Gov’t to curb authority of chambers in support of Gezi protests

Gov’t to curb authority of chambers in support of Gezi protests

Nisan Su Aras ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Gov’t to curb authority of chambers in support of Gezi protests

AA Photo

As both the authority and a significant income source of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) have been severely limited by a late-night legislative proposal of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) July 9, professional organizations and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have slammed the decision with bold statements.

The transfer of the TMMOB’s authority to issue permits and visas for mapping, planning, etude and projects – a key source of the association’s income – to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning in the proposal has been widely interpreted as “revenge” against the association’s support of the Gezi Park protests.

The proposal was introduced as a last-minute add-on to an omnibus bill that was passed July 9. The TMMOB’s authority to grant permits and visas for “mapping, planning, etude and projects” in return for monetary payments, clearly an important source of income, was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.

The president of the TMMOB, Mehmet Soğancı, called on the AKP to take their hands off the TMMOB and its profession. “The TMMOB will never side with those saying, ‘Long live my sultan.’ It will persistently keep on saying, ‘The emperor wears no clothes.’”

Tayfun Kahraman, president of the Istanbul branch of the Chamber of Urban Planners under the TMMOB, who is also a member of the Taksim Solidarity Platform that took a central role during the Gezi protests, said, “Of course this is directly related to Gezi, because this is a scenario based on ending financial resources all of a sudden and then weakening its power. This is an operation that is intended to create an image of the chambers’ loss of power so as to intimidate these democratic institutions that took office through elections.” The decisions of the ministry will inevitably become arbitrary because it will lead to a monism, Kahraman told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Similarly, Adnan Keskin, the CHP’s deputy leader condemned the legislation and added that it was a political lynching and “a sneaky revenge plan.”

“There should be no doubt that the TBB [Union of Turkish Bar Associations] and TTB [Turkish Medical Association] are next,” Keskin added.

Meanwhile, a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting of the CHP chaired by its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was cut short so that MYK member deputies could attend Parliament’s General Assembly meeting, where the debates on the omnibus bill resumed, in order to voice protest against the AKP move on the TMMOB.

Two other associations, the TBB and TTB, which are speculated to be likely to face the same fate, also made harsh remarks and commented on the likelihood of a possible move against them.

Metin Feyzioğlu, the president of the TBB, deemed it “unthinkable even at the higher stage madness could reach,” as he said such move was not on the agenda and bashed the government’s stance on the matter. “If it is no problem to say what the political government did right was right, it should not be a problem when we say what it does wrong is wrong. If our attitude is causing trouble, the problem is not us,” he told the Daily News.

About its relevance to the Gezi protests, Feyzioğlu said, “This is the saddest part. The legislature has joined the executive organ’s war against society with this law. If this is revenge, the revenge is taken not against professional chambers, but against society.”

Meanwhile, TBB Secretary-General Beyazıt İlhan explained the act as “increasing pressure on professional associations,” in a statement he made to the Daily News, while affirming that similar moves had been attempted on the TTB as well.

“In the process of Gezi Park, intimidation policies against labor and professional organizations seem to have increased. These are not new,” he said, implying that the AKP’s grudge was not a recent phenomenon. “Similar restrictions and scope-limiting have been done to the TTB too. For instance the authority of the TTB on worker health, giving permits to workplace doctors, was transferred to the Labor Ministry.”