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Kyrgyzstan: Much work to be done

One of the most notable pieces to surface  on local media platform Kloop last week was posted by Burul Usmanaliev, and related to an attack on the ownership of a trout farm in the village of Vorontsovka, just outside Bishkek. The attack took place at around 4.30 am on April 24, and occuring less than a week after the land conflicts in the village of Mayevka.

Usmanaliev's post features disturbing photos of the victim of the attack, a 35-year old employee of the trout farm. He suffered burns to his face, hands and torso when a petrol bomb was thrown into the building by an unidentified assailant. The attack is not thought to be without premise, as Usmanaliev reports [ru]:

” On April 8, more than 70 young men from neighboring villages came here [the trout farm] demanding various benefits and free trout, to which the employees were forced to obey.  On 15 and 21 April the  “guests” again visited. According to employees whou could not name these “guests”, said: “Now our people – Atambayev, Sariev came to power, you drink our water, Osh, you now have to pay us tribute.”

This remark is thought to have been in relation to the owner of the trout farm who is from the Alai region of Osh oblast, in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Usmanaliev notes that such behaviour does not represent the views of the vast majority of Kyrgyzstan's citizenry,  and challenges the new provisional government to put an end to the North-South schism which has disrupted the development of the state over the course of its 19-year independence.

‘We are proud of the apricots of Batken, of Issyk-Kul and Arslanbob [home to a historic walnut forest], Suleiman's  mount [in Osh], Manas, Genghis Khan, Kurmanzhan Datka, the tolerance and wisdom of our people and other common symbols of our homeland. Yet some people want to divide the country on the basis of geographical origin. Can the new government to curb this division?’

Such instances however, exist only as rare repositories of the uprising of April 7-8 . As a whole the situation in the country is quiet, and questions of how to move forward are now dominating minds and news space in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Erkind,   for instance, considers [ru] the experience of electronic voting in the Philippines as a model that could theoretically be applied in Kyrgyzstan, negating balot-stuffing opportunities and helping guarantee free and fair elections in the republic. The Provisional Government has already set a date for the elections – October 10 – and efforts are underway to ensure that the Central Electoral Commission is staffed by publically palatable figures. Well known human rights advocate Tolekan Ismailova has already refused the opportunity to head the CEC.

The one potential pitfall of the system proposed by Erkind is its cost. According to the user it  cost $150 million in the Philippines, and while this sum might seem modest, it is considerable in a country where the state coffers have been practically emptied by years of misgovernance.

Nakulia reported on a tele-conference between Kyrgyz expatriates living in the West and members of the Youth Party of Kyrgyzstan [ru]:

” The Teleconference ‘The future of Kyrgyzstan’ was held between citizens of Kyrgyzstan who live abroad the leaders of the Youth Party, on April 24. The main topic of video-conference was “What can I do for my country?’

The organizers pushed off from John F. Kennedy quote: “Ask not what my country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”

The young people  at first expressed condolences to the families [of those killed in the April disturbances] and  shared their shock and their feelings. However, the question: “Are you ready to come and work for country now?” was met with an uncertain answer [by the expatriates]. Immediately the audience began spilling charges of betrayal, lack of patriotism and individualism.”

Elsewhere Afina [ru], a blogger who posts updates about the activities of mobile phone networks in the country, wrote of a meeting between provisional government Chairman Rosa Otunbayeva and the Kyrgyzstani business community, held in the Hyatt Regency hotel in Bishkek. Andrei Silich, Chairman of the communications network leader Megacom, was also in attendance.

“Businessmen representing  the banking system, the mining sector, tourism and other industries, talked about the problems they are currently experiencing.  The head of the provisional government tried, whenever possible, to give answers to all statements and proposals. Also Rosa Isakovna promised to send all  entrepreneurs’ requests to the appropriate department in order to to take concrete decisions”, Afina writes.

Freedom of the press  has unsurprisingly been at the forefront of discussion in the past week, and this theme is likely to continue to attract attention from bloggers, reaching a crescendo during the build-up to and coverage of the proposed elections in October.

Kyrgyzstan fell [ru]/[eng] to 159th place (its lowest since independence) in Freedom House's official ratings scheme published earlier this month. Recently discussions [ru] have been underway to convert the state television and radio company into a ‘public’, television and radio company; a step welcomed by many journalists.

Recalling a letter he sent to a Russian journalist asking for balance in the Russian media's coverage of events in Kyrgyzstan, Kloop Media Foundation President and co-founder Bektour Iskender[ru] noted the following positive outcomes of the April events:

“In fact [Kyrgyzstan] in some degree, has become much safer. Police officers, many with fear, have begun using the word “please” when they talk with citizens. The NSS [National Security Service] has not yet turned into a ministry to stifle freedom of speech and, hopefully, will not become such.

Processes [in Kyrgyzstan] have been horribly distorted in the Russian media. The Kyrgyz Republic could become the first country in Central Asia, where the president will not be the absolute authority, where there will not be a visa regime for the majority of foreigners, and the blocking Web sites will be outlawed.”

Yet the false depiction in of Kyrgyzstan as the “Wild East” is unlikely to abate in Russia anytime soon. A photo spotted by Nurbina [ru] in which a resident of Moscow holds up a placard reading “Don't awake the Kyrgyz in us” at a protest against a new general plan for the Russian capital, has been met with a mixture of shame, pride and sense of humour.

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