UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: January 11, 301 AP.
President Okarvits stares down Parliament over Chiquiti issue
The President today addressed the concerns of Parliament about the international plea for help made by his Minister for Health, Philip Stanton MP, by directly addressing the Parliament.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, debate raged over the motives, implications and consequences of the Minister for Health's call for international assistance to deal with the so-called health crisis in Chiquiti. (On Wednesday afternoon Parliament was in recess.) This continued this (Thursday) morning, as Minister Stanton, also a member of Parliament, struggled to defend his action that some claim has made Utania "appear to be a third world nation of no self-reliance". Several government MP's also spoke out against the Minister for failing to take the crisis more seriously. A statement on progress was expected from the President's spokesman later in the day.
At eleven o'clock this morning, the Speaker of the Parliament was briefly interrupted by an official from chastising an "out-of-order" MP, then instructed MP's that the debate was suspended, and "Would you all please rise for the President of the United Democratic Republic of Utania". The heavy, wooden doors to the rear of the chamber opened and there stood the President. It was the first visit to Parliament by President Okarvits, since opening it in October.
As the President strode in large, determined steps down the aisle, the Parliamentary chamber was eerily silent. As one Democratic MP put it: "Many may speak behind the President's back, but when it comes to facing him, most people have far too much respect for him, his father and the office of the Presidency to do anything less than defer the highest respect to him."
President Okarvits was brief and somewhat direct. "I have come to offer a statement of progress regarding the Chiquiti assistance programme, an effort with medical and water purifying assistance from the nations of Feniz, Bowdani and Ordland", he told the Parliament. With his deep, booming and somewhat theatrical voice echoed in the chamber, commanding respect, one could almost think of this large man to be on a Shakespearean stage.
He reported on the situation in Chiquiti, where planes from Feniz were landing this afternoon. MP John Kopeya (NPP;Leth), a former executive at Savaj Netopik*, had been appointed special Presidential coordinator for the Crisis, and would ultimately help to select his successor. He was en route to meet the international arrivals. The President stated that he thanked the nations for the kind generosity toward Utania, and that despite the recent protests in newspapers and by politicians, their assistance was welcome.
The water drilling teams, some of the medical staff, and some of the water purification equipment would be sent to the four border settlements where an estimated 60,000 people reside, and the focus would be upon short-term health issues and temporary fixes, as there was "no long term intention" to have the refugees permanently reside there.
The remaining medical teams, and water purification equipment would be sent to the city of Chiquiti, where the normal population of about 110,000 had nearly doubled with refugees. There, the President emphasised, the objective of the project would be to "significantly improve the capacity of the infrastructure of that city", which was estimated to be capable of currently handling a population of 40,000.
The President then made comment about the recent debate over the request for international aid.
"It appears to me that some MP's have trouble believing that outside the cloistered halls of Parliament, outside the luxurious domain of their Luka homes, we are a nation of extreme poverty and deprivation, of very poor infrastructure and services.
"It is indeed reprehensible and sadly pathetic that we are unable to rely upon the skilled physicians in this country whose expert skills would be of immeasureable benefit to the Chiquiti crisis, however, that very same Parliament that demands action that does not require international aid, also refuses to pass bills, most recently, the National Health Bill, that could compel the transfer of these skills to the places most needed.
"There are certain critics of my Chiquiti policy who speak in terms of the great revolution that Utania will experience with a newly freed market. I say, we must establish the base for this revolution before we can run forward with such joy. We must establish a basic living standard for ALL Utanians before we can talk about giving them new cars and microwave ovens. I do not see my critics addressing these issues, as though they live in hope the problems will solve themselves.
"Well I say this to those same critics: Woe be to any woman or man who denies the poor and impoverished the means to stay alive long enough to take advantage of the "benefits of this new capitalist state"!! Theirs is a paradise that few may reach."
The President then reminded MPs that an attack on any of his ministers was an attack on his Presidency, "for no minister acts without my authority", and then called on all MP's to stand behind this "clearly necessary" action in Chiquiti, and focus their attention on "the business of providing all Utanians with the economic base from which they may leap into this new golden age for Utania's future." He then thanked the Parliament for hearing him, and walked into the applauding and congratulatory crowds of MPs.
"President Okarvits proved this day that he still had that same mix of oratory power and conviction to lead the nation", commented one non-government MP.
* Savaj Netopik is the multi-billion pund utilities and manufacturing corporation, based in Utan-Savaj in the east of Savana state, almost entirely owned by James Angorit who started the Utani Progressive Party, of which John Kopeya MP is a member.
©UPA, 301 AP.
©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)