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Toppling Ceausescu From Timisoara

Notes for remarks by Hon. David kilgour
National Theatre
13 March, 2010

Members of the Timisoara Society, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It s a great honour to be able to join you from Ottawa to celebrate the much-admired Proclamation of Timisoara released twenty years ago.

In 1989, Romania found itself with a broken economy, a 'justice' and police system controlled by Securitate apparatchiks, and a severely depressed national morale.The first steps towards restoring the rule of law, multiparty democracy and an open society were taken in this city in December, 1989. The Revolution of Timisoara exacted a costly price in human lives and suffering--as documented in your city museum on the period--but became a symbol of resistance to totalitarianism across the world.

Innocent persons were killed in Timisora. There should be no limitation period for murder prosecutions.

Proclamation of Timisoara

Hundreds of Romanian-Canadians and others of us were at your embassy in Ottawa the night in December, 1989, when the Ceausescu regime fell, thanks to the spark struck first by many thousands of courageous residents of this city and Rev. Laszlo and Mrs Tokes. In March, 1990, the Timisoara Society - of which I'm honoured to be a member - issued the Proclamation of Timisoara. Your poet Ana Blandiana, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, termed it the "most important political text after '89 and in fact the only coherent program of changing . communist Romania into a democratic society".

The best-known feature of the proclamation was its eighth point, which called for all former nomenklatura and Securitate members to be barred from holding public office for a period of ten years or three consecutive legislatures, with a stress on the office of president.

The waves of multi-party democracy sweeping through much of the world during the past thirty years are an extraordinary achievement, resulting in the empowerment of civil societies. Democracy, of course, subordinates states to people; they own their government, not vice versa. Democracy means freedom of speech, association, assembly. Democrats place the governance process above themselves.

Weakened commitment to good practices and mistaken actions by governments comprise two great threats today for both established and developing democracies. All of us must believe in and hold fast to good practices if democracies are to flourish and survive. Some governments undermine their own principles to pursue security or other interests at the expense of human dignity in new, emerging or restored democracies. Abusive and totalitarian regimes are tolerated, even praised. It is too often 'inconvenient to help' fellow democrats elsewhere.

Support for democracy is also seen as 'inconvenient' when it gets in the way of trade, investments and the demands of security. What price are we willing to pay for self-government and for those who fight for it despite high personal cost? We admire Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Gao Zhizeng now languishing in the Chinese gulag, who gave up everything for the democratic ideals we admire and claim as our own, yet too many governments are unwilling to help. The result is that democracy often seems held hostage to economic and other interests.

There are democratic societies today in all parts of the world. Most peoples want freedom, the principal guarantor of which is constitutional democracy. Whether all can achieve it is currently in some doubt. Fortunately, the universal desire for representative government, guaranteed human rights, and the rule of law continues to have momentum throughout most of the world. This is supported to some extent by the U N Development Programme (UNDP), which serves 166 countries. In 2009, it dedicated $1.4 billion to democratic governance programs, including 112 to promote transparency in government.


We democrats everywhere should be neither complacent nor over confident. There are still dozens of tyrannies or quasi-dictatorships in the world doing much harm to human beings and the natural environment. Consider, as only one example, the destructive roles the party-state of China is playing in Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe and in undermining democratic governance across parts of Asia and elsewhere and domestically with a number of spiritual groups, including Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong (, Christians and Muslims.

Let us resolve again today to apply the lessons of December 1989 in Romania to all governments, civil societies and suffering peoples across the world everywhere. We owe humanity the continued spread of multiparty democracy, pluralism and human dignity. As so many speakers have stressed today, the proclamation remains a key document for the spirit of Romanians.

Long live the Proclamation Of Timisoara and Doru Mariesh (hunger striker). Thank you.

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