Monday, March 12, 2007

Hamlet Khachatryan Dismissed as Head of Kashatagh
[March 12, 2007]

On March 6th, the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) officially dismissed Hamlet Khatchatryan as the Regional Administrative Governor of Kashatagh. Ernest Ghevontyan, a former leader of the "Artsakh" Committee, was designated as his replacement.

In the fall of 2006, an investigative unit of the NKR government began a series of inquiries delving into the operation of the Kashatagh administration. While the results of these investigations still remain a secret, it's possible that those findings resulted in this dismissal. In the past, Hetq has often commented on the abuses inherent in the Khatchatryan administration.

Given the sorry state of affairs in Kashatagh, it is assumed that the NKR government felt compelled, at a minimum, to dismiss the Regional Governor and to express a willingness to take immediate steps to reverse the exodus of residents from the area. Several benefactors from the diaspora had halted further humanitarian aid until the promises made by NKR President Arkady Ghoukasian in Los Angeles last November were acted upon. At that time, while meeting with several prominent diaspora Armenians, President Ghoukasian promised a series of sweeping changes in Kashatagh within the following one month.

Up till the spring of 2006, the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) had been demanding that President Ghoukasian fire Hamlet Khachatryan. The ARF felt that he was the major cause of the situation in Kashatagh. In turn, the ARF had proposed Bagrat Sargsyan as their own candidate for the office. Sargsyan, at the time, was the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Territorial Administration.

However, President Ghoukasian was either unwilling or unable to remove Khatchatryan from office. During private conversations he often commented that he was powerless to remove Khatchatryan since he was a "favorite" of the regime in Armenia. In point of fact, Khatchatryan was born in the Tchartar village of Martuni and had served as an advisor to Ghoukasian. He is also a cousin, on his mother's side, of Mavrik Ghoukasian, the former NKR Prosecutor General. Thus, it would appear that Khatchatryan is in reality Arkady Ghoukasian's "man" and not that of Yerevan. Usually the governements of the NKR and the Republic of Armenia blame the other for the problematic situation in Kashatagh.

It took two years for the Karabakh government to wrest control of Kashatagh's financial affairs away from Yerevan. According to a high level governement official in Armenia, who requested to remain nameless, the problems in Kashatagh began to appear soon after.

Furthermore, the Stepanakert regime has no uniform policy regarding the status of Kashatagh's residents. According to one local village official, " They treat us just like the Azeris did in the past.". It appears that officials on the NKR are more concerned with improving conditions in villages in Karabakh proper than with the continued exodus from Kashatagh.

On January 24th, the Prime Minister of the NKR designated Serzh Amirkhanyan as Director of the Office for Migration, Refugees and Resettlement. A member of the ARF, Amirkhanyan held the exact same post in the past but was not known for his creative leadership skills. He also held the post of Deputy Director of the Karvatchar Regional Office. A former Kashatagh official made the following comments regarding Serzh Amirkhanyan, "In the two years he served as Karvatchar Deputy Director he probably visited the area only four times at most. He never set foot outside his office and never came up with a new or creative idea. He was totally uninspiring. Why the authorities chose him is beyond me but he's the right man for the job if they plan to continue business as usual."

The following statistic alone attests to the ongoing unfortunate situation in Kashatagh. When compared to figures from 2005, there was been a 48% drop in the total acreage of fields undergoing fall planting in 2006. The Karabakh government has failed to explain this troubling statistic. Apparently, in addition to common villagers, the generals and other regional officials have also ceased performing much of the vital work that had been carried out in the past.

We will know soon enough what the mandate of the new Kashatagh Regional Governor is regarding the "liberated territories" and whether it includes the authority needed to effectively alter the "politics of resettlement" as presently constituted.

Edik Baghdasaryan

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