From discipline within the country’s armed forces to foreign language education

ARF-D parliamentarians Lilit Galstyan and Hrayr Karapetyan

During parliamentary hearings, on September 8, regarding a proposed draft law for disciplinary procedures within Armenia’s Armed Forces, Hrayr Karapetyan, ARF-D parliamentary member and chair of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs, said: “We have to be very well aware that the army, the armed forces is fundamentally different from all other structures. Clear discipline within the army is a necessity,” Hrayr Karapetyan said. “There is no army in the world where discipline is not the most important issue. If there is no discipline, then there is no army.”

The ARF-D parliamentarian stressed that it is also necessary that commanding officers do no abuse their positions of power. “We know very well that some commanding officers are led by certain unwritten, even criminal laws. This mentality is a Soviet legacy that must be wiped out; this new draft law is one of the first steps in doing so,” Karapetyan noted.

If passed, this new law would replace the 1996 government decision, which outlines disciplinary relations within the armed forces. In an interview with the daily Hayots Askharh regarding the draft law, Hrayr Karapetyan remarked that if passed in parliament, then moving forward, the law would require members of the armed forces, from commanding officers to soldiers, to bear responsibility for their actions. “You would have to agree that the current situation is unacceptable when relations between servicemen, between sergeants and soldiers, and disciplinary issues are regulated by a 14 year old government decision,” the parliamentarian noted. “I find it necessary to stress that the 1996 government decision, which up until now has never been amended, contains a number of undesirable traditions and procedures inherited from the Soviet army.”

The draft law will be placed on the agenda of the upcoming session of parliament.

Lilit Galstyan, another ARF-D parliamentarian, has been an outspoken critic of the Ministry of Education’s controversial bill introduced several months ago that would allow the existence of schools where the main language of instruction is not in Armenian.

Responding to the harsh criticism from several segments of society, including the ARF-D parliamentary faction, the education ministry has twice watered-down the bill to placate opponents. The government has agreed to restrict the number of private foreign-language primary schools to two from the initial fifteen and they would have to be located only in the resort towns of Dilijan and Jermuk.

The existing version of the bill also stipulates that up to nine foreign-language high schools can be opened elsewhere in Armenia in accordance with inter-governmental agreements signed on a case-by-case basis.

Education Minister Armen Ashotyan told RFE/RL that last month the government of Armenia edited a legal amendment which states that Armenian is the language of instruction in the country’s schools “except in cases specified by law.” Ashotyan said that this was changed to “in cases of instruction in foreign languages.” While the education minister considered this change as very important, Lilit Galstyan said, “This new change does not dispel our worries at all. I even see a contradiction here.”

The parliamentarian said that the ARF-D and the Heritage Party, another opposition party in parliament, are working to ensure more government concessions to the controversial bill at the upcoming parliamentary hearings on the issue. “The government should reckon with public opinion,” Galstyan stressed.