Incapable minister, incapable government

Incapable minister, incapable government

Think of a labor minister admitting his inability to close down mines and workplaces that do not meet basic work safety criteria. Is it not sad? How can a politician remain the labor minister after admitting that he has ordered the closure of workplaces that fail to meet adequate employment safety standards but that when he attempts to take such decisions, businessmen find scores of influential people to intervene and “advise” against the closure?

This is the system of “Alo Fatihs” or “Yes, Prime Minister, politics” which helps feed both politicians’ endless greed for power and money and the cupidity of the shallow businessmen unable to think about anything but their pocket books. Apart from lofty rhetoric, were they really bothered that 301 miners lost their lives – I should actually say murdered – in a mine accident in Soma four months ago or that 18 young miners are trapped in a water-filled mine in Karaman today? If so, why this gross and deadly negligence?

One of the engineers at the Karaman mine said he went to the notary and sent the mine administration a letter several days ago complaining about the probability that a nearby abandoned mine might burst at any moment, sending water collected there over the past decade into the Karaman mine. The engineer reportedly stressed in his letter that under the current conditions, there was no labor safety in the mine and that he decided to unilaterally dissolve his work contract.

This is a very serious claim and, coupled with the statement of the minister on his inability, it paints a rather sad picture of the mining sector in the country. Furthermore, if the minister was correct in his assessment – and many people, including this writer, believe he unfortunately was – there are many other mines in the country that fail to meet basic safety requirements. If so, is there meaning in a minister admitting failure and an inability to act while still continuing on as a minister? One meaning of “bakan” (minister) in Turkish apart from being “in charge of” is “the one that looks.” Apparently our “bakans” have become people who just look at the issues of the people of this land. After all, why would a minister take action and end up at odds with businesspeople with influential uncles in high-up positions?

Is it not better to acquire new VIP jets, construct luxurious marble palaces or advance neo-Ottomanism in a state with lofty rhetoric instead of engaging in tiresome service to the nation?

A young woman was crying on the TV screen. She was lamenting how the employer usurped the bread of miners after a reactionary law hastily legislated after the Soma catastrophe that mass-murdered the 301 miners. “They were not paying wages … They [employers] usurped first our bread … now they have usurped our lives … What else do we have to give?”

After the Soma disaster, the government indeed legislated a law, restricting work time in mines to six hours a day while introducing some serious measures. The immediate reaction of mine owners was to close down mines and when they resumed operations, they negotiated discreet ways of bypassing the law. What were they? No more food and no lunch break, amid other cost-cutting moves.

Did they install safe rooms before resuming work at mines? No… They were not in the plans. Why should they be? After all, mine owners had uncles, if not Big Brother, up in the bureaucracy and in the government.

Eighteen miners are still trapped under soil and water in the Karaman mine. That is for today. Only God knows how many miners will be buried alive tomorrow. Does the minister unable to enforce the law in mines have an idea? Is he required to? Was it not enough to deliver from time to time some lofty rhetoric and praise the almighty, absolute ruler? Were ministers expected to care for the people?

“My eye,” the energy minister was telling a relative of a trapped miner. “Stop crying and protesting at us. We are doing everything to manage the situation.” The miner’s relative was shouting back: “If you had found those responsible for the Soma disaster and brought them to court and if they had paid for their failures, there would not have been a Karaman … [We] don’t trust that you will bring those responsible to justice.”

The government is just incapable.