What will the wise men do?

The members of the wise men commission who will join the solution process have been identified, and they had a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday. This column was written ahead of that meeting.

Before trying to answer the question posed in the title, I would like to discuss the attribute "wise." The common denominator of the people on the commission list is that they all support the ongoing peace process launched by the government. They give heartfelt support to the process backed by the majority of society (at least 65 percent) and they seek to do whatever they can to assist. As you might have noticed, the circles that are unhappy with the process are taking the lead in accusing these "wise" people of being "pro-government," hurling gross insults at them, trying to undermine their prestige and even threatening them. Disguising themselves as proponents of the process, they actually try to discredit the process, much as they have done with respect to the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) trials. "Let terror continue and let it finish off the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)," they say.

Still, in my humble opinion, it would be better if the quality "wise" had not been affixed to the name of the commission. This is because many people will clearly voice objections to the attribute, saying, "Under what criteria would they be considered wise?" Given the level of polarization in the country, every person, group or party will define wise differently. Thus, it would be impossible to find a handful of people whose wisdom is acceptable to everyone. On the other hand, if the name of the commission was something like the "Platform to Support the Peace Process," the reasons for objections could be minimized to a great extent. Then, the members of this platform could collaborate with prime minister completely in a civilian setting. In comparison, the current picture of the commission is seen as only semi-official.

But, having the commission is the correct move. The peace process is of vital importance for Turkey, for the solution of the Kurdish issue and then for the drafting of a civilian constitution. The last 30 years were characterized by conflict, violence, terror, bloodshed, sorrow and thousands of martyrs, victims and Kurdish youths who died without seeing their families and there is still no solution. This is because the country's tutelary system was not eager to settle this problem. They employ terror as a tool to manipulate democratically elected governments. But now the civilian initiative is pressing hard. We have an opportunity and we must try peace. What is wrong with trying to make peace?

Why did the government feel the need to set up a wise men commission? Here is what I observed during a panel discussion I attended in Bursa. The leaders of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are parroting that the process itself is an act of treason. This is having a negative impact on the citizens who support the process. The leaked minutes of the meeting between pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is currently serving his life sentence on Imrali Island off the Istanbul coast, as well as unmeasured statements made by BDP spokespeople, are further complicating the process. I also realized the dire need to persuade even the AK Party's voter base. In this context, the meetings and interviews the wise men will hold across the country will be of great importance both for ensuring the transparency of the process and for dispelling the doubts and concerns in people's minds. Moreover, this will change the popular perception that the process is being performed via collaboration between the AK Party and the BDP. I liken the wise men initiative to the "Why ‘yes?'" campaign launched ahead of the referendum held on Sept. 12, 2010.

I must underline a potential danger. The anti-peace groups will try to sabotage the efforts of the wise men. The government must be ready for efforts to defame the work of the wise men made by the groups who disguise themselves as CHP or MHP supporters.