The second meeting of Armenian National Assembly’s current 4-day session saw a continuation of the discussion on a bill seeking to introduce a new tax with the purpose of increasing social benefits to the families of servicemen killed or seriously injured during active military duty. General Seyran Saroyan, a lawmaker with the Republican Party faction, voiced his support for Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan’s project; opposition Armenian National Congress MP Aram Manukyan explained why his colleagues should vote against the bill; while Nikol Pashinyan, another oppositionist with the ANC, announced that he understood the public dismay over the proposal but was still going to vote in its favor.
Speaking from the parliament floor, Seyran Saroyan acknowledged that army officials were in fact plundering the military’s resources; he added, however, that “God will punish the plunderers.”
“God forbid we try and do some good for the people, everyone immediately starts talking about the looting, the plunder going on in the army and whatnot… Those who steal from the army will pay bitterly for it. I’d rather they be punished by God than a prosecutor. We all know we have a poor country; [those opposing the bill] suggest we pay the higher benefits from the state budget. How can we, if we don’t have such budgetary means? You are asking for something the state cannot give…
“Is [having to pay 1000 drams per month] really that big of a deal? Sargsyan Vigen is not going to take this money home. It’s shameful; Azeris are seeing all this…” the former army general insisted.
Saroyan went on to urge the bill’s protesters not to “smear dirt” on the army, arguing that Vigen Sargsyan’s plan was “quite simple and straightforward.”
“He is not saying he is going to buy this or that, or pen and paper for the army. We did our best not to overcomplicate the draft; we have 3 objectives – to pay compensation to the families of killed soldiers, to servicemen with first-degree disabilities, and to servicemen with second-degree disabilities.”
Commenting on the oppositionists’ claims that the country’s rich should be the ones contributing to the military budget, Saroyan added. “The rich won’t give anything if they have nothing to gain from the plan. The public have to finally realize that they have to take care of themselves; if there's war, they'll have to fight in it and they'll have to provide for their soldiers,” the general summed up.
ANC lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan, for his part, announced that he was going to vote for the bill since its adoption would raise the fighting efficiency of the Armenian army. “Because soldiers who do not have to worry about their parents’ and children’s fate if something were to happen to them have a higher fighting efficiency,” the MP claimed.
ANC lawmaker Aram Manukyan countered that it was the state’s obligation to provide for servicemen and offered several ideas for finding the necessary funds. The oppositionist, in particular, stated that as many as 60 lawmakers of the parliament of “impoverished Armenia” were officially registered millionaires. He then suggested that authorities should lay off police officers and army generals, and pay the saved money to soldiers and their families.
“You’re shaming people for not wanting to pay these 1000 drams… Brother, you are asking for someone else’s 1000 while saving your own million,” Manukyan said, addressing MP Saroyan.