- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The comments by Sally Tucker (“Kazakhstan’s broken promise,” Letters, Thursday) in response to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Op-Ed column, “The promise of emerging democracies” (Opinion, Sept. 8), perpetuate uninformed misrepresentations about the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has taken the bold step of embracing democracy and charting its destiny. It continues its transition from Soviet domination to constitutional democracy. In a region marked by political instability and shifting alliances, Kazakhstan has proved to be a reliable ally and strategic partner of the United States. One of Kazakhstan’s first acts was to secure and dismantle the Soviet nuclear arsenal so those weapons would never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Nazarbayev and his government are committed to ensuring democracy, peace and prosperity. The nation continues to achieve progress on human rights, democratization and economic transformation. Our president and his administration have honored their pledge of positive change by implementing a series of sweeping reforms at an accelerated pace. Their commitment is demonstrated in real action and measured in concrete results that include religious freedom, proliferation and support of nongovernmental organizations, freedom of the press, improved elections, constitutional reforms and the rule of law.

Like the United States, we continue to move forward with our own democratic experiment. We have learned that democracy is not an endpoint on a political continuum. Rather, it is a progressive evolution toward universally true principles and noble ideals that make a better life possible.

Yet all this growth takes place under a 24/7 news cycle, with its sense of immediacy. At the same time, we must contend with critics whose own self-serving political agendas often overshadow the important work of democracy in which we are engaged. The recent case of Yevgeni Zhovtis, director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, underscores this point.

Mr. Zhovtis was sentenced to four years by the Balkhash District Court for reckless driving, which resulted in the death of a Kazakh citizen. Though the court followed the rule of law without government interference and treated this case as it would any other, critics insist that Mr. Zhovtis’ conviction was politically motivated. By doing so, those critics failed to hold him accountable for his actions under the law. In acknowledging Mr. Zhovtis’ good character and invaluable contributions to the nation, the court assigned him to a minimum-security facility.

Government critics have seized on this case as a means to further their own political agendas. Their cynical campaign of speculation and suspicion only serves to weaken citizens’ trust in the government and slow our progress on the path to democracy.

There will always be critics. We are heartened by President Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim, “It is not the critic who counts.” We are not deterred but determined to continue our commitment to democracy. And we do so in the knowledge that it is worthy of the effort and in the hope that one day we will achieve what the United States has so proudly and magnificently achieved in its brief history.

ERLAN A. IDRISSOV

Ambassador

The Republic of Kazakhstan

Washington

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