|Saakashvili Addresses Parliament, Followed by Debates|
|July 21, 2009|
President Saakashvili addressed the Parliament which was followed by lawmakers’ speeches and Saakashvili’s closing remarks. The event was not a formal state of the nation address, which was last time delivered by Saakashvili in February.
Debates, which lasted for over five hours ended at 1:45am local time on July 21 and was aired live by the Georgian public broadcaster.
Below are key points of the President's address and follow up speeches by the lawmakers:
President Saakashvili told the Parliament:
After a short break following the President’s address, lawmakers opened debates.
MP Jondi Bagaturia, leader of Georgian Troupe party, who is neither a member of any parliamentary faction nor of parliamentary minority, told the President that there was “injustice” in the country. It is impossible “to rule Georgians through terrorizing people,” he said. MP Bagaturia also called on the President to initiate a proposal that would write-off debt of households for some of the communal services.
MP Petre Mamradze, who now is a member of ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli’s party Movement for Fair Georgia, said told the President his “counterproductive conflict resolution policy, ignoring of democratic principles… hindered Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.” He said President Saakashvili took “a reckless step” and engaged in military hostilities with Russia last August.
“Irrational and spontaneous remarks by the President has replaced foreign policy,” he said. “Dialogue should be started with Russia without any preconditions. It does not at all mean bowing head to Russia.”
MP Mamradze also said that the uncontrolled power in the hands of President Saakashvili had corrupted him and the country was ruled by “six or seven people, who stand above law, and who are loyal to the President.”
“Law enforcement agencies became tool for maintaining power,” MP Mamradze said and added that the opposition’s “counterproductive” tactics of street protests only “contributed” to this maintaining of power by Saakashvili.
MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party, who chairs parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, responded that “being in ex-President Shevardnadze’s circle really corrupts and your speech has once again confirmed this.”
MP Mamradze was head of the government’s administration for years during Shevardnadze’s presidency and also for some time after Mikheil Saakashvili came into power.
“There will be no dialogue with Russia unless those territories [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] are free from occupying forces,” MP Minashivli added.
MP Mamradze’s remarks were also responded by a lawmaker from ruling party Pavle Kublashvili, who said those remarks were very much in line with those of “Putin’s Russia”.
MP Paata Davitaia, leader of On Our Own party, who is member of the parliamentary minority group, focused in his speech on breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia and called on the President to issue arrest warrants against Abkhaz and South Ossetian secessionist leaders, Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, respectively.
“There is no person in the world capable to negotiate with Bagapsh and Kokoity, because they have shed Georgians’ blood,” he said. “They must be punished… If these people [Kokoity and Bagapsh] remain in isolation and people in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali see that no one is talking with them [Kokoity and Bagapsh], I assure you new leaders will emerge among them who will be willing to negotiate with us.”
He also called on the President to contribute to resorting confidence between the authorities and the opposition, including through investigation of May 6 and June 15 incidents and to punish those policemen who used excessive force against protests.
MP Levan Vepkhvadze of Christian-Democratic Movement, who is a vice-speaker of the parliament, said he could not hear “anything new in the President’s address.”
“It is clear that the ruling party has already started election campaign; the only specification was that the date has been named for local self-governance elections,” MP Vepkhvadze said.
He then criticized a controversial package of rally-related draft laws, which has already been passed by the Parliament last week, and called on the President not to sign the package into law unless the recommendations from Venice Commission, an advisory body on legal issues at the Council of Europe.
MP Vepkhvadze also told the President that about 80 opposition activists and supporters were arrested by the police for fabricated charges related with arms and drug possession.
MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, leader of parliamentary majority, said that Russia, which failed “regime change though military intervention now tries to achieve this goal through political means.”
“They unfortunately found people in Georgia, who try to help Russia achieve this goal,” MP Tsiskarishvili said. “Radical opposition tried at first to trigger clashes, but they failed because the authorities showed restraint and on the other hand they tried to harm the economy… but they again failed. They were saying that they did not want revolution, but they were doing everything to come into power through revolution.”
Responding to allegations by MP Guram Chakhvadze of the parliamentary minority group, who raised the recent speculation about the authorities’ intention to sell the state-owned railway, MP Tsiskarishvili said no such plan existed.
MP Tsiskarishvili, however, added: “But even if the railway is sold, what’s the problem with it? If a company comes in to upgrade and rehabilitate the railway infrastructure why is it bad? If there is an investor who will modernize the railway… is anything negative in that?”
MP Giorgi Targamadze leader of Christian-Democratic Movement and of parliamentary minority group, said timing of the President’s address was related with the upcoming visit of the U.S. Vice President to Georgia.
On the issue of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia he said that it was Georgia’s “diplomatic failure” when Russia managed to cease mandates of OSCE and UN observers.
“Logic of internal political process should completely change,” MP Giorgi Targamadze said. “If you want to defeat Putin, you should become anti-Putin.”
He said that rhetoric and wording of the President’s address made him think that Saakashvili was “not sincere.” “You have been using term ‘cage’ [when referring to improvised prison cells set up by those opposition parties, which are protesting since April 9]; there are beasts in cages and do you regard those people how are protesting as beasts?” MP Giorgi Targamadze said and reiterated his position that he was not a supporter of “a tactic resorted by the radical opposition.”
In his speech, the parliamentary minority leader also called for “depolitization” of the Interior Ministry. On the public broadcaster’s issue, he told the President to agree on more opposition representation in the board of trustees instead of equally distributing seats in the board between the opposition and the authorities.
MP Giorgi Gabashvili of the ruling party said the opposition had “mythology instead of ideology, wherein facts does not matter.” He said he did not hear from the opposition any concrete proposals to help deepen reforms.
After the lawmakers’ speeches, President Saakashvili took the floor for closing remarks; he said:
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