By Julian Dierkes
With all the turmoil in the Mongolian government at the moment it seems very challenging to write a blog post that will add any clarity as it will become obsolete virtually the moment I might press <publish> because SMS originating from Malta will once again re-configure the current political scene.
But in other political news this past week, something odd happened to me.
September 2013 in Ulaanbaatar
Last September, I was in Ulaanbaatar for the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Mongolia. Following this event I attended a discussion about mining in Government House on September 16. The Great State Khural (parliament) is also housed in Government House. The meeting lasted most of the morning, but at some point, we were told that someone had taken shots at Government House with a rifle.
When I left Government House, I headed across Sukhbaatar Square only to encounter a police cordon and a large crowd. In this crowd I met the staff of the Canadian embassy to Mongolia who had been evacuated from Central Tower because of a bomb threat to that building.
It turned out that Munkhbayar was behind the rifle shots and the pipe bombs that had been planted as an apparent act of eco-terrorism. No one was harmed, of course, and it wasn’t entirely clear that harm had been intended, but Munkhbayar received a harsh 21 years prison sentence nevertheless. The whole situation was even odder because I had met Munhkbayar once in the mid-2000s to learn about his environmental activism.
September 2014 in Ottawa
Fast forward to this past week when I was travelling across Canada for some conferences. I arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday morning and had a series of meetings and gave a presentation on Mongolian foreign policy at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
On Wednesday morning I had a very productive meeting at the Mongolian embassy to Canada and then cross the street for a meeting at Export Canada (EDC). I was met in the lobby by two official from DFATD and two more from Export Canada for a 30-minute or so meeting to discuss political risk and economic development in Mongolia. My next appointment after this was to be on Parliament Hill.
Of course, all this was interrupted by the shots that were fired that morning and I ended up being locked-down in the EDC building for five hours. My unfortunate hosts got to hear more about Mongolia than they ever had planned to, but we managed to spend a productive and enjoyable day.
All this begs the question of whether I am some kind of jinx on the combination of parliament, foreign affairs, embassies and rifle-brandishing criminals, since I am in no way associated with the shooters (other than that years-earlier interview with Munkhbayar). As a precaution, I will avoid parliaments for the time being and will not schedule meetings with Canadian foreign affairs officials on the same day as visiting any parliament.
It’s also curious that in both cases the label “terrorist” was used quickly for the perpetrators yet both had used low-tech rifles and while they had political motivations, lots of mental health questions are certainly being raised in the Ottawa context.