Friends of Moldova,
Last month, media outlets published news about an alleged email missive from the Speaker of the Parliament to the country’s development partners and diplomatic community. The email was allegedly describing the country’s stabilization, successful reforms, and commitment to “regaining trust” from the country’s population, and as a result, from its external partners. Through the present letter we, the undersigned, on behalf of many more, would like to express our ever growing concern about misrepresentation by those in power of the reality felt on the ground, and to raise your awareness about the manipulative processes at hand.
We represent the active minority – citizens of Moldova. Most of us have chosen to stay in the country and continue to be active, each in our own field, in order to contribute with critical thinking, constructive feedback and independent discourses to the political, economical, social and cultural developments in our country.
Being an active part of the society, we have repeatedly expressed concern about the direction the government is taking this country, as well as its manipulation of the facts and outright lies to both its population and its partners. We have decided, therefore, to address your Excellencies to give voice to a reality of which you will not hear in official meetings with our authorities, a reality which is the exact opposite of the authorities’ speeches of stabilization and letters of trust.
In order to avoid generalizations, we took the initiative to monitor the actions this government has undertaken in the month of august alone, considered the most “quiet” month of the year. It is our conviction that these actions are subtle attempts to abuse power with the end objective of tightening the government’s grip on control before the upcoming elections.
In only one month:
- Sergiu Cebotari, a whistleblower that six months ago uncovered a cross-border drug trafficking scheme operating through the Moldovan National Post (Poșta Moldovei), was arrested. The General Police Inspectorate stated the arrest is “totally unrelated to his declarations”.
- One day later, Speaker of the Parliament Andrian Candu made a public statement that insults one’s intelligence, claiming that “the people will not feel any repercussions from the stolen billion”. Apart from the fact that it is a blatant lie, as repercussions have already been felt far and wide, it is our concern that by such declarations the authorities are preparing the public opinion to accept paying for the biggest theft we can remember, with public money. It also signals any lack of will to identify the criminals and track the money, as two years have already passed since the fraud, with little progress in the investigation.
- A shot was fired at the house of the daughter of opposition journalist Constantin Cheianu.
- Same day, Ilan Shor was freed after spending one month in detention. He is the person first Kroll report named as a central actor in the 1 billion USD bank fraud.
- Three days later, on August 8, organized protesters claiming to support Shor staged a protest in front of the opposition Jurnal TV offices, demanding the channel to be shut down.
- August 10. Representatives of Civil Society sign a common declaration demanding a credible international investigation of the banking fraud. To the present day, this request, and many other similar ones, remain ignored by the authorities.
- August 12. Journalists report on a new scheme used for laundering of 500 million USD through the Telenesti court. Instead of investigating the matter, the National Anticorruption Center attempts to harass Agora.md, an independent online portal, to discover its sources.
- Prosecutor Adriana Betisor threatens to sue Ziarul de Garda, another independent newspaper, after it published information about her family’s undeclared assets. At the same time, she addresses the CCA (Coordinating Council of the Audiovisual) on similar grounds about Jurnal TV.
- The Minister of Justice then declares that “mass media is no longer considered a credible source of information, and therefore the National Integrity Commission will not open queries based on information from the media” – a decision that clearly violates the Law.
- August 16. Mariana Rata, another journalist, declares she was intimidated after publishing material about one of the front actors in the banking fraud. Same day, Pavel Filip publishes another article in western media, touting his government’s commitment to european values, reform, restoring partners’ trust and investigating the banking fraud.
- August 18: Ilan Shor’s private bodyguards bar journalists from entering the courtroom, which is a clear procedural violation. Authorities do not take any action, nor is there any follow up. The abuse remains ignored up till now.
- August 18: Central Electoral Commission (CEC) issues information about voter lists. According to the information released, Moldova has more voters than population – an obvious nonsense. Civil society expressed repeated concern that the authorities are preparing to rig the upcoming elections.
- In the same day, the CEC finally publish the regulation according to which the elections will take place. It is clear that in such unpredictable conditions, the opposition is seriously disadvantaged, while it would be an easy argument to make that the parties that form the present coalition knew well in advance what the rules of the game would be.
- August 27: Celebrations marking 25 years of Moldova’s independence spark protests because of faulty organization and general frustration that has accumulated in the society. A security barrier is erected to block the protesting and celebrating public alike from accessing the main square while representatives of the authorities are there. The police uses tear gas against peaceful protesters in what Amnesty International Moldova has qualified a disproportionate and unjustified use of force. There has been no investigation into the matter and no attempt to identify the person who gave the order. Collective memory of police brutality from April 7, 2009, is still alive, and we are afraid the people that command the police forces have not learned their lessons.
- August 30: Veaceslav Platon is extradited to Moldova and barred from making any public statements. We are likely to see another secret trial with electoral whiff, as demonstrated by a leaked video from the first court hearing on September 1st, where only Platon’s wife was allowed and no press was present, though the trial is supposed to be public.
- August 31: afraid of any sign of defiance, organizers exclude Catalin Josan, a singer openly critical of the government abuses, from the celebrations of “Limba Noastra” (Our Language day). This follows the protest by another singer, Pasha Parfeni, who wore a “#NuPlaha” T-shirt on stage during Aug 27 concert to protest corruption and state capture. This regime is continuously marginalizing inconvenient people and movements from cultural, social and political life.
In all this time, the government has avoided at all costs speaking about country’s real issues:
The bank fraud, high-level corruption, compromised judiciary, control of the media, ongoing fraud schemes on the energy market and elsewhere affecting the population’s disposable incomes. Meanwhile, we see articles with wishful thinking, depicting the country’s flourishing development, reforms and stability in the foreign media signed by our ministers and prime ministers, without any specific solution to the above mentioned issues.
The examples we have listed offer only the highlights of a one-month snapshot of how this government has been abusing its power and continuing to harass its people. It did not start on August 1st, but rather on the day this government was illegitimately appointed. It will also not end on August 31st, but is likely to continue and worsen, becoming ever more visible and damaging with time. These regular, almost daily abuses create a fatigue in the society, numbing its ability to promptly identify, react and condemn all the wrongdoings, while any attempt of critique is blocked by the pro-government mass-media monopoly. With so many daily attempts to abuse, the society loses its vigilance and the government often gets its way for the simple reason there is no time, energy, or communication channels to constantly express critique and concern.
We sense that this government is lying on two levels. On the one hand, the population is being presented with an exaggerated image of the support this government has from the development partners, which is, in itself, a lie. Since this government proclaims its adherence to European integration, this lie compromises and jeopardizes EU values in the eyes of the society.
On the other hand, the development partners are being lied to about the support the government has from its people and about the so-called stability, while the tension in the society continues to build up. Looking back on the way this government was appointed and every step it has taken since, it is our strong belief this is the least legitimate government this country has had in all 25 years of its existence and it should be treated as such.
This is not a ”Government of the people, for the people, and by the people”.
By this letter we would like to first of all to discourage further attempts of abuse from this government. This is not a way for a government to treat its people and their human rights.
Expressing serious concern about what the next two months may bring, we would like to call upon friends of Moldova to remain by the people’s side, to bend a ear more often to the society’s mood, and to remain skeptical of the promises, commitments and reassurances that come from this government. Their promises are, in all probability, made to be broken, their commitments are made simply to buy time, and their reassurances come to cover up their crimes against the citizens they claim to represent.
We call on the international and donor community in Moldova to consider consequences for their reputation and public image in the country and elsewhere if they do not exercise appropriate caution and judgement when dealing with the current authorities. The probability of continued corruption, fraud and abuse remains high, and, while the Moldovan population stands to benefit from development assistance, these benefits can once again be reduced to nothing by failure to apply conditionality, strict oversight and independent verification of the government’s claims of fulfilling their commitments. So far, independent reviews of government’s activity have not seen enough to convince them the government is acting in good faith and is committed to reform and responsible democratic governance. A continuous, concerted effort from within the Moldovan society and from the international community is needed to put pressure on the untrustworthy government actors to play by the rules in the upcoming Presidential elections and in matters concerning the judiciary, the law enforcement, the media and the opposition as pillars of democracy and rule of law.