Puigdemont calls on Catalans to stand by their institutions in face of suspensions
MIREIA ESTEVE / GERARD PRUNA Barcelona 21/04/2017 07:27
Public support for the Catalan institutions. With this plea, the President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, ended the event in support of the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell, the pro-independence members of the Board and those banned from office following the 9-N vote. The event was organized by the former Speakers of the Catalan Parliament, Joan Rigol, Ernest Benach and Núria de Gispert, who were joined in the Catalan Parliament by representatives from across the pro-independence spectrum, and the presence of the entire government.
Puigdemont, who gave the closing speech, stressed that "no democracy can watch on as they suspend the work of its Parliament". "And if this should happen, we must collectively support our institutions, because not only are they attempting to suspend a Parliamentary Bureau, a parliament or a government, they are trying to suspend all of us", declared Puigdemont, adding that that "it’s not about political groups and institutions, it’s about all of us".
The Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, spoke before Puigdemont and thanked her predecessors for their support: "we will rise to the challenge presented by the historical moment in which we are living, to defend the rights of Catalans and the sovereignty of our institutions". Referring to the two charges that the Public Prosecutor has brought against her, the Speaker of the House said it was "unacceptable" that "there is an attempt to violate the sovereignty of the legislature for ideological reasons". In this regard, Forcadell declared Parliament to be a place which must ensure the "free" expression of all ideologies, since "being a democrat means respecting everyone’s rights and liberties".
The former Speakers call for "unity"
Benach chaired the event and was the first to speak, defending the need to hold such an event in response to the charges which have been brought against Forcadell and the other pro-independence members of the Parliamentary Bureau. "We decided that it was such a serious matter that we needed to do something about it" he said.
During his turn to speak, Rigol spoke of the defence of the Catalan institutions, referring above all to the unity which they represent. To this end, the former Speaker of the House called on the representatives of Catalan independence to continue on the path they have chosen, while declaring himself convinced that the referendum will be held. "We share the same beliefs and we are united in the institutional work that needs to be done" he said, seeing this work as a continuation of actions carried out by the former Speakers.
Rigol also emphasised the defence of Catalonia’s national rights, since he believes the two go “hand in hand" and in this regard, he recalled the "the Catalan Government was restored before the Spanish institutions". Following the mass protests of recent years, the former Speaker wondered why the Spanish government does not feel it has "a case to answer" and supported the Catalan government’s strategy of calling for a negotiated referendum in conjunction with the Spanish state to the end. According to Rigol, "there is no need to be afraid" of the judges and the public prosecutors, or indeed "dialogue and agreement". The former Speaker concluded his speech with a call for "national strength and maximum unity".
Gispert was responsible for reading the manifesto of support, which was deeply critical of the Spanish state’s attempt to "criminalise" the actions of the Parliament of Catalonia and accused the government of "violating the democratic principle of the separation of powers" in a manner "unbecoming" of a member of the European Union. As a consequence, the manifesto calls for "respect" for Catalonia’s principal institution, while warning against possible suspensions of its members: "we will not allow the House’s composition to be interfered with for political reasons at the hands of judicial institutions, or attempts to suspend the public’s legitimate representatives".
Before reading the manifesto, the former Speaker wished to express her support for the four pro-independence leaders —Artur Mas, Joana Ortega, Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs— who were suspended from office for the 9-N vote. She went on to warn the current political leaders that they ought to be prepared to follow in their footsteps. "I believe that sooner or later others will need to follow the path they have chosen", she stated, while warning that behind them there are other Catalan nationalists prepared to act.
The event was presented by the journalists José Antich and Mònica Terribas, who observed that over this period Catalonia has been unable to find the recognition it demands within Spain, seeing the rise in the independence movement as dating from the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Statute.
Disapproval from the PP and Ciudadanos
Prior to the event, the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos voiced their opposition to it. The PP’s parliamentary spokesman, Alejandro Fernández, was quick to criticize the event at a press conference held this Wednesday in the Catalan Parliament. Fernandez argued that Parliament "ought not to hold" this event, declaring it to be "employing public resources for clearly partisan ends". Fernandez went on to say that "it is a smokescreen to present an image of unity when there is a clear state of disintegration", in reference to the tensions that have surfaced in recent weeks within the ranks of the pro-independence groups. The PP intends to lodge a formal complaint with the Parliament’s Bureau.
Ciudadano’s deputy spokesman, Fernando de Páramo described the event as a "spectacle", seeing a connection between the cases of bribery which are dogging the CDC and the fact that the event was held in Parliament: "They have to hold it in Parliament because the CDC’s headquarters’ have been seized following the corruption scandal". Both the PP and Ciudadanos called on Forcadell to be "the Speaker of all MPs" and "carry out her duties". This was a reference to the fact that their parliamentary groups —in addition to Catalonia Sí que es Pot and the PSC— haven recently communicated to the Speaker their disapproval with how she presides over parliamentary debates.