Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risks potential destabilisation of the country by vengefully penalising all and sundry following the failed coup on July 15.
Mass arrests of judicial officers, army personnel, bureaucrats, teachers et al following the botched coup are bound to generate widespread revulsion and hatred against him. That the entire political class rose as one to oppose the coup, that the Opposition parties unequivocally supported Erdogan to defend the democratic system, needs to be gratefully acknowledged.
Blanket arrests and dismissals of government servants and teachers suspected to be sympathetic towards Fethullah Gülen, a friend-turned-foe of Erdogan based in the US, can serve no purpose. It is remarkable that though he won comfortably in the last election, still half the country voted against him. His wild crackdown against real or assumed enemies will only recoil on him.
It is notable that the same opposition parties which had risen in his defence, and against the coup, were forced to stage a huge protest rally to condemn the indiscriminate arrests and dismissals of innocent people. Critics have a point when they accuse him of using the failed coup as an excuse to grab absolute power.
Suspension of basic rights of the people and the imposition of emergency are ill portents for a country which under Erdogan was already moving away from the secular ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Secular democratic traditions have deep roots in the Turkish society and it is unlikely that ordinary Turks, including those who came out on the streets against the coup on the night of July 15, would approve of the blanket clampdown against a wide swathe of the people.
Instead of a painstaking inquiry to fix the blame for the coup plot, and, then, proceeding against those directly involved in it, Erdogan has undertaken to punish almost all his political opponents. That way he only sows the seeds of a future uprising by ordinary people, if not the armed forces. Turkey’s friends in the European Union have warned against the restoration of death penalty, further cautioning him against revengeful actions.
Erdogan risks unsettling Turkey far more than at anytime before the coup in the name of purging it of coup leaders and sympathisers. At a time when the Syrian crisis rages on its borders and millions of refugees strain its economic system, Erdogan should exercise restraint. Weakening democratic institutions cannot be good for Turkey.
Mystery of AN-32
Where has an AN-32 transport aircraft with 29 personnel on board disappeared? It took off from the Tambaram air base for Port Blair last Friday morning and hasn’t been seen or heard of since then. It is natural for the kin of the personnel on board to be deeply anxious about their well-being. Massive search and rescue operations have yielded nothing so far. Speculation is that it might have crashed into the Bay of Bengal but till the black box and other supportive evidence is found nothing can be certain. AN -32 is the IAF’s work horse, having served the country since it was first procured from the erstwhile Soviet Union way back in the mid-80s. But the aging fleet of over one hundred, with periodic snags and paucity of maintenance and replacement parts, has been the bane of all Soviet-origin aircrafts with the IAF. This particular aircraft which has gone missing since last Friday itself had developed trouble thrice in recent times. Problems related to hydraulics, throttle and pressure leaks. Of over a hundred AN -32 aircraft with the IAF, nearly half at anytime are grounded due to maintenance, service or other issues. Paucity of funds explains flogging the old and aging fleet. Even the fighter jets sourced from the Soviet Union are increasingly accident-prone, having claimed many lives already. Threat to life and morale of the IAF personnel should compel a second look at the viability of all Soviet-era aircrafts.