Turkish charter proposals put behind a veil

Turkish charter proposals put behind a veil

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish charter proposals put behind a veil

The content of proposals for the new charter have been taken down from the Internet site after a decision by the panel. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Parliament’s constitution-making panel has decided to stop publishing the input it collects for the new charter after authors of controversial proposals voiced concern of prosecution and requested confidentiality, members said.

Under the decision, the content of proposals submitted to the Constitution Conciliation Commission so far has been removed from the special Internet site that Parliament launched in October 2011 as part of what Speaker Cemil Çiçek had described as “participatory and transparent” efforts for a new constitution. 

Only the names of those who submitted proposals were left on the site, which previously displayed some bold suggestions such as calls for a Turkish-Kurdish federation, Kurdish autonomy and a presidential system. 

Commission members explained the decision did not intend to conceal the work of the panel but rather to protect groups and individuals who make controversial proposals that are either against the current Constitution or may prompt angry reactions.

Atilla Kart of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who was absent when the commission made the decision unanimously Jan. 24, lamented that the secrecy request of contributors reflected the level “the climate of fear” had reached in Turkey.

“It is a grave demonstration of how uneasy and worried people are to reveal their thoughts. This is the deed of the government. It is a shame for democracy. We are calling on people to contribute to the new constitution, but we are unable to provide them an environment where they can speak out,” Kart told the Hürriyet Daily News (HDN).

The proposal came originally from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and received support from Çiçek and the other members, the HDN has learned. Commission members had previously discussed even a suggestion for a legal amendment that would provide a judicial shield for those presenting proposals to the panel.

Mustafa Şentol of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the commission was not attempting to “blackout” certain views and both the written and verbal presentations the commission collected would be released as a book once the process was over. 

Some people who came to the commission “were not comfortable expressing their views because the presentations were being made public,” Şentol told HDN, stressing that the objective was to ensure that “ideas are expressed freely.”

Altan Tan of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said people feared prosecution “in a climate when even the main opposition leader is being indicted.” He insisted the panel wanted to protect the more unorthodox views. “Those who want can share their views publicly. There is no obstacle to that. The media is also reporting the suggestions submitted to the commission,” he said.

The MHP’s Oktay Öztürk said some contributors did not want their views to be made public. “The decision was made in order to prevent Parliament from becoming the ground for polemics,” he said