09ASTANA306, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, FEBRUARY 14 – 20

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA306 2009-02-20 08:04 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

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DE RUEHTA #0306/01 0510804
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INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1224
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0607
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1313
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0310
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0786
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0702
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1240

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000306 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, FEBRUARY 14 - 20 
 
ASTANA 00000306  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  NOTE:  This is another in a series of weekly cables drawn mostly 
from public media, as well as think-tank, NGO, and opposition 
web-sites, selected to show the diversity of life in Kazakhstan, and 
information about it available to citizens of Kazakhstan.  Our goal 
is to choose what might interest and be of use to various end-users 
in Washington and -- especially -- to provide a more complex view 
from the other side of the world, illustrating the vitality (and 
sometimes the quirkiness) of discourse available to citizens of 
Kazakhstan.  END NOTE. 
 
LOCAL ASSEMBLY REFUSES RUBBER-STAMP SECRETARY 
 
2.  In an unprecedented move, in January, a local government 
assembly ("maslikhat") in the district of Kaztalovka, Western 
Kazakhstan oblast, dismissed the assembly secretary appointed by the 
district governor and elected a new one.  The assembly explained 
that they no longer want to be ruled by the district government 
("akimat").  A spokesman for the assembly said, "We are allowed to 
play only one role, to vote quietly and obediently for decisions 
already made by the akimat.  We are not free to make independent 
decisions even on the budget.  But we feel a strong sense of 
responsibility toward our people, stronger than our fear of the 
akimat.  We want to serve the interests of the people, not the 
interests of the government.  We need a change!" 
 
3.  According to press reports, the governor was shocked by the 
assembly's decision.  He invited all 12 members of the maslikhat to 
his office the next morning and announced that their decision was 
illegal.  The assembly members immediately filed a complaint with 
local prosecutors against the governor for interfering with the 
affairs of the assembly.  Prosecutors warned the governor that his 
interference was illegal, but they also filed a formal protest of 
the assembly's decision to remove the appointed secretary.  The 
rebellious assembly members say that they have the full support of 
the people and will continue to press their case, despite strong 
pressure from the district governor on them, their relatives, and 
their employers.  The deputy chairman of the regional office of the 
ruling party, Nur Otan, told journalists that he opposes the 
election of a new secretary and promised that the party would soon 
look into the issue. 
 
VALENTINE'S DAY FRIVOLITY 
 
4.  A local assembly member in the eastern Kazakhstan city of 
Pavlodar said he is concerned about "frivolous and erotic" 
Valentine's Day cards sold to schoolchildren.  Askar Bahralinov said 
the Valentine's Day holiday in Kazakhstan has "gotten out of hand" 
and has no place in Kazakhstan's primary schools.  He complained 
that many who celebrate it are completely unaware of other, more 
important holidays, such as the Day of the Armed Forces.  Several 
members of the maslikhat spoke out in support of Bahralinov and 
suggested that Valentine's Day cards be analyzed by experts to 
decide whether or not they should be banned.  Alas, the maslikhat 
ultimately realized that it had no funds to support such an 
analysis. 
 
LOCAL DEPUTY DEMANDS THE FLOOR 
 
5.  During a public hearing in Zhambul oblast, assembly member 
Asaubai Mailybayev demanded a formal apology from chairman Yerkinbek 
Soltibayev, who promised to give him the floor during the session, 
then refused to do so.  If Soltibayev will not apologize, Mailybayev 
said he will sue him for violating his right to free speech. 
Mailybayev said he let the chairman know well in advance of his 
desire to take the floor, but at the last minute, the agenda was 
altered and he was denied a chance to speak.  "I simply wanted to 
speak about what is worrying me and my constituents," he told the 
press.  "During these meetings, we always pat ourselves on the back 
and say what a great job we're doing, but the reality is, we're 
facing a budget deficit and we're wasting the resources we receive 
from the federal budget."  Mailybayev said, for example, that local 
farmers planted 4,800 hectares of sugar beets last year, but 75 
percent of the crop failed due to a lack of water.  "We import 
potatoes from Kyrgyzstan, fruit from China, and sugar cane from 
Cuba," he said.  "And yet, our oblast leaders say that local farmers 
won't be affected by the crisis and people will not have to pay 
higher prices.  How can they tell people such outrageous lies?" 
Mailybayev told journalists that his speech would have sounded "off 
 
ASTANA 00000306  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
ke
y from the chorus, which is why I'm sure they didn't give me the 
floor."  When he was first denied a chance to speak, he left the 
podium, walked to an open microphone, and began to speak -- at which 
point, he said, they simply switched off the mikes and adjourned the 
hearing. 
 
SUNFLOWER OIL A HOT COMMODITY 
 
6.  Not so long ago, thieves targeted electronics stores to steal 
cell phones, music players, and televisions.  But in Karaganda 
oblast, there has been a noticeable increase in break-ins at grocery 
stores.  This week, for example, police arrested two unemployed men 
for attempting to steal approximately $1500 worth of food and $1000 
worth of sunflower oil.  "We've doubled our guards at the big 
markets," said Maxim Novikov, deputy manager of a private security 
firm in Karaganda.  "As soon as they devalued the tenge, prices for 
food products started to rise -- and so did the number of 
break-ins," he said. 
 
E-GOVERNMENT IN ACTION 
 
7.  Local residents in the city of Stepnogorsk, located 
approximately 100 kilometers north of the capital Astana, have been 
complaining to Albert Rau, the governor of Akmolinsk oblast, about a 
lack of essential social services -- via the governor's web log. 
"Dear Governor," began one posting, "This is Stepnogorsk calling. 
The temperature outside is 30 degrees below zero and there is no 
heat in our apartments.  Since 11:00 this morning, we haven't had 
hot water and since 1:00, we've had no water at all.  We can't cook, 
wash our kids, or drink water!  You promised to fix the problem with 
our electric power station.  Isn't there something you can do?"  The 
governor replied the same day on the site, "If the shareholders of 
the power station do not take urgent measures to address this 
situation, then it raises the question of whether to return the 
company to state ownership.  Now, about your water.  There was in 
fact a serious accident in your area due to a burst water main. 
Emergency crews are now on the scene.  Please, we ask for your 
patience and understanding."  Two days later, there appeared another 
posting:  "Stepnogorsk here again.  Still no water, hot or cold. 
Why are my neighbors and myself denied a chance to live a normal 
life, to take a shower, drink clean water, and not live in fear of 
what tomorrow will bring?" 
 
HOAGLAND

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