20 000 Attend ARF Public Rally

YEREVAN (Hayots Ashkhar)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia’staged a rally Friday at Yerevan’s Liberty Square–where more than 20,000 took part in the party’s first public gathering since the presidential elections.

The main purpose of the rally was to publicize several issues which required public discussion and debate–in hopes of improving the internal socio-political situation.

Observers stated that the scene resembled that of presidential election rallies–where an enthusiastic public gathered to make its views heard.

First to address the crowd was Presidential Advisor and representative of the ARF Executive Council of Armenia Vahan Hovanessian–who stressed that the ARF was and continued to be the party of the people–thus–explaining that the party had no plans to isolate itself from the people.

As part of the changes following the change of regime in Armenia–Hovanessian commended the government’s policy regarding the Karabakh conflict resolution–as well as its efforts toward gaining recognition to the Armenian Genocide.

Hovanessian said that while the entire approach and policy toward the Diaspora was looked over by the new government–the laws and provisions in place still deter Diasporan Armenia’s to make investmen’s in Armenia.

He added that the national wealth was sold at cheap rates and whatever remained had become the property of members of the former regime.

"The most important issue which I must stress today is that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation has undertaken a huge responsibility. Most often we are being presented as the responsible entities in everything that goes on in Armenia," stated Hovanessian.

"Today–our resources are not such that we can undertake all the activities for which we have gathered here. For this we require your assistance and input," added the leader saying that no political party can accomplish anything on its own–without the support of the people.

"We will win if we work together," declared Hovanessian.

In recent years–during numerous gatherings at Liberty Square–issues related to the unjust methods of privatization undertaken by the previous regime had been outlined–without directly mentioning individual names.

During Friday’s rally–the ARF Youth Organization of Armenia representative Ashot Papazian addressed the crowd and discussed some of the more important issues related to embezzlement and fraud undertaken by individuals affiliated with the former regime.

In his address–Papazian named Yerjanik Sahakian–former head of Armenia’s customs department–who along with parliamentarian Samvel Gevorkian and Rev. Housik Lazarian signed a $2 million contract with a Arabic firm to import cigarettes into Armenia. The moneys from that transaction were embezzled by the said firm.

Papazian went on to name Ara Sahakian–who through his brother’s contacts privatized several companies–including the factory developing oil and soap products.

Another member of the former regime named by Papazian was former National Security Department head Davit Shahnazarian–who acquired a $800 million loan–of which only half was paid with the remainder still in circulation among several people. During his tenure at the National Security Department–Shahnazarian was involved in racketeering–according to Papazian. Currently–Shahnazarian is a BMW dealer. He recently received a grant from the US Democratic institute to establish a political party. Papazian reported that records indicated that the US body halted its financial support for Shahnazarian’s endeavors.

Among other members of the previous regime named by Papazian were Levik Khatchatrian who oversaw the distribution of wheat grain during the worst economic crisis in Armenia. Papazian said Khatchatrian would sell the wheat–part of an international humanitarian assistance program–for $220.

Others mentioned in the list were Edward Yegorian–Vigen Khatchatrian and Ashot Bleyan.

ARF parliamentarian Rouben Hakopian–in his remarks–discussed the current crisis in the National Assembly.

Hakopian said that the current opposition parliamentarian were against measures to evaluate and look into all privatization matters and have simply decided that the Armenia’s privatization program began following Feb. 3–when former leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan resigned his post.

In conclusion Hakopian–once again–reiterated the ARF’s position that the current National Assembly was elected through unjust elections and did not reflect Armenia’s political specter.

Also speaking at the rally was ARF Executive Council member Gegham Manoukian who assured the public that the list of embezzlers was still being completed and added that ARF had not veered from its previous positions.

"The ARF has been and must continue to be the guarantee to realize the aspirations of the Armenian people," concluded ARF leader Armen Rustamian.

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