On Sunday a meeting that lasted nearly 11 hours was held at the prime minister’s office in Dolmabahçe. I also attended this meeting between the committee of wise men and the prime minister. Most of the cabinet was also present.
The timing, duration and behind-closed-doors nature of the meeting all led to speculation. Hence it would be beneficial if I begin this column by providing some information.
The meeting lasted very long because almost each and every one of the 54 invitees expressed their opinions, and provided their criticisms and suggestions. Apart from Davutoğlu’s opening speech and a few scheduled breaks, it was this that took up almost 9 hours of the meeting. During these 9 hours, the prime minister allowed for criticisms of him, rather of what he said, to be voiced and responded to them. We can summarize what was said during this period in a few points.
1-Suggestions about the functions of the committee of wise men from this point onward.
2-Conclusions regarding recent events and the stage that the Kurdish problem is at now, along with new suggestions for solutions to the problem…
3-Cristicisms of the government’s statements and policies…
The common point displayed by everyone during this meeting compared to previous ones, was that it was more mature and all participants refrained from showmanship-like behavior and didn’t resort to making barbed remarks and issuing challenges. Another commonality was that hope was not lost.
Containing within itself far more varied inclinations compared to existing political trends and the demeanor and basis adopted by politicians, the committee of wise men voiced different and various ideas on all three points.
While one group of attendees stressed that the role of this committee had ended, another group voiced the need for the role of this institution to continue, and even suggested it undertake expanded functions while also changing or renewing its name.
Suggestions were more in favor of expanded political functions rather than societal ones. Functions like being an observer, indirect mediation, the formation of a crisis committee, and increasing the variety of viewpoints through contacts with Öcalan and Qandil.
What was the government’s response to this?
In summary it was as follows:
“For us you are a part of this process and our consultants by default. We are always open to your suggestions in writing or in person. In fact, many of the topics that you stressed upon in your previous reports, like the one about being allowed to campaign in Kurdish, were legalized as part of the democratization package. We value the input of each one of you on the topic of creating an atmosphere of peace…”
Davutoğlu had this to say about the topic of political functions:
“If the events of Oct.5-6 had not occurred, then perhaps we would have been talking about this now. However, at this point in time our priority is public order. The setting up of an observer committee or involving a 3rd party would mean the state has resigned from being a state. That is out of the question.”
What should we make of all this?
The first thing would be: In a manner, the old function of the committee of wise men has come to an end. However, some of its members might organize amongst themselves to undertake civilian measures. (The 24 wise men meeting held a few days ago provides a clue in this regard.) The government might feel the need for such a structure in the near future and part of the existing structure might be reinstituted or a new one created.
What was very clear when we come to the criticisms and suggestions made was this: The need for the government to be more sensitive on the topic of Kobane, the provision of a wider role for Öcalan, the need for the government to be more careful when making statements, and not to take security-centered steps…
I will try to partially touch on these topics in my next few columns.
At this stage I need to say this: It is important -- even if we are not sure if something will come out of it, or have an impact – that qualified civilian opinions and criticisms from every disposition were listened to and notes taken for 9 hours by the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, the interior, foreign, justice, development, culture and finance ministers. In addition to these ministers, two deputy general secretaries and the party spokesman of the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) were also present.
But what was of real importance was the government’s attitude, statements and inclinations regarding the Kurdish issue and the recent crisis that was experienced. More to the point, it was Davutoğlu voicing clearly and in detail that he could take aboard all these criticisms.
In this regard we can say that Davutoğlu made his mark on this meeting.
Whether it was his opening speech, his attitude during the meeting in particular, and the responses he provided during the last 1.5 hours of the meeting to questions and criticisms…
More on that tomorrow…