The “Dialogue with the People” project of the “Honest People”, launched on 22 October, has gathered more than 3,000 people to receive up-to-date information on the situation in government bodies from the employees themselves. This February government officials together with specialists from the People’s Anti-Crisis Administration launched the Open Letter. It was made public by former Ambassador of Belarus to Argentina Vladimir Astapenko.
The project has encouraged government and federal employees to safely and anonymously express support to The People of Belarus. Key requirements of the document are as follows:
- to stop the violence;
- to release political prisoners;
- to bring to account the leadership of the security forces and the Central Election Committee (CEC);
- to hold new presidential elections.
As of 25 March, 1,674 employees of state administration bodies signed up to these demands. Since, according to the terms of collecting signatures, the names were ready to be published in the event that more than 5,000 signatures were collected, the following data don’t indicate specific individuals.
1,674 officials signed the letter in total. 1,273 people indicated that they are current employees (76%), and 401 – former (24%). Most of them were separated after August 2020.
Most of the signers come from: the Executive Committee (city, district, regional), the Ministry of Taxes and Duties, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the State Customs Committee, the National Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the State Forensic Expertise Committee, the Ministry of the Interior, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Occupational level of the signers in percentage terms: a specialist, a chief specialist, a chief/chairman/supervisor; deputy chief/deputy chairman/deputy supervisor, a senior specialist, a leading specialist.
Why did the project fail to collect 5,000 signatures?
Svetlana, the project manager, says that after hundreds of discussions with government officials, many of their colleagues support the Open Letter requirements.
“However, direct pressure from the leadership, participation in the repressions of the security forces, as well as state propaganda create conditions in which it is practically impossible to openly state one’s position. Many participants were afraid to verify their identity (we asked for photo IDs) and to indicate their names for public indication when collecting 5,000 signatures. Obviously, even more people were afraid to interact in any way,” she notes.
The “Honest People” community invited government officials to log in through the “Dialogue with the People” chatbot and communicate in anonymous chats. “We are convinced that building horizontal ties among government employees is an important step for protecting both the interests of citizens and for our own protection from misconduct by the leadership,” the community noted.