SYDNEY: The largest legislative chamber in the largest state of Australia, the New South Wales Legislative Assembly has adopted a motion recognising the rights to self-determination of the indigenous Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh, accepting its status as an independent state while condemning the current attacks against Stepanakert by Azerbaijan and Turkey, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia.
The motion, which was introduced by Member for Prospect Dr. Hugh McDermott MP and seconded on behalf of the Government by Member for Ryde the Hon. Victor Dominello MP, also featured a speech in favour of the motion by Member for Mulgoa Ms. Tanya Davies MP and a speech against the motion by Member for Auburn, Ms. Linda Voltz MP.
It was carried in the affirmative with 61 votes in favour and only 2 against.
The adoption of this motion means the both Houses of the New South Wales State Parliament have recognised the Republic of Artsakh, after the Legislative Council had recognised the Armenian republic’s rights to self-determination in 2012. The Premier of New South Wales is the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, who is a grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors and has visited Artsakh on two separate occasions, earning her a place on dictator Ilham Aliyev’s persona-non-grata blacklist.
Another past visitor to Artsakh on the same blacklist, Hugh McDermott championed this motion, and in his speech, he strongly condemned Azerbaijan’s current aggression.
“Azerbaijan continues deliberate non-stop shelling of civilian towns, despite the recent humanitarian ceasefire,” he said.
“Australia has shown extraordinary compassion to the Armenian people [and] compassion must be shown to the people of Armenia and Artsakh today to ensure that they do not face persecution from their indigenous homeland 105 years on [from the Armenian Genocide]. We must continue the legacy of our ANZACs and protect Armenians from … the genocidal ideology which aims to eradicate them once and for all.”
McDermott added: “Unfortunately this Pan-Turkish ideology that motivated the ethnic cleansing of 1.5 million Armenians and that our ANZACs fought and thought was defeated forever has now arisen and is alive and well. However, Australia’s resolve is not defeated. The modern Ottomans, or neo-Ottomans, motivated by the twisted expansionist dreams of their forebears are Azerbaijan’s Aliyev and Turkey’s Erdogan. They are today terrorising the indigenous Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh.”
In 1997 and 2013, this same Legislative Assembly of New South Wales recognised the Armenian Genocide. This motion, like those that have come before it, called on the Australian “Federal Government to also recognise the Republic of Artsakh as the only permanent solution to the conflict, to avoid further attempts of such military aggression”.
The motion’s significance centralises critical attention to Azerbaijani and Turkish Government’s systematic orchestration of yet another attempt to ethnically cleanse indigenous Armenians from their homeland.
Victor Dominello, who seconded the motion, said: “Amnesty International has already called out Azerbaijan’s use of banned cluster bombs on civilians in Stepanakert. To date, dozens of civilians have been murdered and hundreds have been wounded by the attacks. Civilian infrastructure, public and industrial objects have been destroyed by this aggression. There have been 24,000 schoolchildren deprived of the right to education due to the indiscriminate nature of these attacks.”
“To stop this the world must support the people of the Republic of Artsakh and recognise their right to self-determination. Staying silent at this time is an act of dishonour against justice, truth and integrity. This motion sends a strong message to Baku and Ankara that terror will not be tolerated, disrespect of international democratic norms will be rejected, and human rights violations will receive rightful condemnation. We stand with the people of Artsakh,” Dominello added.
Member for Mulgoa, Tanya Davies MP passionately advocated the motion in her speech.
“Over a century ago, the Armenian people did not seek nor did they provoke an assault on their freedom or way of life,” she said. “They did not expect nor did they invite a confrontation with Genocide yet today they are potentially facing the same threats that their forefathers faced. The same horrors and senseless death that today is not yet recognised by our great nation.”
Turkey is still deploying Islamist Jihadist mercenaries from the Syrian conflict to fight in this military onslaught for Azerbaijan and to expand their activities in the Caucasus. Turkey has also financed special forces, armed drones, F-16 fighters.
Yet, Linda Voltz spoke against the motion, stating: “The contents of this motion should not come before the New South Wales Parliament. It is solely a matter for the Federal Parliament, and this Parliament can have no influence in the matter other than to stoke division. Members may wish to reflect on why this matter is not on for debate in the Federal Parliament.”
Davies rebutted Voltz’s statement, saying: “The fact that a different level of government has the responsibility to negotiate, discuss and address these matters in international forums and speak on behalf of our nation should not in any way mean that any other person in this country should remain silent. I am heartily distressed and distraught that the member for Auburn would seek to stifle a discussion in this place about a gross violation of human rights. This matter concerns a violation of human rights and this is an opportunity for every person, regardless of the political badge they wear, to speak against it.”
In his final remarks, McDermott also offered a rebuttal before concluding by saying: “The world must not fall silent. It must hear the cries of such people who desire to live free of threat amongst the mountains where their Armenian identity was crafted. Australia and the state of New South Wales must stand on the right side of history, as we did 105 years ago, and ensure that an ethnic Armenian minority are not persecuted and ethnically cleansed from the lands where their identity was borne.”
“Today I am pleased that today we recognise the Republic of Artsakh. To do otherwise, would be to betray our democratic values and the sacrifice of our Anzac heritage. I thank the House,” he said.
ANC-AU Executive Director, Haig Kayserian applauded this historic motion and thanked the champions of the motion, all those who worked behind the scenes and the 61 legislators who “ensured both Houses of Australia’s largest state’s parliament recognised the independence of the Republic of Artsakh.
“It is fitting that a state with a population of 8 million, home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, is not only recognising the Republic of Artsakh and condemning the aggressive expansionist policies of Neo-Ottoman dictators Aliyev and Erdogan, it is also calling on the Australian Federal Government to follow its lead,” he said.
“We thank Dr. Hugh McDermott, Mr. Victor Dominello, Ms Tanya Davies and the New South Wales Parliament’s most representative chamber for ensuring Artsakh has a voice, and that voice is being heard in one of the greatest states in the world,” Kayserian added.
The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh in Australia, Mr. Kaylar Michaelian echoed these sentiments.
“The heroic indigenous people of the Republic of Artsakh thanks New South Wales,” he said. “It is not unnoticed from Stepanakert to Shushi and beyond that the largest legislative chamber in Australia’s largest state stands shoulder to shoulder with our young Republic and our rights to self-determination.”
The full motion reads as follows:
Notes the actions of Azerbaijan towards the Republic of Armenia as well as the Republic of Artsakh and their blatant disregard of international law by recently breaking their ceasefire agreement.
Notes the serious concerns that have been raised from Armenian-Australians regarding the existential threat to the indigenous Armenian population of the Republic of Artsakh by this military action.
Condemns the actions of President Erdogan of Turkey and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan in their pursuit of a policy of Pan-Turkish nationalism which has previously led to genocide and which now threatens the Armenian population of Artsakh with ethnic cleansing.
Calls on the Federal Government to condemn these attacks and advocate their support for the safety and security of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh.
Recognise the right to self-determination of all peoples including those of the Republic of Artsakh and calls on the Federal Government to also recognise the Republic of Artsakh as the only permanent solution to the conflict, to avoid further attempts of such military aggression.
Armenian National Committee of Australia.