Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
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Appeal of the all-Ukrainian public conference ‘Referendum and we: from the public attitude to the public action’


Citizens of Ukraine!

On 16 April 2000 the President of Ukraine carries out the all-Ukrainian referendum, ‘initiated by the people’. This referendum has to change the fundamentals of the constitutional system in our country.

It is done when the stagnation of the Ukrainian economy continues, when pensions and salaries are not paid, when the multibillion external and internal state debts are not decreased, when in the mines and other enterprises workers are killed in dozens (because the power cannot find finances to sustain conditions of labor protection). The authorities convince you that it is the people, that is you, who initiated to waste tens of millions of hrivnias, which you earned and which you have not got.

We, participants of the all-Ukrainian public conference ‘REFERENDUM AND WE: FROM THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE TO THE PUBLIC ACTION’, are profoundly convinced that only the Ukrainian people, citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities, is the only source of power in our state. Only the people has to decide its destiny by consciously shaping the organs of the state power and local self-rule on free and democratic election, using the rules and procedures determined by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine. Nobody has the right to manipulate the people’s opinion and secure narrow clan and party interests by the hands of the people.

That is why we turn to all of you.

The President’s decree of 15 January 2000 ‘On declaration of all-Ukrainian referendum by people’s initiative’ causes profound unrest of politicians and artists, engineers and writers, journalists and teachers, workers and peasants, believers and atheists. This decree threatens the basis of bases of the young Ukrainian democracy, it endangers the Constitution of Ukraine adopted by the people.

Having analyzed scientifically the President’s decree, the contents of the questions put out to the referendum, having discussed the juridical, political, moral and other aspects of carrying the referendum and of its potential consequences, the conference states:

The referendum is declared by the President’s decree ‘by the people’s initiative’ with the aim of the alleged improvement of the current Constitution, but the question is whether the current power ever attempted to live according to the Constitution and to fulfil its norms in the interests of Ukrainian citizens?

The planned changes in the constitutional system of Ukraine will not improve the administration of economy, will not strengthen the fight with the corruption, but will make the power more oligarchic, since after the success of the referendum the President will obtain extreme and irresponsible power.

All the questions that are put out for the referendum have many ambiguous answers. The juridical meaning of the questions is confusing and it is not clear which will be the legal consequences of the positive answers, which testifies on incompetence of the authors of these questions, or even about the malicious intent aimed at destabilization of the situation in Ukraine.

The most dangerous is the positive answer to the sixth question on the adoption of the Constitution at a referendum. Do the authors of this question intend to cancel the current Constitution and put to a referendum their own version of the Constitution, which will be written as ambiguously as the questions of the referendum, for example, stating that the current President could be elected for all his lifetime?

The contraposition to the European community and anti-Western rhetoric of the top power officers, in particular of the President of Ukraine, of the first deputy of the Speaker, of the head of Presidential administration, which became the official reaction of the power to the anxiety of Europe about the lot of democracy in Ukraine after the referendum troubles the national supporters of democracy. The current referendum will be carried in Ukraine, the last state in the CIS which has not built yet the power according to the Russian pattern and the Russian script embodied through the debacle of the Parliament. Ukraine has to shape now an oligarchic regime, thus making uniform the political structure of the CIS and preparing the latter to blend into a state structure of a totalitarian type.

Dear compatriots! The authorities want to con us for the umpteenth time. Speaking about the referendum as about a tool of democracy, the authorities are cunning, since a referendum is an instrument of democracy only under the conditions of the freedom of speech, thought, free agitation and honest voting. If there are no such conditions (and they are certainly absent in Ukraine), the referendum becomes the tool of building dictatorship and authoritarianism. There are many examples of such use: from Germany in the 30s to Lukashenko’s Belarus in the 90s. Most authoritarian regimes were shaped and are shaped under the cover of the ‘people’s will’, from which the people suffers.

We are convinced that the referendum to be held is a shame of the power, is the shame of Ukraine. We will not take part in this shameful act.

We turn to people’s deputies of Ukraine, to the Government and to the President to stop this anti-people farce. Pass the money planned for holding the referendum to the families of perished miners and to mines, which endanger new deaths.

Citizens of Ukraine! We are being pulled into a filthy game. There are two ways out: either canceling the referendum by the authorities or its disregard by the people.

Do not take part in this game! Do not answer YES to the questions of the referendum. Take this bulletin home as a recollection about the ‘referendum held by people’s initiative’.

Let us show our citizens’ position to the President, let us prove that we are a people which is impossible to fool.

Kyiv, 18 March 2000

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