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Kazakh Report: June 16, 2000


16 June 2000

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS NAZARBAEV'S POSSIBLE POWERS AFTER HIS FUTURE RETIREMENT.
Zharmakhan Tuyaqbay, speaker of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament), told a joint session of the Mazhilis and the Senate (the upper chamber) on 16 June that the pro-presidential Civic Party has drafted a bill, which will be debated later this month, to give incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev special powers after his retirement from the presidency. Those powers would include the right to address the nation, government bodies and officials on key initiatives concerning the development of Kazakh society; to speak before Parliament and at government sessions when important matters are being addressed; to lead the People's Assembly; to retain his membership of the Kazakh National Security Council; to award an annual prize for peace and progress; to make suggestions to future presidents on appointments to and dismissals from official positions; and to advise presidents on declaring a state of war or emergency.

Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, who is also a deputy of the Mazhilis, told RFE/RL correspondents on 16 June that the decision to discuss such a proposal had been adopted too early. He noted that President Nazarbaev has more than five years of his current presidential term still to serve. According to Abdildin, adopting such a law would mean establishing a dual presidency, one member of which would be president for life. Observers believe the extended powers are intended as a gift to Nazarbaev on the occasion of his 60th birthday next month.

KAZAKH PREMIER HELD TALKS WITH ARMENIAN AMBASSADOR.
Qasymzhomart Toqayev met with with Armenia's Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Eduard Khurshidian, on 15 June to discuss bilateral cooperation. Khurshidian said that Armenian Embassy has not yet been moved to Astana from Almaty due to financial problems, adding that payment of Kazakhstan's debt to Armenian specialists for installation of a water pump at Qaraghandy Metal Plant several years ago could help to finance the embassy's move to the new Kazakh capital. It was mentioned at the talks that general annual volume of trade and economic exchange between Kazakhstan and Armenia is about $7 million.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE WORLD'S KAZAKHS WINDS UP IN ALMATY.
A two-day conference convened by the Almaty-based Association of the World's Kazakhs ended in the former capital on 16 June, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The main issues discussed at the conference were the social status of ethnic Kazakhs living abroad, the further development of Kazakhs' national and ethnic identity, as well as the future of the Kazakh language. The majority of participants agreed that it is necessary for the Kazakh language to switch to the Latin alphabet, following the example of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tatarstan.

PRESIDENT NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV FINISHED HIS OFFICIAL TRIP TO TAJIKISTAN.
Presidential Press Service spokesman Erden Khasenov told RFE/RL on June 15 that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has ended his official visit to Tajikistan and left for Petropavlovsk in North Kazakhstan, where he will participate in special ceremonies devoted to the100th anniversary of the birth of Kazakh writer Sabit Muqanov. During his official visit to Dushanbe, which began on 13 June, Nazarbaev met with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmonov to discuss the further development of Kazakh-Tajik economic and political cooperation. According to Khasenov, the two presidents signed nine documents on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. He added that the annual volume of wheat imported by Dushanbe from Kazakhstan is 55 per cent of all the imported wheat in Tajikistan.

President Nazarbaev also participated in the summit of Central Asian Union member-states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). The four countries' presidents -- Nursultan Nazarbaev, Asqar Aqaev, Emomali Rakhmonov and Islam Karimov -- discussed further integration between the four Central Asian states. Erden Khasenov told RFE/RL that one of the main issues discussed at the summit was the possible threat posed by the Taliban to Central Asia.

PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE PRIVATIZATION OF AGRICULTURAL LAND...
On 15 June, the Agrarian Committee of the Mazhilis again discussed the possibility of private land ownership in Kazakhstan. Addressing the committee, writer Sapabek Asip said that all the most fertile lands in Kazakhstan have already been privatized by the "nomenklatura." Bakhyt Ospanov, who heads the State Agency for Land Use, told RFE/RL that the privatization and leasing of agricultural land will be discussed in the Mazhilis in the immediate future.

...DESPITE PROTEST HUNGERSTRIKE.
Dozens of Alash party activists continue their hunger strike started three weeks ago to demand annulment of the draft law on land ownership scheduled for hearings in the Mazhilis next month. Alash party leader Savetqazy Aqatay told RFE/RL on 13 June that several hunger strikers have been hospitalized. Aqatay also said that the administration of the PARASAT company, which owns the building of Democracy House in Almaty, has demanded that hunger strikers leave those premises.

Numerous actions of protest, hunger strikes, demonstrations and mass gatherings have been held in Almaty and elsewhere in Kazakhstan since last year, when the issue of possible land ownership was first discussed in the Kazakh Parliament.

ARMS FOUND AT EURASIA-BANK IN ALMATY.
A total of 49 Kalashnikov machine guns and 21 Makarov and TT pistols were confiscated by Almaty City Procuracy from the premises of Eurasia-Bank in Almaty on 14 June. Investigations are underway. Eurasia-Bank is owned by Kazakh oligarch Aleksandr Mashkevich, who controls the entire chrome producing sector. He also owns the famous iron ore developing facility of Sokolov Sarbay in North Kazakhstan.

ECOLOGISTS SOUND ALARM OVER SEALS' DEATHS.
Representatives of the "Caspian Sea-Nature" ecological organization held a press conference at the National Press Club in Almaty on 14 June. According to the organization's spokeswoman, Galina Chernova, more than 8,000 seals have died in the Caspian region in the last several weeks. Chernova said that preliminary research conducted by ecology experts in Astrakhan suggest that the mass deaths of Caspian seals were due to cadmium poisoning caused by the accidental release of natural gas in April at drilling operations of the Tengizchevroil joint venture. She said that similar accidents had taken place at Tengizchevroil in 1998. According to the organization's experts, the cadmium poisoning is also affecting the Caspian Sea's salmon population.

LOCUST INVASION MIGHT BECOME INEVITABLE.
Ablay Oraz-Uly, who is an expert from the Kazakh Agricultural University's Plants Protection Department, told RFE/RL correspondents on 14 June that unless the Kazakh authorities take immediate measures within the next two weeks, the locust plague in Kazakhstan's wheat fields may turn into a catastrophe. According to Oraz-Uly there are more than 250 types of locusts in Kazakhstan, each of which can be eliminated only by one specific pesticide. The Kazakh government has allocated 2,5 billion Tenges ($1 equals 142.30 Tenges) to combat locusts this year.

LEADERS OF KAZAKHSTAN'S ETHNIC UYGHURS VISIT RUSSIAN EMBASSY.
A group of ethnic Uyghur activists led by Yusufbek Mukhlisi, the leader of Almaty-based National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan, visited the Russian Embassy in Almaty on 14 June. The delegation handed a note to embassy staff in which the organizations uniting ethnic Uyghurs in Kazakhstan expressed their hope that ethnic Uyghur leaders will be invited to the 21 June CIS summit in Moscow.

The USSR and the People's Republic of China liquidated the Eastern Turkistan Republic in the 1950s, after Mao Tse Dong promised Joseph Stalin to establish a Communist regime in the region. According to the leaders of the Uyghurs community in Kazakhstan, CIS countries should pay more attention to the situation of the ethnic Uyghurs in Xin Jiang, the Uyghur Autonomous Province of West China (the former Eastern Turkistan Republic).

PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES CRITICIZE GOVERNOR OF EAST KAZAKHSTAN OBLAST.
A group of Mazhilis deputies led by Valeriy Kotovich and supported by Kazakh senator Zauresh Battalova told journalists on 14 June that they have sent numerous letters to Kazakh Premier Qasymzhomart Toqayev, Prosecutor General Yuriy Khitrin, Chief of the Kazakh National Security Committee Alnur Musayev and Presidential Aide on National Security Marat Tazhin, complaining about the situation at the Ulba Metallurgic Plant (UMP) in Oskemen, Eastern Kazakhstan. The UMP used to be one of the most important industrial facilities producing uranium and dry fuel for nuclear reactors in the Soviet period. According to the Mazhilis deputies, the plant's former director,Vitalliy Mette, is responsible for the critical situation currently faced by the plant and its workers. Vitalliy Mette was appointed a Vice Premier in the early 1990s. He is currently governor of Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast.

QARAGHANDY CITY DEPUTY MAYOR STEPS DOWN.
Abzhappar Abdulakimov, the deputy mayor of Qaraghandy City, which is the administrative center of Central Kazakhstan Oblast, announced his resignation on 13 June after his son and daughter-in-law robbed an apartment in the city, RFE/RL correspondents reported.

'SOLDAT' NEWSPAPER AGAIN FACES PROBLEMS.
The editor-in-Chief of "Soldat," Ermurat Bapi told RFE/RL on 13 June that the Publishing House of Kazakhstan's Agriculture Ministry refused to print the newspaper this week. Bapi said that ruling was politically motivated. "Soldat" is well known for its bold articles criticizing President Nazarbaev and the Kazakh government. Meanwhile the head of the Kazakh Agriculture Ministry's Publishing House, Zhumaghul Seitkhanov, told RFE/RL that there had been disagreements between the publishing house and the newspaper. He said that the paper's editors failed to meet unspecified obligations defined in the contract they signed with the publishing house.

NACHNEM S PONEDELNIKA NEWSPAPER ALSO IN TROUBLE.
The newspaper "Nachnem s ponedelnika" is also reportedly under pressure. On12 June, Judge MukhametqAliyev of Almaty District Court pronounced the paper's editors guilty of using a name created by Erik Nurshin, the editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "Dozhivem do ponedelnika" newspaper. "Nachnem s ponedelnika" now has to pay off a big fine totalling 50 million Tenges ($1 equals 142 Tenges). Ramazan Esergepov, who is editor-in-chief of "Nachnem s ponedelnika," told RFE/RL that the verdict was politically motivated, and constitutes a further attempt to stop the newspaper's activities.

In May this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists named Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev one of the world's 10 worst enemies of the press.

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