I believe that it’s part of our civic duty to state that the management of the outbreak is not good at all, and that in fact, on the contrary, it was been managed very badly. In a country in which voicing the truth is considered terrorism, being able to tell the truth is the clearest sign of patriotism.
In İrfan Aktan’s Gazete Duvar interview with Emrah Altındiş from Harvard University, Altındış asked, “We are the seventh country in the world on the list of the most coronavirus cases. Is that success?” He is absolutely right, because according to the figures stated in the same interview, as of April 30, Turkey, on the 43rd day after its hundredth case, was the fifth in the world in increase in number of cases, and it was seventh in total number of cases and twelfth in the number of deaths. As of April 29, Turkey ranked sixth among the countries announcing new cases.
Really, is that success?
This failure speaks volumes. When the virus started spreading across the world from China in January, the government did not care. The first precautions were taken after the first case. Precautions are the steps taken before the case, to prevent the case. The precautions against the virus taken afterward are only a type of “intervention.” A politician should be farsighted and cautious. The representatives of the government, let alone being farsighted, are, as always, engaged in a series of actions to block people’s view, just as they are trying to hide accurate and transparent information so that their inaptitude will not be noticed.
In this era of post-truth, President Erdoğan, the world’s leading name when it comes to populism, is holding his weekly “Address to the Nation” speeches. After exaggerating his actions, which does not heal the wound at all, he attacks the opposition, especially the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). As if the people were not starving, as if unemployment has not reached 20 percent, as if workers were not forced to get by with only 39 lira a day, as if 253,000 workplaces were not closed, as if everybody could get their five flimsy masks and as if everything was glorious, he becomes furious at the CHP, at the bar associations and the “other nations” who do not think like him.
In a style that never suits the status of the presidency and the top position of the state, in an aggressive and discriminatory way, in his capacity as the president affiliated with a political party, he addresses the nation.
His voters already know that the declarations he imposes on the nation are quite far from the truth. This issue has long been boiled down to the simplicity of “supporting a football team,” and is far from a democratic form of government. Worse is that even in sports we can talk about “fair play,” but the President and those supporting the President’s party are totally unaware of this spirit.
People who lack the most fundamental, basic rights go in front of the television hopefully wondering, “Will he say anything that will make our lives easier?” Instead, what they watch are threatening speeches toward the Ankara Bar Association, which defends human rights as its primary duty requires. They also watch incorrectly edited and distorted images and videos of main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The President talks about the privileges that are granted to contractors. There are shows of the awkward and mostly unnecessary megaprojects being constructed with the money collected from people’s pockets. People also watch the president accusing opposition municipalities of being “a parallel state,” calling people who are doing their jobs terrorists and many other things far from a “social state.”
We know that they constantly distort the truth because they wish to consolidate their voters after their failure in local elections, because they are now extremely fearful of the opposition because it points out their ineptitude. We know they do this instead of democratizing because they have no other means left but to increase the pressure, because they know it would be their undoing if they give correct and transparent information. We know this and we understand this, but fear is no remedy for death and people have urgent needs that must be met immediately.
We just observed the International Workers' Day on May 1. Even in these troubled times, there were detentions. They were afraid of the wreath the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), wanted to lay in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. They detained the DİSK leader and DİSK members. The holiday of the worker and the laborer passed gloomily. Those who have been laid off are thinking about how they will make ends meet with a monthly payment of only 1,170 lira.
Through the newly-drafted amendment in the law, workers’ rights were able to be seized by granting employers the right to force unpaid leave. Workers were prevented from receiving their short-time working allowances when this amendment passed.
In a speech he delivered after the epidemic broke out, President Erdoğan said, “We will turn the outbreak into an opportunity.” He made laws with incredible opportunities. For instance, the law just described was one of them.
There are other laws too, such as the one that strengthened their control over the Wealth Fund. For instance, there is the law we call “special amnesty” and what they call “change of execution” which enabled them to release whoever they wanted and keep those they disliked in jail. The marriage amnesty for rapists fell short, but they promised they would endorse that law once the parliamentary break was over. They give assurances every day about releasing convicts and enemies of women and children.
At any rate, the government has distributed a total of 4.4 billion lira to the poor and needy. This amount is the quarter of the annual interest of the unemployment fund, that is, it’s only a fourth of the 16 billion in interest on the 131 billion lira fund. The Central Bank has printed 56 billion lira. The government has issued some IBAN numbers and collected some 1.8 billion lira into those bank accounts. People are asking where this money is. After all, it is the people who have authorized you all. It is for you all to manage the country and to take care of those in need. This authorization is not for paying the guarantees for the bridges that ordinary people do not use. It is not for saving the contractors for the airports that ordinary people have never set a foot in. Despite all this, they have a loyal segment that would never oppose them. That segment did not say a thing when the son-in-law, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Berat Albayrak said, “We have voters who would believe us if we say we will build a four-lane road to space.”
On the topic of helping contractors, for instance, it was suggested that the guarantee payments of those bridges might be postponed. That is, for the bridges that nobody wants to use due to their exorbitant toll fees. Well, it turned out to be that they cannot be postponed because their contracts were subject to British law. Well, of course, even their own banks do not trust Turkish judgment anymore.
But somehow, Istanbul New Airport’s managing firm, the consortium İGA — which is made up of questionable contractors — is repeatedly protected. Their annual rent debt of one billion euros was postponed, for instance. The Transportation Minister came up and said, “What should we have done? Should we have watched them go bankrupt?” They would not watch them go bankrupt, but they ignore the poor shopkeeper on our street when they go bankrupt. The main opposition party, the CHP that they constantly attack, prepared a coronavirus report in January and listed the measures to be taken. Later, it made an additional 13-point proposal. It suggested that the rent for small businesses should be paid, for instance. That’s because it can normally be paid with the figures we mentioned above. But it does not get paid. This is because there are no foreign currency reserves left in the Central Bank and the budget debt to be paid in one year is 170 billion dollars. They will pay the guarantee payments for the bridges that the people do not use, with the money collected from the people.
As a state, you have no prestige left in the world, the free masks for your citizens have not arrived yet, but you are sending masks to 55 countries. At the same time, the country you are sending masks to is threatening to investigate your assets. That same country is giving its citizens six thousand dollars in aid per family. The CHP you are attacking is repeatedly talking about “family aid insurance,” but you do not hear. Local governments are trying to support their residents, and you even block that. You are calling the elected, legitimate local administrations “parallel states.”
All of this is happening in front of the eyes of the people. The memory of the people will record these events. When the time comes, they will come up with the best response — just as already happened in the local elections.
Yes, as you can see, the pandemic is being managed fabulously. God forbid we witness more fabulousness.