A proposed bill seeks to classify travels of President, Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker
The next time President Serzh Sarkisian decides to travel to South Korea for “rejuvenation” therapy, he can do so without anyone’s knowledge. Ditto for the Prime Minister if he chooses to engage in off-shore investments, as his predecessor was alleged to have been. Ditto for the parliament speaker. All this thanks to new proposed legislation pending in Armenia Parliament that would classify the top leaders’ travels as “top secret.”
On Thursday, the parliament debated such a bill that was drafted by Armenia’s National Security Service and proposed for consideration by the legislature. Under Armenian law, information related to state officials’ travel, whose expenses are covered by the state budget, are public and accessible to the media.
The NSS deputy director Arzuman Harutinunyan presented the bill to parliament and said that the current transparency provision of the law undermines the security of Armenia’s three senior most leaders. Of course the ruling Republican Party of Armenia parliament members advocated for the bill, among them the newly-minted Parliament Speaker Galust Sahakian, who seeks to benefit from the provisions.
“I’ve looked up international legislation on such issues and even checked the Stalin-era practices,” said Naira Zohrabian of the Prosperous Armenia Party as quoted by RFE/RL. “Even there I didn’t see any cases where expenditures of high-ranking state officials were carried out secretly.”
Other opposition lawmakers opined that this new bill gives these leaders carte blanche to continue their corruption, but in secret.
Last year, disclosures suggested that the then Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan had spent an excess of $200,000 from the state budget to hire private jets and other amenities for his travel.
So, instead of curbing such expenditures, this “new and improved” government is opting to continue its lavish spending, and call it a “state secret.” So much for the promised change.