“Every minister uses a private jet for their personal affairs. They travel with taxpayer-funded jets for trips at home and abroad,” an opposition lawmaker decried during a speech in Parliament on Thursday.
Government ministers and senior AKP member’s newfound fondness for luxury and use of private jets has become a source of bitter political controversy and bickering in Parliament. But what magnified the debate and threw it to the heart of national conversation was how the private jets were obtained.
They were seized by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a failed coup last year as part of one of the massive wealth grabs and property confiscations in Turkey’s modern history.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Haluk Peksen was not concerned over the seizure of assets that belonged to government critics.
Instead, why, he asked, did government not leave the seized assets and jets into the country’s treasury, but allowed them to be looted by party members and ministers? The crux of his rigorous questioning had a different ethical concern.
He accused the government members of pillaging the jets some of which belonged to people affiliated with Gulen movement. “The planes would have been sold immediately and the revenue would be left to the treasury,” he said in lamentation.
“Seized jets are now the source of great waste at the hands of AKP figures,” he fumed in disbelief.
He also lamented that ministers and senior AKP officials refuse even partial reimbursement for their spending during the use of jets. Travel costs have all been funded by taxpayer’s money, Mr. Peksen said in a display of fulmination.
His outcry illuminates the growing discontent over the luxury spending of government members amid towering excesses of public spending and mounting debt. But also the issue of post-coup asset seizures appear as an indispensable ethical challenge for the government, which did not provide any legal basis for its acts other than opaque politically-motivated terror charges against individuals.
The government has so far seized properties of companies and individuals linked with Gulen movement, an amount that hovers around more than $11 billion.