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Mehmet Ali Birand - English

Now we’ll be even more confused

26 Haziran 2009
- Since this document is a photocopied version, it is not clear whether the signature is real or fake, or added later. (It would have been easy to copy the colonel’s signature and put it on this document, so to determine whether or not the document is a fake, the original needs to be examined.)

- The General Staff has not released an order pertaining to this document and there has been no document printed on the computers of the General Staff. For this reason, the colonel will not be prosecuted.

This statement will not be accepted by one part of this country, which will say that the General Staff is hiding something.

And the other part will characterize this event as a great conspiracy and produce new scenarios. Right now, minds are very confused. Suspicion grows. Nobody believes anybody anymore.

If a group outside the military prepared this document, then it has achieved one of its goals, namely the ill treatment of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK.

But it has not caused the military to fight with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

I do agree with retired Vice Gen. Atilla Kıyat, whom I hosted on 32.Gün last week and who said if those who prepared the document are preparing for a coup, then they are fools. Until the opposite is proven, I feel obligated to believe what the General Staff has said. I don’t want to think of anything else. Under these circumstances, there are only conspiracy scenarios left.

So what might these people have intended to do?

1. Probably their most basic aim was to wear down the Turkish Armed Forces or impose a blow to the military’s image. Wasn’t it to further strengthen the progressively increasing impression in public since the Ergenekon case that the TSK is after a conspiracy to remove the AKP from power?

2. They might also have been trying to drive a wedge between the TSK and the AKP by creating tension or even a fight between the two institutions.

To tell the truth, if those scriptwriters really exist and these are their aims, then they have reached one of their goals, but not both. They have succeeded in harming the TSK’s prestige.

But they have not succeeded in causing a fight between the TSK and the AKP.

It’s not over yet. We’ll encounter more of these events. Let’s be prepared.



DTP did the right thing

Many of us will now get angry with the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, for recalling its appointment request with the prime minister.

We’ll call the party ungrateful and blame its members for not chasing a solution. We’ll drag them through the mud. I think differently. People get tired of chasing. The prime minister was supposed to give an appointment for weeks now, but has made life miserable for the DTP. He surely has a valid reason for this, but there is a limit to all patience. We too, just like the DTP, want a peace process to start.

The DTP is very right in recalling its request for an appointment. So much chasing made the party tired. And besides, this dialogue was supposed to benefit the whole country, not just the DTP.

If there will be an effort, if there is really an "historic opportunity" present and if we need to make use of it, then the prime minister should not have made the DTP wait like a principal makes his students wait in front of his door.

This is not how peace is made. While we thought everything was back on track, this negative development has been a great misfortune.

What needs to be done now is to give up this appointment game.

The prime minister needs to create a different environment and open a door for dialogue with the DTP.

The important thing is to ensure that not a single human being is killed anymore. Who will account for the loss of even a single child with each passing day? Is it worth losing people due to these types of games?
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Don’t wait for the PKK before taking a step...

25 Haziran 2009
With extreme difficulty and military methods, we are trying to oppress the PKK. We pressure the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, in order to isolate the PKK. We want the PKK to submit and accept our conditions. And they blackmail Turkey with terror weapons and imply, "Either you accept our wishes or we spill more blood."

As you see, an extremely long and complex process is ongoing. So then, why don’t we try to take into service our Kurdish origin citizens while leaving aside the PKK process or continuing alongside it?

To convince the PKK or force them into a solution is very difficult. But is it so difficult to draw those onto our side who are said to help the PKK but do not think like them, or even those Kurds who watch the PKK from a distance? No.

Why doesn’t Turkey try the easy way instead of the difficult one?

And what comes first in this regard is the mother tongue. Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal repeated this on his recent visit in the Southeast. He underlined that the Kurdish language needs to be legitimate, all limitations need to be lifted. What bothers our Kurdish citizens the most is that we do not allow them to use their mother tongue in education and communication. And this is what factionalizes them. I’m not sure if you are aware? A short while ago it was forbidden to speak Kurdish, to sing or listen to Kurdish music and name newborn children in Kurdish. Even Kurdish named villages were renamed.

Turkey thought that it would protect its integrity this way. Each Kurd was viewed as a member of the PKK, and Kurdish was viewed as a means of separatism. But times have changed.

Just as society views events differently now, it has a different opinion of the government. The military understood that it won’t get anywhere with weapons, that they have done the best they could and that it is now up to politicians.

No matter from which angle we look at it today’s environment compared to the one of five to 10 years ago is more suitable.

So then, what are we waiting for?

The state-run TRT, Turkish Radio and Television, which allows for Kurdish to be aired, will win the hearts of Kurds, except those of members of the PKK, by lifting all limitations Turkey imposed on the Kurdish language.

Renaming villages in their Kurdish version will only make those happy living there. To leave those alone who want to name their children in the Kurdish language will lead to winning the hearts of millions.

To allow Kurdish radio and TV broadcasts and to even encourage them, on the condition to conform to law, and lift limitations on Kurdish education will send a message to Kurdish citizens saying Ankara is ready to embrace them.

Eliminating old attitudes in the law and preventing lawsuits from prosecutors based on simple views like "pertaining to being Kurdish or supporting the PKK" will pave the way for easing Kurdish politicians.

To take these steps does neither require consultation nor negotiation with the PKK nor coming to terms with the DTP. The government decides and passes the necessary laws. But first of all, courage is a must.

We need to decide whether or not we want to live at ease with our Kurdish citizens and win their hearts. When making this decision we need to face criticism in a brave way. The AKP can do this.

However it doesn’t go all the way. What will force the PKK into a corner is such a change in attitude.

If only there is desire...

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40 days have passed since the first ’opportunity,’ but...

24 Haziran 2009
Everybody, from the president to the prime minister, from the chief of General Staff to opposition leaders was talking about this opportunity. Even PKK leader Karayılan in Kandil took advantage of this opportunity.

But up to now there has not been a concrete step taken. Or a step was taken but we didn’t understand because it was hidden very well. But it is understood that everybody waits for each other. In the meantime, Abdullah Öcalan will outline the basics for his road map to be announced in August. Everything looks fine but this waiting period should not be too long. As time passes it takes away opportunities.

The second problem in this process is with whom and how will this interchange of opinion take place. Since Turkey cannot meet with the PKK. To be more precise it must talk to someone. At least part of our Kurdish origin citizens are represented by the DTP. But the government does not speak to the DTP.

The prime minister says that the DTP is obviously an extension of the PKK and as long as it does not decline the PKK he won’t accept it as an addressee. Ruşen Çakır recently correctly identified and wrote that there is no logic whatsoever in expecting the DTP to decline the organization and cutt off relations but it would cause a continuation of the insolvability of this issue. He drew attention to the necessity to accept the DTP as is and continue our dialogues with this awarness. This is the right approach. I agree with Ruşen and take a step further believing that the prime minister needs to meet with the DTP especially now. If he can prevent terror, prevent the death of one person, what objection might there be in meeting the DTP?

The prime minister says: "I was about to give the DTP an appointment when we encountered another murder attempt by the PKK." It is understood that he takes the public’s reaction. Whereas, wouldn’t it be better to crack down on the event?

If we wait for the PKK to stop laying land mines before we start this dialogue, we won’t get anywhere.

We need to behave realistically and include the DTP in this process. Only this way can we increase the effectiveness of the DTP. Or else the PKK will maintain its power and continue to view itself as the Kurdish representative.

In summary, the PKK won’t like it if the dialogue with the DTP starts but it will be more suitable for Turkey’s benefit in the long run.

Surely the bridge needs to be fixed but not like this

I’m one of those long-time sufferers because of the bridge. My house is on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and every morning and evening I use the second bridge. And now I try to calculate how I will make it through the 40 days ahead. Though I acknowledge those mending the bridge. Of course they are supposed to mend it. And we are aware of it when passing the bridge. If they did not fix it this year we wouldn’t be able to cross it anymore.

I am just curious about whether it should have been done this way. I don’t know the techniques of this job. But there are bridges all over the world in other countries and they are being mended as well and there is not as bad as a congestion as in our country. Why? I was curious and did some research.

In the United States for example, all mending is almost always done after midnight and in the morning open for traffic. In order not to prolong this type of mending there is a team of 4-5 working. And in general one lane is closed during the mending, all other lanes are open.

We like living a relaxed life. When trapped in traffic we start complaining. But this time tops them all. We never before faced such scenes. I did not understand why we experienced such a disaster this time. It must be because of congestion during the first few days that yesterday the situation was not as bad. Probably people were afraid to take their cars and passed the bridge by other means. I noticed that all of a sudden ferry boats on the Bosporus were discovered and interest in public transportation grew.

Nobody knows what the situation will be like tomorrow. But obviously this repair job will influence our lives until the end of July, which is how long it is supposed to last.

I wonder whether or not the highway authority could increase the size of the repair team and shorten this torture process a little.
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Öcalan prepares for August statement

23 Haziran 2009
International conditions have never been this stable for condemning terror and solving the Kurdish issue with political means. The United States and Europe say "enough now" and the northern Iraq and the Kurdish government want the PKK issue to stop being an obstacle to relations with Turkey.

And the PKK administration says that this issue cannot be solved with weapons but they don’t negotiate seriously. It tries to save the organization’s upper level management and those in prison.

Öcalan’s statement is expected in such an environment. According to PKK sources, Öcalan will print a "road map" for the future. He will state his expectations of Ankara and advice to the PKK.

Öcalan gives importance to this statement and it is thought that developments will accelerate afterward. This "road map" from İmralı might accelerate this process or on the contrary confuse everything. Öcalan’s suggestions will be adopted like a constitution regarding the PKK and nobody will dare to change anything no matter how much difference in opinion there is within the organization. Öcalan’s own balance is extremely complex. On one side there are some facts.

The PKK needs to decide whether to carry this out with or without weapons. But when making this decision they know that such a terror organization will not be eliminated without obtaining something in return.

On the other side there is Turkey’s changing attitude. Ankara is taking brave steps for the first time not taken in a long time and is also signaling a continuation of this path.

This has come to such a point where each act with a weapon, each drop of blood shed, each conspiracy or assassination attempt only slows down this process.

Allergies or reactions to the PKK by democratic forces in this country prevent expected steps to be taken in the Kurdish issue.

Öcalan is facing an extremely difficult and complex equation.

If he comes forward with exaggerated and unacceptable demands this will stop the process before it even starts. Blood will be shed in vain. The "insolvability" of this situation will be of benefit to those in favor of the terror.

And if he does not request anything satisfactory to his own public then he will lose the Kurdish front.

Opportunity for peace?

Because we have arrived at such a critical point, Öcalan with the help of his lawyers is taking the pulse of the public before his August statement.

He indirectly asks those who deal with this issue, even if they are of a different opinion, "What do you say? What do you recommend?"

The lawyers only listen, gather mutual points from who they asked and will probably communicate it to İmralı. They also came to me. I repeated what I wrote in my articles:

"ÉWeapons won’t lead anywhere. On the contrary, even those who want to eliminate deficiencies in the Kurdish issue keep quiet because they show reaction to the PKK terror.

The PKK has come to a point of hindering the solution of the Kurdish issueÉthe PKK needs to take its finger off the trigger and not get in the way of security forces. Blood-shedding should be stopped.

If Kurdish origin citizens have a request they need to come forward in Parliament and on a political platform.

Only democratic forces can solve the Kurdish issue, not the PKK..."

The liberal-democratic wing in this country is really fed up with PKK terror. It put the Kurdish issue in an even more difficult position. Now there is a need for a new start.

Let’s see how Öcalan will make use of this opportunity.
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We get angry at Sarkozy and punish ourselves

20 Haziran 2009
Prime Minister Erdoğan became very angry over this.

And he is right in showing this reaction.

But this time he sent the message to the wrong audience.

He reacted to the "Turkey Season" that will start on July 1 in Marseille and continue until 2010.

President Gül supported the prime minister and cancelled a dinner that was planned to collect lots of money from companies and organizations.

This program that will cost millions of euros and includes 352 different shows ranging from concerts by Dede, to sultan’s robes at the Louvre museum, to Ramadan nights full of entertainment.

The majority of the expenses were to be covered by the French government and the private sector.

There was no important contribution by Turkey. In summary, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I can neither accept the prime minister’s nor the president’s method of punishment.

I agree with Erdal Şafak at the daily Sabah and İsmet Berkan at the daily Radikal.

The initiator of this project, aiming only to promote Turkey, is former President Chirac. The purpose of this project is to change Turkey’s former image and to popularize it in the eyes of the French.

Sarkozy first opposed the "Turkey Season." He planned to cancel it but with the interference of influential people like Pierre Lellouch he backed off.

Now if the prime minister retreats from this project, who will win and who will lose?

The French probably won’t feel sorrow for not having the chance to get to better know Turkey.

The prime minister complains that France is acting like "they are being so kind."

A very wrong attitude.

Let Sarkozy work against Turkey for his domestic politics or his country’s long-term benefits in Germany.

And Turkey will in exchange do its own math. But it is extremely wrong to punish Sarkozy in a different area, knowing this will turn against Turkey.

This means to "punish oneself and cut the branch you sit on."

I hope our dear prime minister changes this attitude.

Note: when this article was about to be produced I saw an announcement in the daily Radikal that read, "Head Negotiator Egemen Bağış convinced Prime Minister Erdoğan in this matter and the ’Turkey Season’ project in France will proceed."

This announcement signed by Hilal Köylü is definitely correct. And for this I congratulate Egemen Bağış as well.

Smoking ban

Starting July 19 the smoking ban finally becomes widespread.

From then on smoking will not be allowed in coffee shops, patisseries, restaurants and other closed places.

My biggest fear is, as the ban date approaches, people with a vested interest will take action surrounding the state to convince political authorities to postpone this ban.

Minister of Health Akdağ says, "No way. The date July 19 will not be changed."

But I am still in fear.

But what a pity it is that our politicians cannot withstand pressure from craftsman. This time it seems there is a different attitude but still I am suspicious.

I’d like to warn managers of the places where the smoking ban will apply.

If I ever see someone smoking in a restaurant or coffee shop that I go to, and even it is my relative who smokes, I will complain.

The rest is up to the restaurant owner or person in charge.
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’This is not a coup preparation but stupidity..’

19 Haziran 2009
He is a well-known man but for those who don’t know him I’ll remind you briefly.

In August 1999 he retired as a result of a very dubious council.

Vice Adm. Kıyat represented Turkey in NATO (TMR) and was a very competent and well-respected commander.

He was the Northern Sea Area Commander with prospects. He was an officer expected to ascend to the title of admiral, fleet commander and finally to commander of naval operations. But he also possessed some qualities not liked by the TSK. He had a liberal view.

He became famous for expressing his views openly and having a sharp-tongue. He was at odds with some unspoken rules of the TSK.

Quite frankly, Kıyat was wasted because of these qualities. He was dispatched for retirement. The commander was very offended by this but did not say a word. He did not complain about anybody. But he never gave up what he believed in.

Together with Rıdvan, we invited him to discuss the subject that has bothered our heads for months now.

Where is the relationship between the military and civilians going?

He made such interesting evaluations that I changed my article.

What struck me the most were his answers to questions regarding the TSK’s general attitude. Why does the TSK behave as if it does not quite assimilate democracy? Why does it conduct coups, constantly interfere in the government’s work and make up the political agenda?

According to Kıyat, the civilians have no right whatsoever to complain about TSK’s attitude. If I were to summarize, he made the following evaluation:

"ÉYou accepted whatever the military said. You did not attempt to control its budget or steps that it took.

You accepted whatever the military wanted. You never questioned anything. The military identified the danger, determined a strategy and weapons against this danger.

And you watched and paid the invoice. You did not oppose. You did not want to lose your comfort.

We made coups, justified or not, and you applauded us. Part of you applauded. You carried us on your shoulders.

When you didn’t like it you pressured us to leave the governmentÉor delegated dirty and difficult jobs to usÉ now you are complaining."

These were correct identifications. I’d recommend them to those who don’t think of it this way.

"AKP caused confusion and resistance in the military"
According to Kıyat, the AKP coming to power caused confusion and resistance in the military. Kıyat saw coup preparations since 2003 and actions subject to Ergenekon as a reflex to resistance and said, "But none of these ventures became concrete.

None were carried into action. And does this reflect the TSK’s common sense? You just complain, but don’t you in fact reward the TSK for developments that never went anywhere?"

Within this framework, he thinks the latest plan to "dismantle AKP and Gülen" is funny. He said that if there were people trying to prepare such a coup they could only be called "fools."

He underlined that this document carrying the signature of a colonel should not be misunderstood.

He said another subject nobody touched on until now was that Büyükanıt should have resigned when he saw what happened after his memorandum came out on April 27.

"The memorandum said that Gül must not move into Çankaya and drew attention to the dangers of voting for the AKP. Gül became president, meaning commander-in-chief of the military, increased his vote in the AKP and received 47 percent. In this case did our Chief of General Staff not need to resign?"

There were many more interesting points in this chat. For those who like to take a different look at the TSK, I recommend to go onto the Web site of 32.GÜN (www.32gunhaber.com) and follow the complete chat.
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Forget about Sarkozy or Merkel, mind your own business

18 Haziran 2009
I’m sure you noticed that the most dangerous alternative for Turkey’s full membership in the EU is the privileged partnership formula.

According to it, it is suggested Turkey receives a privileged partnership status by adding some more to the present situation, instead of a full membership (i.e. participation in all decisions to be taken, representation in parliament, council and commission).

There are two supporters of this formula.

Foremost France, and even if it stays a little distanced, then Germany.

During our tour of European capitals we did not come across a serious debate regarding the privileged partnership, except in those two countries. Such tendency persists neither in the commission nor in the council. Nobody knows in detail what this attitude repeated by Sarkozy and Merkel really means. It is hollow.

In Berlin I discussed the same subject with the president of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Frank Spengler. He said, "Germany is not against Turkey’s full membership. But neither Europe nor Turkey are ready yet for a full membership. Negotiations will take some time. And to keep Turkey during this process we suggested a privileged partnership.

This is the name of the process. If by the end of negotiations a full membership will not be realized, then the privileged partnership will continue." But still I was not convinced about how the blanks in this subject would be filled.

France’s privileged partnership project is not even as full as that of Germany.

We probably did not reach any consensus with Spengler regarding the contents but our conversation signaled danger.

Turkey, instead of complaining about this privileged partnership, should roll up its sleeves and do what it is supposed to do.

Complaining and not fulfilling its obligation just does not work. If Turkey views the privileged partnership as a real danger, then it would make reforms without losing more time. Then you’ll see there won’t be any Sarkozy or Merkel objections left.

In summary, let’s stop complaining about Sarkozy and Merkel and do what we needs to be done. If we are unable to do so, then let’s sit down and negotiate with Merkel and Sarkozy.

Maybe we’ll be more beneficial.

Taraf does a different kind of journalism

The daily Taraf receives criticism from different circles for its publications and comments.

According to some their sole target is to wear down the Turkish Armed ForcesÉ According to some helping those who want to split the countryÉ According to some they are a pair of tongs used by the Gülen movementÉ

You may or may not agree with Taraf. Comments are personal evaluations of the writer and acceptable in every normal democracy. But papers live with news not with comments or commentators.

If we were to take a look at Taraf’s news, we’d notice that some false or exaggerated news have appeared. But the majority of the news made us drool and were news that required courage to publish.

Let’s not fool each other.

Taraf is the Turkish media’s courageous and different paper that provoked all of us to conduct different journalism.

Taraf is able to say openly what nobody else dares to even touch on because of habit based on accumulations and fears over the years. And since it first came out, it is a paper that needs to be read every day.

In other democratic countries there are many publications similar to Taraf but in our country we look for bad intention. Somehow we cannot accept that Taraf conducts a different type of journalism.

People, among them many democrats and even some known as liberals, question "How is this paper financed?" and wonder "Who does the paper serve?"

Isn’t it about time to view this paper as a color of the media, even if it from time to time criticizes the TSK or prime minister, and in general everybody (including me)?

It is easy to sue in court and make life miserable for Taraf or to shut it down by tiring of its employees. And this state knows that very well. But a media without Taraf, rest assured, will continue to remain without courage.

Never mind who gets upset but let Taraf continue with all it’s provocation. And let it continue with its contributions to our democracy, ideas and freedom of press.
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’I paid my debts and I’m a fool...’

17 Haziran 2009
I paid all of my accumulated debt to credit cards. When I had no money on hand I took a loan and paid off my credit card debt. Now I understand that I made a mistake and am furious. You see, the debt will be reduced for those who don’t pay or can’t pay their debt, and who are prosecuted for it or who received attachment of debt. Our government thinks it has to roll up its sleeves and save those who bilked.
 
Sometime ago the prime minister took an extremely clear attitude regarding the dismissal of credit card debt. He said saving those who spend money that does not exist would be an insult to those who pay their debt. And he was applauded for that. It seems that that was yesterday. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not after anybody’s money. And my congratulations go to those who will benefit from the government’s action. They spent much and now they will pay it back more easily and cheaper. I’m not jealous that aid is going out to citizens short on money. However a credit card debt is something else. It is nothing but a bunch of people spending much too much money by playing with credit cards.

It’s true; banks do cash an incredible interest rate for credit cards. The users should either chose the one with a low interest rate or not get him into debt. And it’s true; the government decreases interest rate with this venture. Congratulations. But why were we forced to pay unreasonable interest rates? What was our sin?

If the state is so warm-hearted for millions of people, then the state should forgive medium-sized or small-sized businesses that owe a lot of money to banks, as well and decrease their interest rates.

In summary, there is obvious injustice. And this injustice is formally done by the state. And it calls this operation "saving the people."

In this dear country everything is viewed in reverse order. Those who pay their taxes are fools. Out of their pocket they pay the state their dues. Those who don’t pay taxes are smart. They use the money in their pocket to earn more money and one day they are forgiven. Even if they are not forgiven, the state suggests such easy conditions that in the end they are beneficial.

How could you stick to this country’s rules and be a good citizen?

Then in the end you start thinking of yourself as a fool and there is only little time left till you regret it.

However listen to me. Pay your taxes and credit card debts. But don’t forget what I told you! It is not for sure whether these days there is tension between the military and civilians or it is much exaggerated. Someone is stirring something up but we don’t know who. TSK’s tension regarding the AKP is nothing new. Then there is a Dolmabahçe argument floating around. If the prime minister during a chat hadn’t said "it’s a turning point in the relations between the military and civilians" when he was talking about the famous meeting with former Chief of General Staff Büyükanıt in Dolmabahçe, and turned around and said "I’ll take these words to my grave" the subject would have been closed.

Büyükanıt in the chat in 32.GÜN said that "it has been argued about the contents of the announcement he prepared by himself on April 27." And this was a very plausible announcement. For example, the prime minister asked," Why did you write such a message?" and Büyükanıt answered, "Your party’s attitude attracted reaction from the TSK and I wanted to appease them." The prime minister complained about Büyükanıt acting in unison with the opposition during the endeavor of closing his party and during presidential elections, whereas Büyükanıt might have just reflected the views of the General Staff and the subordinates. And this would count as an acceptable "announcement."

I never deemed likely that the prime minister would come forward with files and say," If you don’t change your attitude I’ll reveal this or start an investigation," involving in such blackmail. Similarly, I did not believe that Büyükanıt would spend in excess. The chief of General Staff is too smart and serious to involve in such casualness. Just as the Dolmabahçe file was about to close the prime minister and Büyükanıt kept repeating "take it to the grave" and evoked our curiosity and appetite.

We started saying, "It means that such important subjects were discussed and terms were made that Büyükanıt felt he had to decrease the dose of criticism later on."

If you wrap this event in such a secrecy and say "I’ll take it to the grave" or "this is a turning point in relations between the military and civilians," then you evoke curiosity.

Now, the prime minister should not get offended, angry or worried because he himself brought the Dolmabahçe issue this far. It’s up to them to sort it out. As long as they don’t come forward and tell the truth about what they discussed, speculations in this society will increase and conspiracy theories will spread.

What’s left to say; you’ve brought it on yourself. Either they should have not talked about it and increased our appetite or now they should come forward and explain what’s what.
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