Michael A. Markham Returns from Belarus

January 1, 2011

image003Bermuda resident Michael A. Markham has returned from Minsk, Belarus, where he noted that he was an official Independent Election Observer of the 2010 Belarus Presidential elections held last week.

Mr. Markham said he was part of a 4 person delegation of the ‘World Council of Spiritual Diplomacy.’ Mr Markham recently authored a document ‘Spiritual Diplomacy and the New World Order.’

While he was in Minsk, after the actual vote, he says he spoke with Parliamentarians to explore ways to interact with organizations in Belarus. Mr. Markham disclosed that a “senior Belarus Parliamentary representative who was responsible for drafting laws for the transition to the new reforms to Belarus Democracy has expressed interest in exchanging information in respect to Constitutional reform and legislative process.” Mr Markham plans to present a report to a Bermuda think tank.

Mr. Markham is pictured to the left with L.M. Ermoshina, Chairperson of the Belarus Elections Commission.

Mr. Markham stated “President Lukashenko has verbalized a commitment by his government to find new ways of Democratic reform, while still keeping the social and economic stability of the past. The people and President of Belarus as an emerging Democracy are seeking to establish relationships with Western Democracies; but are finding that Democracy in the West means different things to different people.”

Mr. Markham further stated: “The European election observers want Belarus to look like the European Union; the Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States observers want Belarus to model itself after Russia’s democratic experiment, the Americans want everyone to have a Government set up like that of the United States. Obviously, Belarus will need to develop a government which is unique to Belarus while at the same time upholding those universal values which area expressed in the concept of democracy.”

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  1. Michael Markham’s Report On Race/Politics | Bernews.com | December 5, 2012
  1. Derek says:

    What is Markham smoking!!!?

    Lukashenko is known as the last dictator of Europe. There is no democracy in Belarus and the country has become more repressive under his rule. The EU strongly criticized the December elections saying they were neither free or fair.

    Most of the opposition was beaten up and jailed before the election. The election was clearly rigged and Markham was supposed to be an independent election observer yet he makes no mention of the protests or the brutal police crackdown. What a clown.

    If Markham believes Lukashenko’s commitment to democratic reform is anything other than a lie then I’ve got some land on the moon to sell him….


    >>>Mr. Markham stated “President Lukashenko has verbalized a commitment by his government to find new ways of Democratic reform, while still keeping the social and economic stability of the past. The people and President of Belarus as an emerging Democracy are seeking to establish relationships with Western Democracies; but are finding that Democracy in the West means different things to different people.”<<<

    • Michael A Markham says:

      My critic reacts in a typical knee jerk reaction of someone who has not personaly observed the electoral process in Belarus.
      Not only was I there in person, I was allowed to take any pictures I wanted. This was the second time where I have watched to verify not only the vote count but the process.
      Derek sounds like someone who works or supports the definitions of the American State Department view of Democracy or a few of the minority European activist groups. I admit that President Lukashenko isn’t the image of a European intellectual; he comes from the farm and would be considered working class proletariat that is probably why Mr. Lukashenko received about 79% of the popular vote in an open transparent process where people exercised the right of a secret ballot.
      I watched with my own eyes and photographed the voting. If Derek is accusing the Belarus Government of voter fraud and ballot box stuffing that’s not what I heard or saw during the election and I spoke to other election observers.
      I stated the truth as I saw it.
      In fact not only was I observing the election I and other reporters who were with me we present at the square where the mass rally was held and where the violence occurred. I was not only there by the square but took pictures of the police who went after the demonstrators who were running away.
      If the local Bernews wishes to see my pictures and interview me about the facts I saw I would welcome the opportunity. The President and the Election Commission clearly stated and encouraged mass gatherings, debates and political rallies as part of the electoral process; but they clearly stated that the police would stop any violence. From the time that the violence started to the time I personaly saw the demonstration finished and the people gone from the square was a few hours.
      The Washington Post report link did not work but I did speak to reporters in Minsk who reported for the Washington press. The reporters were trying to sort out what was rumor, misinformation and what the facts were but much of the time a lot of unverified information was just passed on to other news agencies. For example the crowd count was anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000 where I saw maybe 10,000 from where I was standing.
      Derek’s other link to The Charter 97 Group has a history of opposition to the President who they see as their enemy and who they want removed as leader of the country. The Charter 97 group is a well oiled, funded human rights political action committee representing pan European special interest groups.
      The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s who had offices in Minsk have tried to work with Belarus because of the Nuclear weapons issues and disarmament treaty that Belarus signed reducing the threat of Nuclear War in Europe. The OSCE has its own political agenda to bring Belarus under their political control. Belarus still has one of the more powerful nuclear capable armies in Europe if not in the World.
      Unfortunately as an Independent Election Observer I did not have the additional financial resources to interview all the dissident political activists and human rights activists in the country. I was there to observe and report on the voting process under the Belarus election laws. I have approached the Foundation for Bermuda Studies to ask for funds to allow a team of Bermudian political figures to observe the next election. Mr. Ottie Simmons accompanied me previously as an independent observer and also declared in the past Presidential election as fair and free.
      If Derek lives in Bermuda he does not even have the opportunity to vote for the Governor who has more dictatorial powers under the Bermuda Constitution than President Lukinshiko. Bermuda does not have direct elections for its leader. Belarus is a Republic and emerging from a post Soviet past which is reforming its society into a more democratic and representational government.
      If Derek is Bermudian how would he feel if human rights and other foreign political action groups and parties like the Democrats, Republicans or Tea Party people came to influence and tell Bermudians how to run their democratic process and bring about Independence.
      Derek needs to support the movement to more democratic change in Belarus in a peaceful and cooperative spirit and let the benefits of a democratic system demonstrate its advantages to the Belarus Government apparatus and the majority of the people themselves.

      • Ottie simmons says:

        Michael, I admire the stand that you are taking towards your critics. Do not let those who want a political situation to be what they hear about, from those who speak negatively about countries and situations which they know nothing about.


    • Christine says:

      No one has the right to treat my boss like that ! There is no need to trash the person that is doing his job. I do not care who you are that is the kind of thing that tells me that you have issues and your not able to control yourself. I have known Michael for a long time and he has been the most loving boss that I have had to work with and it would be an honor to serve under him for the rest of my life. There is no need to go out and be rude to people that you do not know or have worked with in cases that you are not familiar with.

  2. J Wentworth says:

    If Mr Markham’s account is accurate, why then is the EU taking quick measures to place President Lukashenko and dozens of his cronies back on the EU entry banned list? Several EU countries today called for an emergency EU ministerial meeting to put the new list into play. Governments in Germany, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have said the election was flawed.  Opposition presidential candidate Vitaly Rymashevsky was only released from custody on January 1. Rymashevsky and 26 others including 5 presidential candidates who are still being held, face up to 15 years in prison for organizing “mass disturbances.” How is that a free election process when the incumbent locks up the opposition? The OSCE has labeled the Belarusian elections ‘seriously flawed.’ That is the same election which Mr Markham apparently witnessed and claims was free and fair and ‘open and transparent.’ OSCE observers criticized both the counting of the votes and the violent backlash against the opposition candidates. But it’s not just the OSCE arguing this point, most governments in Western Europe have strongly criticized the recent election process. As for the OSCE, Mr Markham says they have an agenda but lets face it, seriously, the OSCE is a far more legitimate organization than Mr Markham’s Russian linked ‘World Council of Spiritual Diplomacy.’ This is the pot calling the kettle black me thinks. The OSCE (European security organization) is the world’s largest regional security organization. It is an ad hoc organization under the United Nations Charter (Chap. VIII), and is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Its 56 participating states are in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America and cover most of the northern hemisphere. It was created during the Cold War era as an East-West forum and has 3500 people on staff. Perhaps Mr Markham’s religious organization is only responsible to god or more likely the Kremlin. Why else would he be so deluded in the face of overwhelming evidence. Maybe he thinks that his all knowing spiritual group, with its four delegates, can accurately observe and gauge the whole picture in a country of ten million people. And that his offering to show some happy snap photos which he took during his time in country somehow legitimizes the entire election process. Given a choice between Mr Markham, his spiritual organization and his buddy Ottie Simmons, or a respected UN backed group of observers, who are you really going to choose? Combine the OSCE group’s observations with reporting from lots of independent journalists and media organizations from around the world who were also on the ground covering this election and all echoed the same theme that this election was rigged. Add to that most of Europe’s foreign ministries and many from mature democracies around the world who are clearly upset that the election was flawed and you begin to get a much broader picture than the narrow angle being run by Mr Markham and his four spiritual observers. As the first poster pointed out Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, is called Europe’s last dictator for a reason. He has been in power in Belarus for more than 16 years and he exercises overwhelming control in politics, industry and media. The organization Reporters Without Borders says that the Belarusian KGB (secret intelligence) has been searching the homes and offices of independent journalists following the election. And when tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched through Minsk on election night to protest fraudulent vote counting, riot police violently broke up the demonstration and arrested hundreds of people including journalists and opposition candidates. Yet this seems to sit just fine with Mr Markham so long as the country is moving closer to democratic change. How many more decades is this type behavior going to be tolerated in Belarus? Four EU foreign ministers said that relations between the European Union and President Alexander Lukashenko can’t remain the same after the December 19 election debacle. They said even the events in Serbia in 2000 with President Slobodan Milosevic “fade against the background of the events in Minsk on December 19.” Now that is some pretty strong language given Mr Markhams assurance that the election he observed was ‘open and transparent.’ Mr Markham suggested then suggested tat in Bermuda we live under dictatorial powers but if the Bermuda government called an election in today’s world Bermudian citizens would not be locked up and then beaten for opposing the government. The police would not instigate a mock riot and arrest innocent people and opposition politicians would not be beaten close to death and then charged with bogus crimes. As for Mr Markham’s comments about the Bermuda Governor, maybe he needs educating about a certain Bermudian son living in exile. An individual who has long been rumored to have been involved in the assassination of a sitting Bermuda Governor. I wonder who that person could be related to? Anyone you might know Mr Markham? Perhaps Mr Markham might over look that murder and call it democracy at work Bermu…ehm… Belarusian style. 

  3. Michael A Markham says:

    I want to thank Mr. Wentworth for his sincere comments which I carefully and thoughtfully consider and answer.
    I am not in favor or support dictatorships of any kind.
    Before I address the issue of my legitimacy as an independent observer I want to assure him of my Democratic credentials and my overall commitment to individual freedom and rights expressed in The American Constitution (Article 1) and European (English with Magna Carta of 1215) regarding peaceful demonstrations or right of assembly to influence or change government policy of other nations.
    The right of assembly and mass demonstration of political grievance is a key human right that originates from the individual and collective desire of the people. That is why the Americans are so committed to imposing that right on the newly emerging democracies. That is why they support and encourage those demonstrations inside other countries.
    To understand the reluctance of non Western Democratic Governments to allowing mass protests, one must realize that in the European past history, revolutionary forces have used mass demonstrations to circumvent the political systems, democratic or otherwise, and to seize control of the government civil service and the military.
    In regards to his overwhelming support for the established institutional observers ( compared to me an individual) he has a very valid point; who is one persons view of what he saw to stand up to such credible and famous organizations. That is the just the point I am making it is an individual view of what I personaly observed! Those people are paid and directed by their governments to what they can say. I spoke at length with a number of the very people whose committee issued proclamations that were different than the individual observers told me in person.
    I don’t work for the Kremlin, Belarus, the Americans, the English or any other foreign government or intelligence agency. As a result I have no idea what the KGB, the FBI, MI6 or the CIA do secretly or say about the election process in Belarus. It’s unfair and unethical for Mr. Wentworth to paint me with such a brush.
    What I do know is what I saw and what the Belarus election law says (I was provided an English translation). I know what was done in public and what the views of Belarusians who I spoke with, and that was consistent with the election outcome. I also know that millions of Belarus citizens had an opportunity to directly vote for a President that was listed along with other candidates. To me those things are important.
    Regarding the violence in the demonstrations I want make it clear I do not support violence either on the part of the police or the demonstrators. The facts are that in Western Europe political demonstrations very often result in violence.
    For the West it is not an issue to allow the demonstrations but how the demonstrations are handled as long as it’s peaceful.
    For the Eastern Governments they would just as well have no mass rallies or demonstrations except those that are permitted and allowed by the state. Eastern governments see mass demonstrations as disrespectful to the government and an insult to their leadership. The election law and material I had received by the Belarus Government clearly stated it supported and encouraged the process of mass demonstrations and political rallies as long as they were not violent.
    Under the last PLP leadership we saw many demonstrations against the policy and leadership of the Bermuda Government. Because the color of the demonstrators was white the perception of the media and public was that the people assembled were not voters and their petition of grievance to the Government was misplaced.
    When the crowd acted in an aggressive manner to the PLP Premier and other Ministers and some PLP operatives were outraged!
    It is true that I have been directly involved with the PLP leadership over the years but that does not mean I have been associated with any violence that may of happened in the past any more than a UBP member could be accused of violence against Buck Burrows. As far as I know I don’t know anyone personaly that was directly involved with that violent par of Bermudian political history except maybe Rolfe Commissiong. But it is not my intention to stray off the issue into Bermuda politics it’s to comment on the emerging Democracy movement of Eastern European and former Soviet Union block countries as they struggle to find a way to become more integrated into Western society.
    The Eastern governments see the legitimacy of a cast vote for their administration as a validation of their leadership and do not see demonstrations as a means of changing the political establishment.
    The issue for emerging democracy and its reformers is if the present governmental institutions will tolerate or allow non elected or appointed groups influence its established political procedures.
    The critics of mass demonstrations ask “Where is the policy for government formed; in the street or in Parliament.
    The Eastern emerging democratic reform and present institutions must address those issues of who, how, and what process develops the policy of an independent nation. Belarus and Ukraine are good examples of this unresolved ideological problem.
    One of the international diplomatic issues for a country is that there are considerable international political risks for allowing mass demonstrations; especially if they are led by labour movements that are not under the direction of the government.
    Mass strikes and their attendant mass marches through the streets give the appearance of economic instability, which becomes an issue for emerging economic models designed to attract foreign capital to fund economic expansion. When countries are dependent on foreign capital rather than self-sustaining demonstrations can have significant economic damage and become national security issues.
    By the way Mr. Wentworth seems to confuse or equate spirituality with religion. I don’t represent any religion.
    What I do represent is a movement and idea that is committed to politically and diplomatically approaching international relations by looking at other people culture and governments needs first, to empathize and see the issues from the others persons point of view.

  4. want truth says:

    Michael did you write the plan for the PLP?