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Exclusive interview with Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Part 2

The first anniversary of the presidency of Sooronbai Jeenbekov is approaching. By tradition, the first persons of the country sum up their work. Also, traditionally, the heads of our state preferred to sum up the results to government media.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov broke with this tradition. He made an exception and gave his first interview as the president of the Kyrgyz Republic not to state-owned TV channels or government newspapers, but to an independent 24.kg news agency. The country’s leader also agreed to answer very personal questions.

About government officials

— How do you estimate the work of the government? Did the Prime Minister Mukhammedkaly Abylgaziev live up to your expectations?

— Mukhammedkaly Duishekeevich and I had worked together in the government. When I headed Osh region, he was a chairman of the Social Fund. Then he was the first deputy prime minister during my premiership.

There is criticism against him. But I know him well enough. He is a solid and productive person, far from PR.

Our people are accustomed to premature PR when people begin to advertise their plans.

Mukhammedkaly Duishekeevich has been working at the post for only 6 months. I myself worked in the government, I know that economic indicators cannot be achieved in the first months. We will estimate the work of the government on the results of the first year, according to its report.

I believe that a leader, in addition to education, talent, experience and knowledge of languages, must have a conscience, honesty, especially in our days, when we fight corruption; honesty is not an empty word for us. If an official is unconscionable and without honor, then the state will get only harm from his work.

— Sooronbai Sharipovich, I cannot use the opportunity but ask about the list of 35 corrupt officials of Kyrgyzstan. You promised to make their names public and bring bribe takers to justice, at the same time replenishing the country’s budget. When will you publish this list?

— I have the list. Law enforcement agencies are already working on some people in it, and the others have left the country.

But I cannot declare anyone a corrupt official before the whole country. There are laws, there is a presumption of innocence, as they say, a person is innocent till proven guilty.

Although we all know that if we make such a list, then there will be much more than 35 people there.

— Then I will ask the question differently: can the society hope that the investigation, the Anti-Corruption Service, the State Committee for National Security, Financial Police will voice these names some day?

— Of course. I will control it myself. After all, the fight against corruption has just begun.

High-profile criminal cases are the tip of the iceberg. Do you know how ordinary citizens suffer from corruption at the district level? How do our middle-level officials profit from bribes and budget funds?

The struggle has begun not only to convict, to imprison corrupt officials, but also to make everyone understand: you have to earn by your labor in this country.

It is necessary to destroy the stereotypes. State money is not a personal pocket. It is necessary to break the existing scheme, ensure openness and eliminate the human factor in government agencies by introducing e-government. And we will do it.

About criminal case on modernization of Bishkek HPP

— The largest corruption case of this year is the modernization of the Bishkek Heating and Power Plant. You, being the prime minister, have signed the documents. That is, you, probably, know this question from the inside better than anyone.

Four criminal cases have been initiated, seven former top managers of the energy industry were arrested. Two former prime ministers Sapar Isakov and Zhantoro Satybaldiev, as well as MP Osmonbek Artykbaev, are under arrest. None of them pleads guilty. The security officials promised that these cases would be solved as soon as possible, but the arrest terms have been extended at the request of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS). Lawyers of the accused say that investigation measured with their clients do not take place. The leadership of the SCNS surely reports to you on the progress of the investigation. Do you believe the security officials reports? Do you believe in justice and impartiality of the court?

— I note at once that there is no political motive in the arrests. I have told about this more than once.

The law enforcement agencies had enough grounds and reasons for initiating criminal cases related to the modernization of Bishkek HPP and subsequent arrests. Criminal cases are voluminous. The damage caused to the state is huge.

Numerous corruption schemes are revealed, through which significant financial resources have been withdrawn, and some former officials had enriched themselves.

There is a lot of work. Investigative groups have been formed on many criminal cases. The necessary expertise is conducted.

As you understand, forensic construction examinations and audits cannot be completed in a short period. It takes some time.

I hope all the criminal cases will be completed within the time limits set by the law.

Currently, there is no reason to doubt the impartiality of the investigation being conducted.

I believe that the investigating authorities and the court will objectively sort things out, examine all the evidence, give a legal assessment and determine the measure of responsibility of each accused.

Of course, I can’t openly provide you with all the information, but I get the details of this case, and I tell you: everything is not okay there. If we take into account the scale of corruption, I assume that the case on the breakdown at Bishkek HPP engulfs like a swamp, revealing new names to us.

The defendants have lawyers and build a line of defense. It is their right. I only demand from the security officials an impartial investigation.

About security officials

— At the beginning of the year, you declared an anti-corruption reform primarily in the security agencies at a meeting of the Security Council. Eight months have passed, what has been done? What the reform will change in SCNS, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Financial Police, the judicial system?

— At least 40 measures have been taken on the implementation of the decisions of the Security Council dated February 8, 2018. First, the regulatory legal framework regulating the activities of law enforcement agencies is being updated.

In particular, the draft Law on Service in Law Enforcement Agencies of the Kyrgyz Republic was drawn up in time and sent to Parliament, where it has passed the first reading. I hope the deputies will adopt it by the end of the year.

This draft law provides for a unified procedure for admission, passage and dismissal from service in the police, the Financial Police, the customs service and the state penitentiary service.

The draft law provides for many anti-corruption measures that have not been applied in our republic before.

For example, new norms and mechanisms are being introduced, which will significantly make it difficult for dishonest law enforcement officers to use illegally acquired property.

Similar amendments were made to the developed draft Laws on the National Security Bodies of the Kyrgyz Republic and on the Prosecutor’s Office of the Kyrgyz Republic, providing for restrictions for prosecutors based on the decision of the Security Council.

A draft law, providing for a number of restrictions for judicial officers, has also been developed.

The other side of anti-corruption reform is an increase in social guarantees for law enforcement officers.

Over 2,700 billion soms will be additionally provided annually for the implementation of the aforementioned laws in terms of salary increase for law enforcement officers and the provision of social guarantees from the budget.

I would like to note that within the framework of the reform, all the functions of keeping criminal legal statistics have been transferred from the internal affairs bodies to the prosecutor’s office.

There are cases when a court decision on non-involvement in a case is issued after a person becomes disabled, waiting for an end of investigation in a pretrial detention center.

An electronic system of the Unified Register of Crimes and Offenses will be introduced on January 1, 2019. Currently, an intensive work is underway to launch it. The system will increase the transparency of the judiciary, supervisory and law enforcement agencies.

The public and citizens will be able to literally follow a course of the consideration of their statements and a criminal process. No one will have to wait for end of an investigation and trial in a pretrial detention center.

These measures will significantly reduce the percentage of hidden crimes.

The structure and number of staff of law enforcement agencies are being optimized. The central offices of the Ministry of the Interior and the regional departments of the internal affairs bodies are being reduced.

The free staff are sent to increase the number of district police officers and juvenile affairs inspectors.

District police officers must work in every village, on every street. It’s time to take up the school racket.

Internal investigation services that reveal «unscrupulous» employees have been formed in each law enforcement agency. We are now studying the requirement for a declaration of officials in countries that have successfully conducted the fight against corruption. I myself work closely with the working group.

About foreign policy

— Let’s speak about foreign policy. If we analyze the results of your foreign visits, it is obvious: Kyrgyzstan continues to adhere to a multi-vector policy and the principle of peaceful neighborhood in regional policy. But Central Asian countries have many unsolved problems: borders, water resources, trade relations...

During this year, we have carried out consistent work to restore, improve and strengthen international and foreign policy relations primarily with our strategic partners and neighbors — Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and EU institutions.

Within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union, the working conditions of Kyrgyz migrants in Russia have been improved.

As a result of repeated meetings and discussions with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the so-called migration amnesty was announced in relation to our compatriots who were blacklisted by the Russian migration services.

In September, the Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States and the World Nomad Games were held on the shores of Issyk-Kul lake with the participation of the presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the prime minister of Hungary. These events have further strengthened the position of Kyrgyzstan in the international arena.

The next steps will be the implementation of previously reached agreements and attracting investment into the country. Our relations have been restored and have gained a positive direction in the international arena and with the neighboring countries.

As for solving the regional problems, the Summit of Heads of State of Central Asia creates a good platform. This is a wonderful dialogue of the neighboring countries. We together find a point of contact on many regional issues at a negotiating table. I am confident that in the future the summit will help neighbors to interact and develop.

As for the delimitation and demarcation of borders, the process of delimitation of 85 percent of the state border with Uzbekistan has been completed. Active work is being carried out on the remaining 15 percent and, as far as I know, there are significant changes in this issue.

A serious work on the delimitation of state borders with Tajikistan is also carried out.

Regarding the issue of trade relations, I want to note that the accession of Kyrgyzstan to the Eurasian Economic Union was caused by the need to develop and strengthen the economy of the state.

About temptation of power

— The Kyrgyz have a lot of proverbs and sayings about the fairness of leaders. Who do you consult with when making decisions? Are you always sure that your decisions are correct? Do you re-check the information that your closest people, relatives, friends or staff have told you?

— Let us recall any Kyrgyz proverb — they are all accurate, keen, and vital. For example, «iymanduu biyde tuugan zhok, tuuganchyl biyde yiman zhok» (an honest ruler has no relatives, and those who pursue the interests of relatives have no conscience), «uurutoygoncho zhep, olgoncho karganat» (a thief has a full belly and renounces till death), «ukpait dep ushak aitpa, korboit dep uurdaba» (you can’t hide a cat in a bag), «kynyr ish kyrk zhylda bilinet» (the truth will come to light even in forty years) and others.

I often cite as an example the story about Confucius during a meeting with residents of the regions. One of the rulers of China was concerned about the increased theft in the country and asked for advice from Confucius. Confucius replied: «If you yourself are modest in desires, people will not agree to steal even for a reward.»

In Kyrgyz, it is even easier to understand — «Sen ozundon bashtap, napsindi tiysan, bashkalar da uurdagandy koyot.»

My father often said: «State has a long hand, it will find a criminal everywhere.»

I am also an ordinary person with my own minuses and pluses, but now, as a president, I think I have no right to make mistakes, because it will affect the fate of the whole country and millions of my compatriots.

I accept all the information from different sources, recheck it. But responsibility for the decision remains on me. So now I say that I am a lonely person and an orphan.

I have never held to an opinion or information of one person. Having worked at various management positions, I have learned to look at the problem from different angles.

About Almazbek Atambayev

— The slogan of your election race — «Continue the path,» that is, continue the path of Almazbek Atambayev. When was the last time you talked to the ex-president?

— My slogan «Continue the path» in the Kyrgyz version says: «Kyrgyz kochu zholun ulait» (Kyrgyz nomad camp continues the path).

This path is not mine or yours, or someone else’s separately. This is the path of the country, the people, which takes its origin from our ancestors. This is the great Kyrgyz nomad camp. That was the basis of this statement.

Rulers, presidents come and go away, but the people and their centuries-old historical nomadic camp remains. This is the path I will continue.

We met on March 29 last time, before the SDPK congress. We talked for more than four hours. After that, we had no conversation.

— Can you now frankly tell what had happened between you and Almazbek Atambayev? Why is there suddenly such a separation after 20 years of friendship and warm friendly relations?

— I was surprised by his statement on March 31, four months after my inauguration, in the first difficult period of my presidential responsible work.

He then accused me of corruption and the breakdown at the Bishkek HPP.

Old representatives of the party cells from Osh region, who stood at the origins of our party in the most difficult years both for the party itself and for Atambayev, were not allowed to attend the SDPK congress. I was surprised at such a dramatic change in events.

I have never talked about parting with him. Yes, we were fellow party members and associates for a long time.

Attempts to make me a slave leader through some third parties, to lead my actions — all this does not honor him either as a person or as an ex-president, or as a party member and fellow member.

I did not understand these of his aspirations. He often speaks about these 20 years, but I haven’t sat on the hands all these years. Together with the party members, we were engaged in strengthening the positions of the party, especially in Osh region, Batken, and Jalal-Abad.

When SDPK had a zero rating in Osh, we, with like-minded people and supporters, opened party cells there, and in a short time the party was able to gain credibility among the voters.

He likes to scatter such words as «dosum» (friend) and «partiyalashym» (party fellow). But this is not what the real friends and the party fellows do.

In the most difficult moments for our party, especially in the south of the country, I was always with him. Even when everyone escaped from him, I remained close to him, despite the security threat to me, my family, relatives and friends.

In 2009, I headed the headquarters of the candidate for the presidency from SDPK. Then a few dared to speak out in support of Atambayev, everyone was afraid of the regime then.

During the events in the south in 2010, in order to preserve the unity of the state, I risked not only my career, but also my life. I do not want to boast, but this is reality. He has always known it.

The favorite trend of his political technologists is to call me a traitor. Time will tell who is who.

— It is probably harder for you than for other presidents. Your strong opponent is near, he did not flee like the others. Almazbek Atambayev quite often expresses his opinion through the media. You are criticized by hints, in Atambayev’s way sharp and direct, in the headquarters of SDPK, your native party. Does this political competition bother you?

— I work as the head of state. I am always ready for a tough fight.

Nothing was easy. Struggle, work is a basis of success.

I adhere and will continue to adhere to my basic state principles — to strengthen statehood, develop the country, parliamentary democracy, protect human rights and freedom of speech.

I always accept reasonable criticism, correct mistakes. This is a common process for a statesman. The main thing for the criticism is not to be frantic and without hysteria.