Updated at 11:56,07-12-2016

Public Advisory Council may resume activities in May

The Public Advisory Council under the aegis of the Presidential Administration may resume its activities in May, Aleh Hulak, chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, told BelaPAN.

Mr. Hulak was among the 10 members of the Council who gathered at Hotel Minsk on Friday at the invitation of the Council's secretary, Uladzimir Shpakowski, to discuss the possibility of reviving the body.

"Everyone agreed that the Council is necessary," Mr. Hulak said. "In addition, in order that no one may think that the Council’s activities are misreported in the media, we suggested that reporters should be allowed to attend its meetings."

Uladzimir Makey, head of the Presidential Administration, listened to those present and suggested resuming "systemic work" in May, following local elections, Mr. Hulak said. "He noted that round-table discussions with members of the Council in attendance could be organized in the meantime," Mr. Hulak said. "For example, we could hold such a discussion with a delegation of the Council of Europe that will soon visit Belarus."

Established on January 27, 2009, by consent of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Public Advisory Council consisted of 30 members, including prominent critics of the government. The first meeting of the Council, which focused on the rules of procedure, was held on February 6. At a meeting on April 31, the Council discussed the development of the Belarusian economy amid the current crisis. At its third meeting, which was held on June 17 at a correctional institution in Zhodzina, Minsk region, the Council discussed the issue of the death penalty.

Mr. Makey suspended the Council on November 12, linking his decision to media reports in which "certain opposition figures," including members of the Council, dismissed it as a sham and decorative body.

Although the government established the Council for real work and not for political dividends, calm and constructive work was not to the taste of some opposition figures, Mr. Makey claimed in a statement.
For many years, opposition leaders had pressed for a dialogue with the government, making their demands especially well known in the European Union and using every opportunity to complain that the government did not even listen to them, the statement said. However, as soon as an efficient forum for a direct dialogue was established on the initiative of the government, unscrupulous politicians and journalists at their service viciously attacked the very idea of having the Public Advisory Council, Mr. Makey noted.

"And if someone has the irresponsible intention to consciously and brazenly ruin this undertaking, they should bear in mind that they will be responsible for the disruption of the public dialogue that has begun," Mr. Makey said. "In connection with the above, I have made a decision that the Public Advisory Council should take a time-out and that personal consultations should be held with its members on the possibility and procedure of its future work."