Misfortunes of the mayor

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It was interesting to see former Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S.Amarsaikhan resign on July 1 to run in the parliamentary election, while D.Sumiyabazar “resigned” as a lawmaker to become the mayor. It’s even more interesting that two months before his appoint, on September 1 to be specific, D.Sumiyabazar outright said he would not become the mayor.

Then Parliamentarian and Chairman of the Capital City Mongolian People’s Party Office D.Sumiyabazar told news.mn, “Let me make it straight, I am not going to be the mayor. I am not a mouse that runs into every hole.” 

He was appointed as the mayor of Ulaanbaatar on October 29. It might not be even necessary to address that he definitely is not a man of his words.

It’s been a month and a half since D.Sumiyabazar took office as the mayor, but the list of his “misadventures” or “embarrassing” stories is quite long for such a short period. Most of his mishaps revolve around his perverse attitude and seeming indecision. 

The clearest example of his actions not aligning with his decision (or consideration) is the stance on allowing sales of alcoholic beverages. During a State Emergency Committee (SEC) briefing on November 29, First Deputy Mayor J.Sandagsuren, representing the municipality, said, “Since we are allowing the industrial sector to operate, the alcoholic beverages production sector is also going to start operating. Upon advice from consultants and scientists, the mayor has initially decided to allow the sales of alcoholic beverages below 18 alcohol percentage and it has been discussed at the government level.”

Following J.Sandagrsuren’s statement, the chairperson of the SEC Ya.Sodbaatar said that the final decision is up to the mayors of provinces and the government will allow the sales of alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine.

Yet, on December 1, during a live Q&A session, Mayor D.Sumiyabazar contradicted his own initiations and considerations presented during the SEC press conference by his first deputy mayor. He said, “To decide whether or not to allow the sales of alcoholic beverage is up to the city administration. Since Ulaanbaatar has high risk, making decisions related to alcohol and wine will be risky”.

One of the decisions retracted that was directly made by D.Sumiyabazar’s administration to fight COVID-19 was to restrict food and goods supply transportation, which were to be done only between 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. This decision was a perfect example of the municipality not doing any research before arriving at a decision that impacts everyone in the capital. In particular, all the shops, including the smallest ones, would have to have workers present to receive supplies at night and another person to monitor to ensure COVID-19 guidelines, and upon receipt of deliveries, these workers would have to be transported back home. But the existing COVID-19 regulations forbade nighttime operation and public transportation and private cars are supposedly not allowed to drive on roads, many of which were barricaded, supposedly to stop COVID-19.

The mayor’s team has also leveraged COVID-19 to impose some restriction that received heavy pushback from the public. For example, the proposal to restrict food and goods supply transportation during daytime was implemented in October 2018 by the city administration to decrease traffic. However, it failed because it made virtually no difference to traffic level and hindered businesses.

Still, D.Sumiyabazar’s woes continue.

On December 1, a social media user tweeted a picture of a walk through metal detector, model ZK-D3180S reportedly capable of temperature detection, installed right inside his office door. This brought about many questions about why it was set up specifically outside the mayor’s office door and not at the building’s entrance, or somewhere more useful. The cost of the detector was also brought into question.

D.Sumiyabazar responded with a tweet, saying “I bought it with my own money and I even bought one, even more ‘super’ one, to be installed at the entrance of the Mayor’s Office building.” He even posted a handwritten receipt for the purchase of the metal detector, which lacks primary requirements of financial documents. The receipt reads, “Temperature detector metal door” from Big Green Light LLC for 5,000,000 MNT. However, Big Green Light LLC responded swiftly that it does not sell metal detectors or temperature detectors, and did not sell such a detector to the mayor, according to www.factcheck.mn.

Meanwhile, SEC demands provincial citizens to be tested for COVID-19 and undergo temperature checks before leaving the capital. However, because of lack of organization, crowds formed at testing stations. Even worse is the fact that the software support for the testing has failed, with test results sent to those wishing to return home long after its valid period is expired. There are also more ridiculous and potentially inhumane decisions, such as locking in students in their dormitory without allowing them to step out of the dorm building at all like prisoners. There were reports of passengers of intercity buses having to defecate in pots inside buses, right next to other passengers, due to COVID-19 control measures, and even deaths as provincial residents who need urgent medical attention are denied entry at city checkpoints.

It seems the mayor’s top priority is his safety while the people have to suffer indignity, unnecessary risks, and violation of their human rights in the name of COVID-19 control. This implies that the people’s welfare is a bottom priority. And yet, D.Sumiyabazar claims that he has been working without sleep or food.

Citizen O.Otgonbat has started an online petition on www.change.org to request D.Sumiyabazar’s resignation, to “let him have his rest.” As of the time of writing this article, the petition had about 4,500 signatures and increasing rapidly. O.Otgonbat has been called to police over the petition over a complaint stating that the petition was started based on false information. O.Otgonbat wrote on the update section of the petition that the police specifically told him it was not D.Sumiyabazar who filed the complaint.

The people of this country don’t seem to be the priority for the country’s leaders, but the people’s priority should be to elect and appoint leaders who put the people’s welfare above everything else. Particularly in times of difficulty, it’s not wise to let inept leaders continue to make matters worse and potentially steer us towards an unnecessarily treacherous path.

Myagmardorj Buyanjargal
Myagmardorj is a freelance writer and certified translator who holds a Bachelor of Law Degree from the National University of Mongolia and Bachelor of Science Degree in engineering in mining technology from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology.