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P.Ochirbat: MPs ruined government control system, now they’re putting the blame on the Constitution

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

The following is an interview with the first President of Mongolia, P.Ochirbat, who is currently working as a member of the Constitutional Court of Mongolia. The interview covers two main topics, the Constitution of Mongolia and Tavan Tolgoi (TT).

Lately, everybody is talking about making changes to the Constitution. Does the Constitution, adopted in 1992, require amendments? 

Mongolia’s Constitution is a law visioning to the far future and is able to be effective for a very long time. Time isn’t specified for the Constitution. For example, principles prioritizing human rights were included in the 1992’s Constitution. Human right is an eternal topic, right? There’s no such thing as protecting human rights for some time and then stopping. Similar to this, a mixed economy was established by tying it with human rights. Overall, a free property system was made; there’s government property and private property. Property becomes a guarantee for exercising a person’s full rights. Having property reduces dependency on others.

Moreover, the Constitution provided government structure and management. It eliminated the dominance of one party rule and formed a multi-party system. This is a principle to be complied with forever. Before, freely expressing one’s views and pluralistic views was limited when Mongolia was under the dominance of one party rule for 70 years during Socialism. It wasn’t exactly a closed system, but limited. This was changed, becoming a long-term principle. The Constitution straightened out many issues so it should stay effective for a very long time.

 Don’t you think that the interrelationship between governance and control has been lost? Parliament seems much bigger than the government. Aren’t politicians demanding to change the Constitution because of this? 

The Constitution approved in 1992 had removed all potential opportunities for this conflict. Particularly, it stated that an MP can’t have a dual position or job other than his role as an MP. The amendment made in 2000 made this possible. This triggered MPs to have two faces: one as an MP who approves legislation and another as a member of the executive governance that implements decisions of Parliament. Conflict will surface if one person carries out both roles. Not to mention, the change made in the Constitution in 2000, which decreased the attendance of parliament sessions, has made it possible to have 20 people approve legislations. If 18 of the 20 MPs work as a member of the government dually, the other two members can be easily lobbied and turned into allies. So legislators have almost become the executive governance. It’s like MPs are passing laws that they submitted. MPs have brought this idiocy upon themselves. Now, they’re saying that the government is overreaching their power and not obeying their orders. This sort of thing wasn’t permitted in the 1992 Constitution.

Government organizations are specified in the Constitution to report their work to Parliament. But now that they have dual positions as an MP and minister, to whom would they report to? There is no control or monitoring because of this. MPs broke the control system and now they’re putting the blame on the Constitution. 

You’ve been involved in the Mongolian politics for the last 25 years. In the past, there’ve been only two governments that exercised their rights for the entire four year term. Why do you think that governments are collapsing before their appointed time and what’s causing political instability?

This issue is totally irrelevant to the Constitution. The Constitution didn’t cause this issue. It was caused by the formation of parties. In the last 25 years, the government changed 14 times. In only two cases, the government itself initiated to resignation. The first resignation incident was by the government led by Prime Minister D.Byambasuren. D.Byambasuren submitted a proposal to the Baga Khural, asking whether Parliament trusted his government. In response, the President determined that there wasn’t any basis for not entrusting his government and that the government should continue operating. I was that President. The Baga Khural concluded after discussions that the government was exercising its rights correctly and consistently with the Constitution, and didn’t dismiss the government. In the end, eight members of that government resigned and the government was dismissed.

Other governments resigned with initiations from core political parties. This is connected to the competition for power between parties. In fact, a conclusion must be made by the Constitutional Court before dismissing a Prime Minister or government. But not a single person had the Constitutional Court make a conclusion. This means that governments are being dismissed at the initiations of groups MPs, violating the principles in the Constitution. Government resignations were caused by competitions between parties, not because the Constitution is faulty or poorly developed. 

People are cautious of parties attempting to change the Constitution for their own benefit. Can you comment on this?

The law specifies which provisions can be change and which cannot. So I’m not anxious about the potential of major changes to the Constitution. In general, it’s fine to make some amendments and changes to the Constitution as long as national interests are considered higher than interests of parties.

There’s something I’d like to add. I believe  that it’s wrong that officials managing the Mongolian government have dual positions as MPs and ministers. For example, there’s Speaker of Parliament and Head of Democratic Party (DP) Z.Enkhbold. In 1990, he criticized Yu.Tsedenbal and J.Batmunkh for taking up all positions onto themselves. How are you different from them now, Z.Enkhbold? You’re the Speaker of Parliament and Head of the DP. You’re exactly the same as J.Batmunkh. You demanded his resignation in 1990. Now you’ve become exactly the same as him.

Also, party heads shouldn’t be Prime Ministers. We’ve experienced this during Socialism when Yu.Tsedenbal served as Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Mongolian People’s Party. The DP criticized him for holding all powers to himself. Now, the DP’s holding power over both government and parties. This isn’t advancing Mongolia to anywhere. Parliament is the highest legislative authority so why are MPs interfering in government work? The constitution states that the government will lead the development of the society and economy. When the government is supposed to manage this, why are legislators interfering in issues such as TT? TT is an economic issue. In other words, it’s the government’s work.

 This brings us to the next topic. Are you involved with TT? Do you own TT shares?

No, I don’t have shares. The only thing I have is the 1,072 shares all three million people of Mongolia are said to own. They say that everyone, including me, you, Ts.Elbegdorj and even Z.Enkhbold, have shares, but it’s a lie.

 Why?

There’s no proof or guarantee. 

Isn’t it registered in the Securities Clearing House and Central Depository?

Who cares if it’s there? We don’t have shareholder perks. Money was probably only given to the group of people who said they’d rather have their million MNT in cash. If shares are being distributed, I want to get shares of all natural resources from Erdenet, Oyu Tolgoi (OT), Baganuur and Shivee-Ovoo deposits. Why are we allowed to get shares from only TT? Let’s all get shares from other companies. Nevertheless, this is a deceit by officials. 

What do you mean by deceit?

If the state has promised to distribute shares to the public, a single production shouldn’t be responsible for the job. Production will pay taxes, royalties, fees and whatever it needs to pay to the state. In return, the state must give stock dividends to the public. The state shouldn’t be assigning all tasks to a producers. This is the state’s matter, not the producers’. Honestly, distribution of shares was just a “show” for elections. OT was ruined by election shows, now TT will be ruined.

One party promised a million MNT and another raised it by 1.5 million MNT, totaling it to 2.5 million MNT. Later, 250 million USD was lent from OT and 350 million MNT from Chalco, and distributed it to fulfill that promise. Then, it was promised again that the money will be distributed as shares.  When politicians encourage the public to invest in TT, people are telling politicians to first repay the debt of the Chalco deal. It wouldn’t be wrong to ask politicians why the public has to repay election show debt on their behalf. It seems that Mongolia finally found a way to have the debt repaid after losing face.

 What would you recommend as the next step?

In any case, TT and OT mustn’t be delayed any further. The other [contract] party wouldn’t have counter attacked if Mongolia hadn’t made various conditions.

The feasibility study has been received. Deep underground mining should be started at OT after inspecting the feasibility study. Or else, Mongolia will see many bad consequences. As for TT, Parliament will discuss it, although it’s not Parliament’s job. The government should’ve established investment agreements and settled the issue. In fact, losing time by taking this issue to Parliament isn’t beneficial to Mongolia. Unless OT and TT are quickly mobilized, Mongolia’s economy will collapse. One of them will bring danger to the USD exchange rate, which is nearing 2,000 MNT. Mongolia’s economy is fragile. However, it’s quite good at recovering. To recover the economy, these two deposits must be mobilized.

 

Source: Undesnii Shuudan

 

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Posted by on Apr 23 2015. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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