The government has established a committee of wise men that will work as a trust-building mechanism between the Kurdish and Turkish communities in the country before and during the implementation of the roadmap leading to the disarmament of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the satisfaction of certain (and yet unclear) demands of the PKK leadership in return. The committee of wise men (CoW) was established in response to demands from the PKK leadership for fact-finding commissions (FFC).
In the case of the South African apartheid and some other African examples, FFCs also acted as reconciliation commissions and the PKK had been asking for a Turkish version of FFCs as a precondition for reconciliation. The CoW is not necessarily composed of wise men, but it is a wise idea to use men and women who have influence over general society to convince people about the legitimacy of steps taken.
Despite the fact that the CoW was thought as an alternative to an FFC, the combination of names revealed yesterday suggests that the government will try to convince the Turkish public, and not the Kurdish one. This attests to the government's courage in going forward with all the reforms expected by the Kurdish side.
The list is also telling about the kind of resistance that the government is expecting from segments of society. The fact that a majority of the 63 people on the list is composed of people from the media, or intellectuals with media access, suggests that the government is particularly concerned about how the negotiation and disarmament process is being covered by the media. In a recent interview, the prime minister asked the media not to run to the fire with gasoline, but with water instead. The members of the CoW will most probably be giving interviews to national and local media outlets, trying to convince people that the government is doing nothing wrong in negotiating with the PKK.
The very first thing they will need to do is make their selection process and organizational structure seem normal. With all due respect to the wisdom of the people selected for the CoW, I don't understand why the CoW was divided into seven regions, with each region having a chairman, deputy chairman and a secretary. Wisdom has nothing to do with geographic considerations. I don't understand why Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarciklioglu, who is from Kayseri, was elected as the president of the Mediterranean region's wise men group, though there is no questioning the fact that he is a wise man. A member of his team, Professor Sukru Karatepe, is also a wise man but he is also more related to Kayseri as he served as a former mayor of the city. Nihal Bengisu Karaca, again on the same team, spent her youth in Kayseri. No, not all on the team are from Kayseri, but none are from the Mediterranean.
Are these people selected from the region or for the region? If the second is the case, will they travel through the region that they are appointed to and speak to the public in an attempt to promote the government's plan? All these are not clear and I am afraid that the government is monopolizing the civil society discourse by appointing public figures as its mouthpiece.
There are names on the list that will not speak for the government in any case. But being onboard will probably silence their possible criticisms. Criticism by a wise man is the best possible contribution to such a process.