did not happen because of differences between political groups and internal problems inside Iraq. According to the Road Map of Article 140, after this period, the issue would be assigned to the UN and be supervised by UN Secretary General. For this purpose the UN Secretary General has appointed his Special Representative in Iraq. He is co-ordinating Iraqi affairs. According to the SCR 1770 the Security Council has right to monitor the implementation of Article 140. for this reason I do not think that Article 140 is solely a legal issue. It is a constitutional article and a right gained by our people. But politics enter into the process of its implementation especially in relation to regional countries. Article 140 will be implemented in stages. There are three stages in order to remove the concern of the foreign countries especially Turkey. First, the Oil Law needs to be passed [by Iraqi Parliament] then no one can allege that the Kurds want the oil of Kirkuk for themselves alone and as a basis for separation. Second: The improvement of relations between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey. The visit by [Iraqi President] Jalal Talabani in March was an incentive and paved the way for better relations. I believe there is a report being prepared by the UN Secretary General now. It will be presented in stages in the first week, middle and the end of May to the commission that is called 3+2. that is the President, his two deputies and the two deputies of Iraqi PM and , Kurdistan Region President. They will make decisions about these reports and the issue of Kirkuk which falls within the first stage of the process, I think, cannot be completed within the current six months [extension period].

[Jamawar]  You talked about Oil Law. This means the Oil Law will be passed before the conduct of referendum in Kirkuk?

[Sa’di Pira] Yes, this will pave the way for it without anyone claiming that the Kurds aim to control the oil. The oil of Iraq belongs to all, if Kurds aim at the oil of Kirkuk alone perhaps they get less than they get from their share of the Iraqi oil as a whole. But the oil of Kirkuk, A’mmara and Basra together will be more beneficial to everyone. The oil of Kirkuk too, apart from the share allocated for the improvement of the environment in the city, the rest will be owned by all Iraq.

[Jamawar]  This means we have to agree to the Oil Law to stop Turkey’s excuses?

[Sa’di Pira] Yes, this is very necessary to put an end to Turkish claims and some chauvinist Arab institutions who claim that Kurds want Kirkuk in order to make it an economic base for a separate independent state.

[Jamawar]  After the expiry of these six months, how long the period will be extended?

[Sa’di Pira] Another six months.

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