Looking at Parliament’s monitoring function from Uludere
You will remember that on Dec. 28, 2011, 34 citizens, most of whom were very young, died as a result of a bombing by fighter planes in the southeastern border village of Uludere. After this disaster, a parliamentary commission was set up to investigate the incident. A subcommittee of the commission finally completed its report on March 5, in other words, 14 months after the disaster. And look what happened.
When the meeting commenced, copies of the report were present in front of the eight members of the subcommittee. Reading the 74-page report took two hours. Debate over the report took about one hour. In the voting, the report was approved by five “yes” votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). From the opposition parties – the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), three members voted against.
Just as the voting finished, a commission officer collected the reports from the commission members. It was deemed inconvenient for the report to remain with the members. Now, eyes have turned to the 26-member upper commission.
Ertuğrul Kürkçü of the BDP has stated that he finds the removal of the report “humiliating.” He explained why he was not opposed to the move, saying, “The speculation stemming from a possible scuffle among deputies would have overshadowed the essence of the debate over the report.”
Because the report is being kept secret, any assessment we can make is inevitably based on the dissenting opinions that were later written by the opposition deputies who had the opportunity to review the report at the meeting. What we can understand from these opinions is that in the report, there was no indication that any office or individual had any direct responsibility and, in this context, the question of who ordered the bombing remains unanswered.
CHP deputy Levent Gök said in his written dissenting opinion that “there is an attempt to create a perception in the report that among the deceased there could also be terrorists.”
We can say that at this stage the government majority on the commission is acting in a manner that could be summarized as “Don’t overstate the incident, don’t amplify it.”
In his dissenting opinion, Gök conveyed that inspectors have demanded that an investigation should be conducted in each of the command posts related to the incident from top to bottom. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has refrained from extending political approval to transforming the inspection into an investigation. Likewise, the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office has not been possible to reach a conclusion in the investigation in 14 months.
In advanced Western democracies, there are numerous incidents where parliamentary commissions give the government a hard time and unravel many truths that the government wanted to cover up.
But in Turkey, we see that Parliament voluntarily withdraws from its monitoring functions in general and conducts its activities in this field “for the sake of appearances.” The Uludere file is a striking example with regards to demonstrating the dysfunction of Parliament in the subject of monitoring.
This incident has a special significance, especially in these days when Turkey has started debating the presidential system. The reason for this is that the government is defending the thesis that when the presidential system is introduced, then Parliament’s monitoring function will become stronger.
What is the guarantee that stronger monitoring will occur in the future than today in a structure where the president’s party holds the majority? Is there anyone who thinks that the political will that winks at us in the Uludere commission report will change and act differently when transformed into the presidential model?
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on March 20. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.