An Australian perspective - A perspective from afar Being elected to any high office brings with it responsibilities. One needs to have a vision, a position on any changes and reforms that will improve the current status. Being elected by a great majority brings with it adrenalin and excitement. It also brings high expectations. However, taking on the role the most important things to remember are: a) One is only a custodian not an owner b) One should not write history from oneself and not put down all that came before c) One needs to leave office having made a positive contribution and left it in a better state With this mind the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO ) the peak body for Ukrainians in Australia makes the following comments in relation to the first week of President Zelensky’s Presidency. The AFUO sent a message to President Zelensky acknowledging his victory, wishing him success and that the will of the people must to be respected by all. The AFUO has offered its support: • in ensuring the values and principles of Ukraine are upheld and respected , • its territorial sovereignty, accepting that Ukrainian language is the lingua franca(a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.) , • for those who defend Ukraine , • for upholding the attained progress of the programs of decommunization and Ukrainization and • acknowledging that Russia is the arch enemy in having boots on the ground and its unlawful annexation of Crimea . • for road to Europe, the and membership in NATO and other major wins. These all equate strengthening Ukraine and its identity. The AFUO restates it will support all these and other initiatives that will drive Ukraine’s Statehood. It will, as in the past, challenge any attempt to do otherwise. Such an approach is incumbent on all of us. as President Zelensky said to be contributors, in building a stronger Ukraine. Australia’s Ukrainian community prides itself, whilst being 20,000km away, in being part of the Statehood building process over many years. President Zelensky needs to articulate his vision in a clear and unequivocal way . He must now outline his roadmap for his term in office. Showtime is over; reality must kick in. The Presidency of Ukraine is not a person, but an institution and whilst institutions at times have makeovers, the moral fabric must remain and be respected by those who hold the office and the those who the office serves. Last Monday’s Inauguration speech has had mixed reactions. The first part of the speech calling on unity, responsibility, a change of mindset was important . It was a shout out to the nation – “We are in this together- regardless which passport you hold ; 65,000,000 Ukrainians have been invited to play a role”. The second part of the speech commenting on the former leadership, calling for the sacking of officials (who had already agreed to the normal conventions of resigning), calling on the Cabinet to resign and then calling for the dissolution of the Parliament were statements, if better thought out , could have been made the day after. These demands distracted from his main message. Throughout the first week , we witnessed: • Questionable senior appointments • calls for electoral reform, • Intrigue as to the constitutional power of dissolving Parliament • The call for referendum on how to end the war and relationship with Russia. This is not the way to deal with foreign policy and issues of national security when the country is in the state of war. • The President’s official speech e.g. the IT in forum in the Russian language and a first for a President of Ukraine to use F words in an official address These are but some of the issues that have put a dampener on the new regime’s first week and have started to polarize the nation. Further we witnessed: • A petition for the President’s removal (over 50,000 signatories in a few days • Constitutional court challenges • the investigation of whether the appointment of head of the administration is valid These again blur the way forward. Other issues, such as opening the door to dual citizenship, have prompted discussion. It is an option for consideration but needs to be investigated and explored in terms of policy. There are pluses and minuses. These must be addressed. The week saw the return of former pro Russian oligarchs, former Ministers in the Yanukovych regime. The questions raised are why and for what purpose – not only by Ukrainians but by some of our close international allies. The potential for Revanche (some would argue that is hysteria and its old school activity to garner support) but is becoming a reality that must be dealt with in no uncertain terms. Some may argue the above is all more about perception rather than reality – but the President and his administration are not dispelling many of the claims. By way of suggestion, what is needed is a simple statement – “We will not be rewinding the clock – those who are enemies of the nation will continue to remain on the blacklist and our blueprint looks like this”. One might add: “Ukraine and Ukrainians are the beacon for striving , fighting, demanding and delivering democracy . Ukraine is an inspiration many countries . The last elections were the cleanest in history – Not because Ukraine said so – but the international community recognized this”. So, what could the second week bring? There needs to be a recalibration of the situation . President Zelensky has the opportunity to articulate quickly and clearly his position on the redline issues. Some are listed above; others come from a more extensive list – including from our International partners and supporters. No doubt taking the nation on a journey is exciting, but also challenging. You will never satisfy all, but you can have people work with you and not against you. Change for the sake of change, throwing the baby out with the bath water, exerting powers that may be contradictory to the constitution, disregarding past achievements, engaging in populist rhetoric, in this context, all need to be considered unhelpful. Much has been made of the 73% victory; This also needs to be put in context – 73% of the 65% of those who voted; another 35% who did not vote. Honeymoon periods don’t last long – Ask the former President Poroshenko. 65,000,000 Ukrainians in a unified and strategic alliance can not only make Ukraine a great state but can show the world how to transform societies. A burning example is Health reform being implemented by Dr Ulana Suprun and her team. Australia recently hosted Deputy Minister for Health Stanislav Linchevshky. In his address he spoke about not only changing process but changing the philosophy - “the mindset”. President Zelensky alluded to this in his inauguration speech. Our reforms in education follow the same philosophy. It seems this is what everyone sees as the key. The question is how do we do this? There is now an opportunity, which needs to be grasped with both hands. A newborn baby adjusts very quickly to the outside world but is very much reliant on those around it. Left on its own, it simply cries and does not grow; given adequate guidance, it invariably flourishes. President Zelensky and his team are now likewise in the early stages of a birth process. They should come up for oxygen and adjust their position on certain issues. Other politicians, political parties, government instrumentalities and civic society generally also need to adjust to doing business in a different way ; they too need to endeavor to change the philosophy. The slogan Ukraine above All – Україна Понад Усе – must be the driving factor. The values and principles of Statehood must not be compromised – We must all agree on a set of values and a framework. We owe this to all who have fought for Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty . We owe it to those who went through the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity. We owe it to those on the front today and to each everyone of the over 13,000 who have died in the war with Russian in Donbas and to the veterans who have returned and have had their lives overturned because of the war, The values, principal and standards and the agreed red line issues must be adhered to not flaunted. Ukraine has come too far in forming its identity to allow for the slightest return to any Russian involvement, influence or interference. If so, the challenge will not doubt met by those in Ukraine and Ukrainians in the diaspora. For some, the above might seem like resorting to old school, motherhood statements. We would argue they are the basis on which a newly, democratically elected President and his administration should build and strive for stronger and more developed Ukraine, including being Smartphone savvy. The suggestion is to revisit recalibrate and readjust, where necessary. in the second week. This may assist in clearing the road for a succesful Presidency which will be remembered not only for its innovation, but for acknowledging and recognition of our past, respecting accepted values which gave the President the opportunity to be democratically elected to allow him to live out his vision for Ukraine. Stefan Romaniw OAM Chairman