AK Party gov’t: ‘Turkey has excellent work safety regulations’

It is not the time to look for a culprit in this week’s mining accident, which has killed at least 284 people, but a time to heal, and the country’s mining safety regulations are perfect, according to a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

“This mine has been thoroughly inspected 11 times since 2009,” AK Party spokesman Hüseyin Çelik told a news conference in Ankara on Friday.

Speaking after a press conference by Soma Holding, the owner of the mine, Çelik said the company’s press conference had been chaotic. “It happened in chaos. I wish it had been a different way. Perhaps things would have become clearer,” he said.

“It is not the time to look for a culprit; we shall swathe our wounds first,” Çelik said.

He said there are no problems in Turkey’s work safety regulations. “The work health and safety law in 2012 was passed in line with the EU acquis.” He further noted: “We don’t have any loopholes regarding mines and work safety. This mine has been inspected 11 times since 2009. Earlier, three major faults had been detected and addressed. There don’t appear to be any tangible problems here,” Çelik said.

The AK Party spokesman said an investigation will bring out those responsible. “All the relevant agencies, the inspectors from the Labor Ministry, the State Inspection Board [DDK] — they will carry out investigations. Those in charge who might have caused the accident are being investigated. If there is any fault, a flaw or a mistake, or negligence, these will be detected. It is our legal debt to do what needs to be done about anybody who is at fault or has been negligent. It is our political, humane and moral debt.”

Çelik, however, noted that there will be regulation changes to protect the social and welfare rights of workers employed by firms who work as subcontractors for a main company undertaking a project. He admitted that subcontracting schemes in Turkey need to be legally restricted.

A maximum of 18 miners remained missing inside the devastated coal mine and the final death toll will be around 300, Turkey’s energy minister said Friday.

Although he did not spell it out, Taner Yıldız’s comments suggested that no one else was expected to come out alive from the mine in Soma, western Turkey.

“We believe that there are no more than 18 people inside the mine,” Yıldız told reporters. He said that was based on reports from families and data provided by the company.

Yıldız said a fire was still burning inside the mine, spreading noxious fumes, but that “it is declining.”

Grieving relatives laid their dead to rest in mass burials Thursday, with photos of their loved ones pinned to their chests and chanting the names of lost miners. More funerals were planned for Friday.
The minister said anyone found to have been negligent about safety at the mine can expect punishment. “We won’t take any notice of their tears,” he said.

The mining company on Friday denied any negligence and said the exact cause of the accident is still not known.

The disaster has stirred up new hostility toward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government and thrown his presidential ambitions off stride. Blackening his reputation further, Turkish newspapers published a photograph Thursday of one of Erdoğan’s aides kicking a protester who was being held on the ground by armed police.

At Friday’s press conference, Çelik said the aide had acted in self-defense, although this could not be seen in the “one picture” that has been released on the incident.

Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, most recently in March, when no safety violations were detected. But the country’s opposition party said Erdoğan’s ruling party had voted down a proposal to hold a parliamentary inquiry into several smaller accidents at mines around Soma.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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