The president is not a monument. The president needs to change

During today’s live stream, Maria Kalesnikava has spoken on behalf of the Headquarters of Viktar Babaryka, expressing her gratitude to thousands of Belarusians who have come to the rallies this past week, talked about ways to protect our votes on August 9 and announced the plan to file a request to change Viktar Babaryka’s level of pre-trial restrictions. She also urged us to not be afraid: we know that we are the majority, and together we shall prevail.

Here is the full text of her address.

Hello everyone!
You know, it is hard for me now to simply say “hello”. I want to shout instead: helloooooo! Helloooo, Babruisk! Good day to you, Hoooomel! Greeetings, Minsk!

That is because the past week has been the best week of my life. Together with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veranika Tsapkala, I spoke in Dziarzhynsk, Minsk, Barysau, Orsha, Hlybokaye, Navapolatsk, Homel, Rechitsa, Vitebsk and Mahileu. I have seen tens of thousands of people, I have seen joy in your eyes, your hope and approval, your support. There were so many of you, and you are all incredible. Thank you for coming out and showing your opposition, for demonstrating every day that you want to and are able to change this country. I am grateful to every city and town we have visited and to residents of other places that came out to meet us. I had delivered speeches on stage before, but nothing can compare to the experience of the past week and the joy of seeing all of you and feeling that we are changing this country — together.

Our schedule this week is no less busy. We are going to have a big celebratory concert in Minsk and a tour of other cities and towns. Our schedule will be posted later. We will be glad to see everyone, so come along! Show that you care, that you want change, that we are ready to make out country better.

We have some news to share. You all know that Viktar and Eduard Babaryka are still behind bars. So, I would like to appeal to you: we want to ask everyone who cares, everyone who believes in Viktar and Eduard, to act as guarantors to change their pre-trial level of restrictions. To do this, you need to fill out a request and submit it to the State Security Committee (KGB). We will post a link to the request form on our website shortly. I will submit my appeal to KGB (at 17 Nezalezhnastsi Ave) at 16:00 tomorrow, on Tuesday. If there is a lot of us, please save me a spot in the queue, I will really appreciate it.

We never cease to be amazed at how many new obstacles the authorities are creating to fair elections on every step of the way: with local commissions, voters’ signatures, observers. The only thing left now is to ban people from coming to vote altogether. We believe that all this presents a problem for every voter and every executive body. Primarily, however, this presents a problem to MPs, who are supposed to fight for the interests of the voters of their constituency. By a happy coincidence, the MPs are going to be in the Parliament on August 3. We suggest that you send them a request, so they get to the bottom of things in their districts and find out why peoples signatures went missing. How did it come about that different parties only nominated staff members from specific institutions, and the Executive Committee only voted for them and no one else — and always unanimously. Why are there no legal protections on voters’ rights, and why are the authorities preventing observers from accessing polling stations?

We must not keep silent. Every day we must voice our disagreement to the authorities, until we drive them crazy with our complaints. We must make the authorities work for the people rather than horse around for their own benefit.

When 100 percent of people in the country see that the authorities are failing to comply with their own laws, change is going to be inevitable. Each of us must see the real chaos and mismanagement prevailing in the country. 

Look at this white ribbon. Many of you already know what this is. Thousands of people in various towns and cities have been raising their arms with white ribbons on their wrists. The white ribbon is a way to recognize one of our own. It is a symbol of people who want change and freedom. It is a way to count and see how many of us there are. Wear it now, and make sure to wear it on election day. You can make it from anything you have at hand. Improvise! Take several ribbons with you to give them to friends, neighbours or people in the street.

Another very important tool is the digital voting platform you can access from your smartphone or your laptop. It is called “The Voice”.

You can cast your vote for any candidate as early as today. Follow the link to the website in the video description and vote for your candidate using a messenger of your choice – Telegram or Viber.

On election day, come to your polling station, fill out the ballot issued by the commission and take a picture of the ballot in the polling booth. Then send a photo of the ballot to the Voices chatbot in Telegram or Viber to confirm your vote. If you have poor cell phone reception at the polls, you can send the photo later, when you get back home.

It is safe and secure, as the servers are located where the authorities cannot reach them. The platform will not ask for your passport data, just your phone number and a picture of the ballot, to make sure every vote is verified. All data is going to be encrypted. The secrecy of the ballot is not going to be violated.

When we did our rallies, the policemen smiled at us and showed us hand hearts. That was beautiful, but not surprising. The police are also incredible Belarusian people. They also have a heart! They share the desire for change and the love to their country and to fellow Belarusians.

I am grateful to officials, judges, law enforcement officers and military men, to everyone who sends us words of encouragement and joins us at our rallies. Thank you for being with us!

We know that you do not like this regime either. We know that you can do a lot of good for your people. We know that you have already begun to do good. 

My father was a marine officer who served on a submarine and lived keeping true to his conscience. He taught me to live true to my conscience. To not be a slave. We want to free you from this grip of slavery where the authorities only need you to oppress their people, to make sure that those in power stay in power. While we all speak about peace and peaceful protests, the authorities are calling for violence. While you make sure to stay away from political squabbles, the authorities are dragging us right into them. Just think: the Government. Will. Make. You. Go. Against. Your. Own. People. Not against a foreign military intervention, but against people who just want a different president. The president is not a monument. The president needs to change, especially if people want it. Forcing people to endure the reign is a crime. Love cannot be forced. And you cannot stay president using force.

When we find ourselves in a new, free country, the new leader is going to need you: a strong army, a reliable law enforcement force, knowledgeable government officials. These people are going to be tasked with protecting their homeland and not a throne for a certain someone to sit on.

The choice is simple: to stay afraid, to do nothing, to carry out inhumane orders. To continue living in the country with all its poverty, chaos, ruin, and lawlessness from authorities. Or together build a new, free, economically developed country which enjoys national revival, prosperity, and respect. Our choice is clear. What about yours?

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