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Opposition accuses Government of “staging provocations”

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, April 24
The “radical” opposition has announced that the site of the rally in front of the Georgian Parliament was “raided” by several women early on Thursday morning. According to the opposition leaders these women damaged the “cells” erected on Rustaveli Avenue with knives and removed some of them in order to “allow traffic movement” on the main road in Tbilisi. The rally organizers described this as “yet another executive operation” by the Government.

Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party said that the authorities have been trying to promote a different version of the incident. “The Government has been conducting a propaganda campaign since this morning, saying that this was done by ordinary people who are against the rallies, however it is obvious that the perpetrators were agents of the ruling party,” Kukava noted.

One of the leaders of the Movement for United Georgia, Eka Beselia, called the incident a “provocation”, saying that such incidents will not deter the opposition from reaching their goal. “We are not only ready for such kind of resistance from the authorities, but for larger-scale action. No matter what kind of provocations the Government stages we will still finish our job. The “cells” campaign and the protest rallies will not be suspended; on the contrary we will need very little time to dismiss dictator Saakashvili from his post,” Beselia said.

TV Company Rustavi 2 has reported that the incident occurred when some female residents of Sololaki, close to Freedom Square in downtown Tbilisi, tried to open the road blocked by the opposition’s “cells” to cars. Some of the residents said they were ordinary citizens, troubled by the roads being closed due to the demonstrations in central Tbilisi, according to the Rustavi 2 report. However the Conservative Party reported another incident on April 23. The party said that Patrol Police staff and people dressed in civilian clothes had “attacked” party members who were in the waste disposal vehicle taking the waste collected at the Presidential Residence to the rubbish dump. Spokesman Bidzina Gujabidze said the vehicle was stopped by the police at Avlabari Metro Station, two party representatives were beaten up and the vehicle was driven off towards the Kakheti highway. There had been reports that morning that opposition activists were going to dump the waste from the Presidential Residence in the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office.

Late on April 22 the opposition also reported that a member of the youth section of the April 9 organizing headquarters had been beaten up. They said Melor Vachnadze had been assailed by unknown men at Marjanishvili Square and taken to Tovstonogov Street where he was assaulted. Vachnadze said he had managed to escape from the Opel Vectra the unknown men later put him in and run away. He was taken to hospital with shoulder trauma and several scratches.

Meanwhile Badri Bitsadze, the head of the Centre for Border Security and Migration Studies, former Border Police Chief and the husband of prominent opposition leader Nino Burjanadze, has accused Georgian Interior Ministry of imposing “political pressure” on him and other former Border Police employees. “My family and I live under constant political terror,” Bitsadze noted, saying that ex-staff of the Border Police are being forced to give false evidence about Bitsadze being involved in corrupt deals. Bitsadze demanded to this “political oppression.”

The opposition has said it is starting “picketing and chasing.” Eka Besselia has announced that all important buildings and facilities will be picketed, including Parliament, Tbilisi City Hall, the Mayor’s Office, the State Chancellery and the Presidential Residence. “As a result of the picketing the people will take over the means of government and the authorities will lose control of them,” Beselia said. While the opposition plans these actions the Georgian President reiterates his readiness to start dialogue. “We are ready to cooperate with even the smallest political group, even the most radical ones with unacceptable slogans,” Mikheil Saakashvili said at a meeting with Interplast factory employees on Thursday. The President said that in order to produce a better environment in which to create new jobs unity in society and cooperation between all political groups is needed to defend the interests of the people and the country. “Every politician should be able to put the interests of the people above himself,” Saakashvili said.

Political analysts suggest that the Government is “pretending” when talking about its readiness for dialogue. Analysts say that to overcome the political crisis in the country the Government should take some viable steps. Independent political commentator Mamuka Areshidze has said that in order for dialogue to start the authorities should take actions which will persuade society that they are ready to make some serious changes as a result of this dialogue. Areshidze said that there are some issues that can be resolved without a dialogue with the opposition. “One of the major issues that has been discussed is that of the Central Election Commission Chairman. The administration does not need dialogue to dismiss him. This would create the conditions for dialogue. Society’s demand would also change and they would tell the opposition leaders it is time to hold dialogue,” Areshidze said.

The commentator also said that there is a deep political crisis in the country, which cannot be resolved even if the rally participants are forced to go home due to bad weather conditions. “The protest mood would then transfer to the homes of those people and they will come out into the streets as soon as the weather is better. The problem will remain,” Areshidze told The Messenger. “I do not see and resolution of this situation without significant institutional changes,” he added.