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We will block the main roads if you don’t go - opposition

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, May 5
Opposition leaders stated on May 4 that they will start blocking off the major highways throughout Georgia from May 8 and give Saakashvili three days to resign.

“On May 8 Saakashvili will be given a 72 hour ultimatum to satisfy the people’s demand and resign and start a dialogue with the opposition on the issue of transferring power peacefully and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. If this demand is not satisfied on May 11 we will block off the central highways with cars,” Gubaz Sanikidze, a leader of the National Forum, told protesters yesterday, reading from a prepared text. He added that the exact sites of the blockade will be known by May 10.

The opposition say they have taken this decision because the authorities have ignored the people’s demand. “During the last month tens of thousands of our citizens have expressed their wish that Saakashvili resigns and the Government has shown that it is unable to suggest to society a way out of this political crisis. The President, Parliament and Government have stopped functioning,” Sanikidze stated.

The opposition say that the blockade will start today but only for one hour, from 4pm to 5pm, on the following highways: at the entrances to Tbilisi from eastern and western Georgia and the highway linking Tbilisi with Rustavi and Kvemo Kartli.

On Monday morning opposition activists again picketed the entrance to the Georgian Public Broadcaster headquarters by forming a live chain and a so-called ‘corridor of shame’ which all the GPB staff and journalists had to pass through as they entered the building. Opposition activists have blocked all the entrances to the television station. A cell has been erected at the main entrance, the only one which GPB employees can use.

Chikovani Street, the road next to GPB leading to the Children’s Infection Hospital, is also partially blocked. Opposition leaders are checking the IDs of employees. The son of Nino Burjanadze, Leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia is controlling this process along with other opposition supporters. A few incidents have occurred in front of the GPB building and the opposition activists have also expressed their protest by whistling and slinging verbal abuse at the journalists making live broadcasts of the event.

Nino Burjanadze, in front of the GPB headquarters, told journalists that this is a protest against the station’s management which is preventing the population from seeing the truth about what is happening in the country. “Public TV news is very biased, it does not give the population the opportunity to become well-informed about the ongoing developments in the country,” Burjanadze said.

Speaking to The Messenger Lasha Tugushi, Editor of Georgian daily newspaper Rezonansi, stated that what is happening to journalists is very unpleasant but is a consequence of other things, such developments always having a reason behind them. “In this case the reason is that the authorities are putting journalists in the front line so that media representatives have to put up with this instead of the authorities. So if we talk about these abuses we also need to ask why they are taking place,” Tugushi said.

On Sunday evening before leaving Georgia The EU Special Envoy for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby, part of whose brief is to broker discussions between the two conflicting sides, again called for dialogue and added that the Government should listen to the protestors. “Street actions are good for democracy. This is a legitimate form of expressing protest. The Government must seriously listen to the protestors. There are issues that can be considered”, Semneby stated. During his three-day visit Semneby held meetings with all the leaders of the political opposition, discussing the current situation in the country and giving his recommendations. He plans to make a further visit in a few days’ time.

Meanwhile on Sunday evening senior opposition figure Levan Gachechiladze said on the GPB talk show Political Week that he is ready to meet the authorities if it is society’s will and if this demand comes from society. “I am ready for this meeting if it is demanded by society, although I personally would not like it to take place. If Saakashvili wanted to meet us he would already have named the time and place. Let him fix the time and place, and under the supervision of society I am ready to meet him -not only me, but also all those in the opposition who participated in the April 9 rally. Let him give the place and time and regardless of my agenda I will go to this meeting. We have our theme.” Gachechiladze said.

Yesterday Chairman of Parliament Davit Bakradze again repeated that the Government is ready for dialogue, although he highlighted that an early election was off the agenda now. “I welcome the position of some leaders of the radical opposition, who say they are ready for dialogue, but this dialogue should be a genuine dialogue and not the presentation of ultimatums,” Bakradze said at the session of the Parliamentary Bureau held in Gori on May 4.