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    Ertugrul Ozkok: The financial standings of columnists

    Hürriyet Haber
    01.02.2006 - 13:25 | Son Güncelleme:

    During the 1990's, I made a decision to buy a house. And so I began the process. In those days, the Refahyol government was in power, and relations weren't too good between us. Before I had even obtained the deed to the house, a news headline ran along the bottom of the screen on a television station that had been formed by Ciller. The headline read "Ertugrul Ozkok has not made a declaration of property for his luxury villa."

    This is just the sort of thing I am afraid of normally. So, at that time, I called our legal bureau in a panic. "You don't have to make a declaration of property prior to receiving your deed," they assured me.

    In addition, as it turns out, declarations of property take place every 5 years.

    And if there is a significant change in your property standings, you have to make a declaration within one month. But, why am I writing this?

    Well, yesterday the Prime Minister said "I wonder why the columnists in newspapers don't declare their financial standings?"

    And so yesterday I once again called our legal bureau.

    "How do you handle declarations of wealth? Are they opened, or in sealed envelopes?"
    Apparently, they hand them over to the governorship in sealed, signed envelopes. And so I was curious. How, if these were sealed envelopes, had Ciller known about my personal wealth? I know this is a very naive question. I'm asking in all naivete so that I can answer the Prime Minister's question.

    ******
    There is a lot of power in the hands of ruling political parties. They can carry out all sorts of detailed investigations into our financial status, our personal wealth, at any moment they like. And what's more, if there is any illegal addition to our personal financial standings, they are required by law to bring this out into the open.

    The same goes for if we have unpaid taxes: they have the authority and in fact the duty to see that we pay up. During the time of the Refahyol administration, we passed through the financial review of three separate government branches. They found nothing. Of course, we have neither this power nor this authority to do the same to them. The law keeps the financial status of politicians under a definite shroud. What's more, there is also immunity.
    Until or unless a politician lifts the shroud over his or her finances, we have no authority to look into it.
    Which is why I want to protest the angry speech given by the Prime Minister yesterday.
    *****

    Let's take a quick look at a brief chronology of the events here. The Prime Minister says that we, the media, began this polemic. Well, take a look at the newspapers yourselves. The paper which actually started the polemic was not the Hurriyet, but the Yeni Safak newspaper. And actually, it wasn't really the newspaper who started it, but in fact the person who is required to act the most sensibly on matters of this type, Treasury Minister Kemal Unakitan. If a minister makes a clear and open speech accusing the leader of an opposition party of having enormous wealth in his bank accounts, doesn’t this naturally open the path to discussion?

    What the media and the opposition parties have done and said has been in reaction to and reflection of these words from Unakitan.

    *****
    And with the whole business coming to this point, what should the Prime Minister have done? Rather than turning his reaction into an angry speech, the Prime Minister at the very least should have tried to look at what is happening in the political systems of other countries. Yesterday, I called up Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Bulent Arinc, to ask him whether or not there were any efforts afoot to see what the standard was for this type of matter in other countries. “No, but I will have this looked into,” he said.

    I think this is the way we can best deal with the problem. By entering onto a road used by other democratic countries. Otherwise, this anger will hurt not only the Prime Minister, but the country as a whole.

     

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