Belarusian businesspeople call for Lukashenkos resignation
A protest rally of business people in Minsk on Monday 21 January called for the dismissal of government officials responsible for the destruction of small business.
The number of those detained is still being determined. More than fifty people were imprisoned for periods of 15 to 20 days for their participation in a previous protest on 10 January. They included the head of the United Civic Front Anatoly Lebedko and the leader of the Union of Entrepreneurs “Perspektiva” Anatoly Shumchenko.
More than three thousand business people protested against the Presidents order which has resulted in them being deprived of the right since 1 January 2008 to employ any but close relatives. Political demands were heard during the rally, together with economic. The leaders of business associations called for the dismissal of the Deputy Ministry of the Economy Andrei Tur, in charge of private business, as well as the President who signed the Decree over the “destruction of free enterprise”
One of the participants, Alexander Tsetsura said that revoking Decree No. 760 and passing a law on small business took second place to the demand to stop the persecution of activists of the business movement and to free political prisoners.
After the rally on October Square, the protesters moved in the direction of Parliament where they expected a meeting with the Prime Minister. However special unit forces blocked the approaches to Parliament, with the units being personally controlled by the Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Naumov. Lukashenko had publicly warned General Naumov that he would be sent to be a market vendor if he allowed a repeat of the business peoples demonstrations a week earlier.
The police special unit banged rubber batons against their shields and were rough in pushing protesters from Independence Square. There are reports of arrests.
On 18 January there was a meeting in the Presidential Administration at which the business people called a transitional period until the end of 2008 to reform into unitary businesses. They stressed that during that period the legislative base needed to be developed and the item in the Decree prohibiting employment of workers revoked. They said that if there demands were not met, on 1 February they would declare a nationwide strike and stop paying taxes.