Jul 04 2011

Sting Bows To Pressure

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 11:44 am

Although it is apparently being reported as due to technical issues, Sting has pulled out of the planned concert today here in Astana, and posted a comment on his web site explaining the reason.

Amnesty International recently apprised Sting about the situation in Kazakhstan regarding the repression and crackdown against oil workers, their union leaders, their legal representatives & of the human rights NGOs working with them. In light of this current situation, with the unacceptable treatment being meted to these Kazakh oil/gas workers, their families and legal representation, which is extremely serious and continues to worsen, Amnesty International feel his presence in Astana will be interpreted as an endorsement of the presidents’ administration and surely will go against everything he has stood for, while supporting Amnesty and the fight for human rights, for the past 40 years. As a result, Sting has made a decision not to participate in the Astana Day Festival.

“Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing,” Sting commented. “The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change.”

(Taken directly from his News Section here)

After Sting was lambasted for performing in Uzbekistan last year (due to the far worse human rights situation found under the totalitarian regime there), I was genuinely shocked that he had agreed to come and play for the President’s birthday celebrations. Some will doubtless argue that…

1) It was to celebrate Astana Day, not the President’s birthday.
They are one and the same thing really – the date of the official Astana Day celebrations is this Wednesday, when Nursultan Nazarbayev’s birthday happens to be. Whilst he claims he is against hero worship and adulation, at the very least his advisers seem able to slip a lot of policies and statements past him that actively encourage such behaviour.

2) Sting is just a musician, surely he can play where he wants?
a) A musician as globally famous as Sting brings any venue/host country where he performs a certain prestige; to suggest otherwise seems naive.
b) Perhaps this argument would be stronger if Sting hadn’t already made many politically aware statements over the decades. His support for Amnesty International since the early 80s is an indicator of just how politically aware he can be. I don’t think this association will have harmed his record sales at all, and whilst he doesn’t present himself to have a messiah complex (Bono of U2 is a different case), with great power comes great responsibility
c) After the uproar his gig in Uzbekistan caused, I can’t for the life of me imagine why he or his PAs didn’t check out the political climate of another Central Asian country before agreeing to play

3)Kazakhstan is nothing like Uzbekistan, there is religious tolerance, freedom of expression and democracy in this great country!
a) Kazakhstan is a great country. It is not as bad as Uzbekistan.
b) HOWEVER, the human rights abuses are well documented and pretty frequent. Religion is tolerated ONLY if it is a major one (that therefore has enough clout to cause ripples should there be new restrictions on their activities) and if the organization is susceptible to government suggestions/restrictions on their activities.
c) Freedom of expression is certainly debatable – public demonstrations are rarely approved if the people involved are not inline with the political ideals of Nur Otan (the party in power). Independent media is frequently and ruthlessly tied up with frivolous lawsuits, printers are heavily leaned upon to not accept contracts from publications that do not tow the party line (with a few exceptions). I’ll be writing a couple of posts later today or tomorrow on the extremes that some people have gone to recently to express their grief over the current situation
d) Democracy. Ha. Don’t make me laugh. The elections appear to be less rigged in such obvious ways as in the past, but countless (non-CIS) organizations have declared that parliamentary and presidential elections have major problems to be overcome before they can approach being labelled as free, fair and transparent.

I hope that some people in this country will learn the real reason for Sting’s no-show, though I doubt it will ever be through official media channels. Perhaps in the future the artist will check a country’s profile before accepting generous offers to play there. I can see a really good spin doctor one day suggesting that Sting only accepted the offer so he could later bring the international media’s spotlight on to the situation in Kazakhstan, but I hope this doesn’t happen.

Sarah Brightman appears to be playing at the concert. I’d not seen her posters until recently, but I don’t know whether she was moved to top billing after Sting declined to perform, or if she was a last minute replacement. (SEE COMMENTS BELOW – she had been booked to play for a long time. My mistake, I don’t look at posters here enough!)
Just found an article over at Eurasianet from a few days ago, before the cancellation was announced.
The Huffington Post and The Telegraph (UK) both have articles today on this topic. Minor correction to the Telegraph article, Astana Day/President’s birthday celebrations are not really a three day holiday – most of us had to work Saturday and Sunday to cover the work hours that are lost.
[Final Edit]
Hat tip to KZBlog‘s tweet for bringing the cancellation to my attention.

May 29 2011

And Yet Humanity Remains An Ideal We Aim For

Category: In The Media,Personal,VideosChrisM @ 4:28 pm

This post’s title is taken from the following video. Reminds me of a (I’m sure slightly mis-quoted here) Gandhi snippet… “What do you think of Western Civilization” … “I think it would be a great idea!”
This clip is a few months old already, and was recorded around the time of the Wisconsin protests and sit-ins against the erosion of union rights and powers.
Here ends today’s posts with a mildly political flavour, I can think of two occasional readers specifically who’ll be relived to learn that ;-P

May 29 2011

Spot On Again, IMO At Least

Category: In The Media,Personal,VideosChrisM @ 3:38 pm

OK, again I’m late on picking it up, but referring back to Cablegate, here is Juice Media’s take on it.

“This should ring alarm bells for all who know their history, from this evidence are we neglecting our memory, and repeating the trajectory of the 20th century?
And if so, upon seeing the facts, but ceasing to act, don’t we deserve the leaders we have?
What needs to befall before we open the door and yell “I’m mad as hell, I’m not going to take it anymore
or do we sit waiting for messiahs, aliens or a superhero, if they’re not all one and the same”…

May 29 2011

You Didn’t Bother Last Time?

Category: In The Media,Personal,VideosChrisM @ 3:22 pm

In case you never got around to watching this video from 1/2 a year ago on my blog, wanted to share it again. Whilst Julian’s own aspirations for how government secrecy will play out in the coming years, and the required downhill phases he deems necessary to result in an open world, I still see wikileaks as a hugely useful tool.

A few quotes to further entice you to spare a few minutes and click the play button below…

“To seize this moment, we have to use technology to open up our democracy”
“Why see shades of grey? Why be a loner? Try another soma. Soma! Life’s good, shut up!”
“There’s a thousand other sites that will creep up behind you!”
“Let us salute those who disclose the necessary facts.”

Hoping The Juice News may produce something on the current situation in Iran re. Khamenei’s apparent willingness to weaken Ahmadinejad’s position recently.

Anyway, I’m off to check their YT page to check for new episodes I’ve missed.

Apr 08 2011

And In The Red Corner…

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 11:21 pm

Foreigners don’t understand the reasons why Kazakhstan isn’t ready for Western style democracy. People want stability more than freedom. These are not the droids you are looking for…

Anyway, after following the official media output for the last few posts, I wanted to counter with a few articles that surfaced during the last couple of months or so. Obviously they are all wrong, things are just fine here, there is no corruption, freedom of choice to vote (if at all) for who you want exists for all state employees, and the other candidates in the presidential election were worthy adversaries who ensured the election was fair, free and transparent. Did I mention I’m submitting paperwork that needs rubber stamping soon?

So, on with the links to stories by misled, confused or lying people…
What is (was) Nazarbayev’s motive for early election? – Eurasianet’s article mention’s Nazarbayev’s apparent reluctance to publicly indicate who he would prefer to eventually succeed him. There was in face a report that surfaced on the 1st of April that he had decided and required colleagues to support his decision. I’m totally out of the loop when it comes to high up politics, however multiple people consider this an April Fool’s joke. This piece mentions that some felt having only a month to organize an election campaign was difficult for some parties involved.

Foreign election observer swoons for Nazarbayev – Eurasianet believes that Daniel Witt’s piece in the Huffington Post displayed a selective memory at work, especially for someone who already had intimate knowledge of previous Kazakh elections.

No one rigs an election quite like Kazakhstan – Attention grabbing headline. Though the first paragraph mentions that one of the candidates listed the eventual President as his inspiration, and a different candidate told the media whilst voting that Nazarbayev had received his little X on the ballot paper! If you click through to the Washington Post’s article attributed to Nazarbayev himself, do also check out the comments section. They raise the point that despite what outsiders may see as faults with the election, the President is genuinely popular in Kazakhstan. They also bring up the point that the President has been canny by using “multi-vector diplomacy” – by having good relations with multiple world super powers, and attempting to play one of the other, no one country is (supposed) to have too much sway over Kazakhstan’s policies. Finally, the independence of the Central Asia Newswire is bought into question.

Kazakhstan’s Nazarbaev wins landslide in poll slammed by observers – Radio Free Europe contend that things were not all fine with the election, and quote OSCE officials as stating that serious irregularities took place, and a lot more reform was needed before any elections could be judged as free and fair. Mention is made of a man who was arrested for setting fire to a Nazarbayev billboard, but not of situations where mothers voted without permission on behalf of their children who didn’t want to place an X next to any of the contenders. Towards the end, RFE brings up the point that many residents expect parliamentary elections this year or early next, with the possibility of returning to a slightly more balanced distribution of seats to the different parties.

Finally a piece more in line with the source material I was using in previous posts – The Jamestown Foundation’s piece on a close-up view of Kazakhstan’s presidential election – the author’s view appears to be closer to those of CIS election observers.

Apr 08 2011

The President (He Swears A Bit)

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 9:43 pm

For the fourth time in twenty years, Kazakhstan’s host with the most, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been sworn into office. I’m not sure whether the building existed back in 1991 (I’m guessing not from its name), but the event took place in the “Palace of Independence”. This post is a run down of a few details taken from Kassimov’s blog again, hopefully a little better written than the broken up stream of consciousness style drivel I wrote this morning whilst watching the ceremony. Apparently more than three thousand people attended (obviously including the crowds who were outside, I don’t think that 3000 of them were all VIPs watching the ceremony from inside the palace! Civil servants, parliamentary deputies (I’m assuming from both houses), cabinet members (does anyone know if their resignation took place prior to the swearing in?), Akimats (mayors, who’ve I’ve just discovered are also part of the previously mentioned reshuffle), ambassadors and of course WWII veterans made up the vast majority of those inside.
Abai Tasbulatov (the National Guard’s commander) brought the Kazakh Flag as well as the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the ceremony. Igor Rogov (Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council’s chairman) explained that in keeping with Article 42 of the Kazakh Constitution the President takes the oath of office after taking the oath. Yes, you read that right, that last part of the sentence is a direct quote. I’m not quite sure what the original Russian or Kazakh text says exactly, as I can’t find the same article in anything other than English!). Anyway, I’m assuming it meant something like once he resigned, he could be sworn back into office? Scratch that, I’ve found the original article here, the strange translation was based on the fact that the President officially takes office once he has sworn the oath.
The President then promised to serve Kazakhstani people, obey both the Constitution and laws & guarantee the rights and liberties of its citizens.

(The post title is a reference to Kevin Bloody Wilson’s similarly named track by the way, in case you couldn’t work it out and actually cared!)

Apr 08 2011

Kazakh Government Resigns!

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 9:42 pm

Rather than a shock descent into the chaos and whiff of freedom that countries not too far from here have recently been experiencing, Kazakhstan’s government mass resignation was a run of the mill required procedure. As you may have noticed from earlier posts, Nursultan Nazarbayev was sworn back into office (after having won another election with a huge majority).

The Old Kazakh Government

According to the constitution, the entire cabinet must resign when this takes place, coincidentally giving the president an opportunity to shuffle around people. Those who are adept at politics, but whose specific skill set might be better put to use in another aspect of helping to run this country are moved sideways, those who excel in their current position are normally left alone, and anyone who has really goofed up (be it displeasing our most honourable leader, or making bad policy decisions) can find themselves out of office entirely, effectively demoted to a less important position, or retiring early.

To read Karim Massimov’s (the previous and current Prime Minister of Kazakhstan) post on this topic (in English), click here.

Apr 08 2011

Notes On The Ceremony

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 11:07 am

Notes I’ve made during the broadcast I mentioned in the last post…

Soviet-style marching by the presidential guard has Anna’s attention. She is attempting to copy them!

Funny to see some of the VIPs in the crowd using cameras to record the event. Somehow makes them seem more human.

Oh, before I forget, blogspot/blogger sites still blocked here, and also noticed that caspionet.com (NOT related to the Caspionet TV channel) is also blocked here.

Quite a pace walking down the red carpet. 10(?) Gun salutes seem to occur at random points of him walking down the carpet.

Now inside a building. No English commentary on Caspionet yet. Steadycam equipment apparently not in use at the venue. Ah, just saw the wobbly cameraman from a different camera, standard shoulder mount.

He looked a little bit like David Blunkett then (rapid eye movement left to right), whilst waiting for the singing to stop. Also whilst talking at the beginning.

Audience applauding loudly before Nazabayev gives his speech. Anna joining in at home. No English translation so far.

Publishing this for now, will edit post as coverage continues.

Satellite card program on this PC keeps crashing, and unable to get the video in function to work properly, so can’t record from our normal STB either.

As there is no English translation, the most interesting point recently was when he coughed. Hoping Caspionet provide English version/text later…

OK, end of the speech, will write more if/when I find a translation.

Apr 01 2011

How Not To Behave

Category: In The Media,Kazakhstan,VideosChrisM @ 12:54 am

This video is Kazakhstan related, though it does date back to twelve years ago, when a surprise candidate entered a Presidential election here at the last minute. He appears on a TV show to be interviewed by a brave/bored of a mundane life journalist.

The man in army fatigues is Gani Kasymov, a presidential candidate in this year’s elections. The journalist interviewing him doesn’t really mince words and accuses the then Customs Committee chief of being a megalomaniac, that his election campaign funds came from bribes that he acquired from his work in Customs, and then to top if off, asks if he is an alcoholic. If your Russian is as basic as mine, checkout EurasiaNet.org’s article (that originally led me to the video) here. If you’re too lazy to read and just want to skip to the video punchline, you’ll want to skip to around the 5’35” mark. I think. YouTube is misbehaving right now. Ah, scrap that, just re-read the EurasiaNet article, the timestamp you’re looking for is 6’38”.

Mar 18 2011

Anti-Balloon, Pro-CBT

Category: In The Media,Kazakhstan,VideosChrisM @ 1:34 am

An article over at eurasianet.org seems to have completely missed the real reason why some young men attacked a group raising awareness of a campaign to boycott the upcoming presidential elections. Before continuing, I’d ask you to at least watch the video below, if not also read their article.

Now it seems obvious to me that the youths recorded in that clip were in no way acting on behalf of Nur Otan or anyone politically affiliated with this country’s beloved president. They were not attempting to stifle the Alga! DVK activists attempts at publicising the campaign. No, these poor boys obviously have severe globophobia (though not ligyrophobia one can safely assume) and either felt the best way to remove the dangerous balloons from their situation was to pop them, OR perhaps a well trained psychologist had encouraged their behaviour as an attempt at cognitive behavioural therapy – proving to themselves that the act of a balloon (no matter what the message on them) bursting was not something to break out into a cold sweat over.
When you see the thugs scared youths hide their faces, they are not attempting to disassociate themselves from any non-existent harassment of opposing political viewpoint holders, but genuinely concerned that their friends and family may well recognise them and stigmatize them all for their overwhelming fear of balloons. Eurasianet owes these innocents a large apology, and I just hope that local justice officials will take note of political activists’ selfish tunnel vision at the time when they tried to protect these panic attack inducing balloons from a just demise.

« Previous PageNext Page »