(Excerpts of a Hetq interview with social critic/commentator Meruzhan Ter-Gulanyan. He’s been in the news of late for visiting the Syunik village of Kajarants in the company of Regional Governor Suren Khachatryan. Ter-Gulanyan says the fact that they appeared together was the result of car trouble on the way there.)
In a statement to the newspaper Aravot, you said that “eminent domain” interests and the interests of the people are the same. The villagers of Kajarants are adamant that they will not leave, even though the government has handed over 187.1 hectares to the Kajaran Copper Molybdenum Combine. Do you oppose the government’s decision?
Of course, even though the plant is a leading taxpayer. And these taxes go to pay for things like pensions and wages. That’s to say that eminent domain is done for the people’s welfare. There is no higher interest for any government. Thus, if the government declares eminent domain and gives land to the plant, it must first sit down and consult with the people affected before taking such a decision. Sure, eminent domain is in the combine’s interest, but what about the people’s interest?
On the one hand, the Syunik Governor says he stands with the villagers, but on the other, he states that the government has taken a decision, right or wrong, that must be adhered to. How would you comment on this apparent contradiction?
I don’t have the right to speak for the Syunik Governor. It’s my belief that the government made a rushed decision without looking at the matter in depth. The decision is not a document signed by God above. It can always be reviewed and I believe it should be. In the first place, the people on the ground must be consulted and that must be convinced that no one is talking about relocating the village and that the dust from the mine is not a threat. If, in the future, the mine does present a threat, the villagers must be compensated. All the villagers want is to be treated like human beings.
Rumor has it that the village church and cemetery will be relocated. What’s your opinion?
Years ago, when I was the editor of Garoun, there was a similar problem with the Sisian reservoir. A large village was submerged by the waters, including a church. I don’t see the same happening to Kajarants. Then again, if the need arises, the village church will have to be moved. How did they move the statutes of the Egyptian pharaohs?
You told the newspaper that you respect women. Recently, Armenian law enforcement found that the Syunik Governor had indeed slapped businesswoman Silva Hambardzumyan. Any comment?
I really don’t want to talk about such stuff. I wasn’t there. The man apologized. It’s finished.
The Russian writer Valentin Rasputin has a wonderful novella called “Farewell to Maytyora”. It’s about the Maytora village that is submerged under a reservoir. It’s the reason I wanted to visit Kajarants and see for myself what is happening and whether the village would be relocated. It turns out that it isn’t.
So, you won’t be writing a “Farewell to Kajarants” novel?
No; at least not in my lifetime. It will not happen.