Officials in northern Kazakhstan have taken President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s zero-tolerance policy toward anti-social behavior to heart, jailing a man for making a rude gesture at an official motorcade.
The unidentified 22-year-old resident of Pavlodar was thrown behind bars for giving the middle finger to the cortege of Kayrat Mami, speaker of the Senate (the upper house of parliament), Tengri News reported on January 14.
The man pleaded guilty on hooliganism charges and was given a five-day jail sentence for “insulting the human dignity of a public figure, thus allowing disrespect for those around and violating public order and the peace of individuals,” court spokeswoman Umut Zhumatayeva said.
The jailing is in line with a policy Nazarbayev announced last fall, when he used a parliamentary address to rail against graffiti, garbage and public drunkenness, surprising observers who thought Kazakhstan had more pressing problems to tackle. Nazarbayev also has a Singapore-style fixation with chewing gum and dirty cars in his model capital city, Astana.
The news of the harsh treatment meted out to the Pavlodar man sparked vituperative reactions on the Tengri News site, suggesting that many of Nazarbayev’s fellow citizens do not share his concerns. “Where the hell is democracy?” asked user West. “He was only expressing his opinion.”
Others launched into diatribes against the way official motorcades disrupt life in Kazakhstan’s cities as roads are closed and traffic is held up. “Who allows the senator to travel around, closing the roads[?]” asked user Adam, adding that the “the authorities do whatever they want.”
Another user, gosdep, offered a sarcastic take on the affair: “Soon at the sight of these corteges we will have to fall to our knees and beat our brows on the ground.”
The jailing touched a raw nerve, exposing how disconnected many ordinary people feel from the powers-that-be in Astana. “Oh, all is not lost, fellow citizens!” remarked user homo erectus. “The Senate remembers its people and sometimes even notices them!”