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We will always be independent, says Saakashvili

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, May 27
Georgia celebrated Independence Day with a military parade on May 26. The parade opened with a minute's silence for the late Polish President Lech Kaczinsky and his wife, after which President of Georgia and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the Georgian nation.

Saakashvili highlighted the importance of the day for the Georgian nation, saying that Independence Day is the most special day in the life of this freedom-loving state with its thousands of years of experience of fighting for freedom. “Georgia has seen various occupiers try to destroy its dignity over the centuries. But our nation did not stop fighting for independence and it defeated its enemies. Our five cross flag is still flying, and so we celebrate the Day of Independence which is so special for each of us,” said the President, stressing he couldn’t name any other country in the world with the same experience of freedom-seeking Georgia has.

“Our generation has been privileged to live in an independent state without any fear of repression by occupiers, but we shouldn’t forget how our predecessors put themselves in danger by fighting for this dream. We are honoured to be the first generation to ensure the enduring independence of our country. We have a great responsibility towards the past and future - independence is the right to choose the future we want, define the course of our development, plan our foreign policy, create our own economy and domestic policy, select our friends,” the President said, stressing that ensuring the independence of a state is the only way to establish a free society. “No freedom can be imagined in a country which has lost its independence. Only the independence of the state can be the political expression of the fundamental idea of our nation. Let’s follow our Georgian, Caucasian dream of a future expressed in freedom based on national pride,” he added.

Saakashvili then talked about Russia’s interference in Georgian politics and its Georgian “apostles” trying to defeat the Georgian nation in its fight to maintain its freedom. He said that these individuals are trying to make out that the only way to survive is to be in subservience in the face of a strong enemy. He added that those critical people who had prevented the parade being held the previous year are still wrong in calling the parade “a Government obstinacy.”

“Let everyone listen to the march and realise that this is the heartbeat of the state, not a simple rattle. Our enemies will always fail to stop this heart beating because we have established a well-functioning state over the last few years and defeated the ambitious elite who used to define the future of the country behind closed doors and deter the promotion of gifted people. Today our independence depends on our success in building the state, implementing reforms, modernising the country, integrating with Euro-Atlantic organisations, developing the economy and having a strong Army, a united nation, etc. Our national soul is now covered by the body of an open European society and we have made significant progress in this direction despite resistance,” the President concluded. He then awarded a number of prominent public and state representatives with the Rank I Vakhtang Gorgasali Order, the Presidential Order of Excellence and the Order of Queen Tamar for their contribution to the development of the country.

For the first time since the August War of 2008 soldiers marched along Rustaveli Avenue, dressed in new uniforms and bearing new equipment, being presented to domestic and foreign dignitaries. Over 4,300 servicemen marched, followed by a column of 117 pieces of land and 18 pieces of air equipment. The parade featured a Turkish-produced Ejder armoured wheeled vehicle, purchased by Georgia last year, US-made Humvee light armoured vehicles, Turkish Cobra vehicles, Russian-made BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers, RM-70 and GRADLAR multiple rocket launchers, DANA self-propelled howitzers and Msta-B towed 152 mm howitzers. The parade was wrapped up by a flyover by UH-1 Iroquois, Mi-24, Mi-8 helicopters and Su-25 (Frogfoot) ground attack aircraft.

Diplomats accredited in Georgia, members of civil society organisations and a number of other dignitaries attended the parade. US Ambassador to Georgia John Bass expressed the support of the US for the nation's independence. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated the Georgian people on the day on behalf of the people of the United States in an official statement published on the State Department’s website, stressing that Georgians have achieved impressive political and economic development, expressing her confidence in Georgia’s bright future. “Georgia is a valued friend and partner of the US. Today we renew our commitment to your territorial integrity and sovereignty and reaffirm the commitment of the US to working together to broaden and deepen our partnership,” said the statement.

The President of Georgia also opened the 48-metre long Memorial to the 3,500 patriots who have died for the unity and territorial integrity of the country since 1921, when the Bolshevik Red Army invaded Georgia, at Hero Square. Dressed in Army uniform, Saakashvili spoke of the merit of servicemen. “Georgia's statehood would have ceased to exist if Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia, had been able to fulfill his plan in August 2008. Despite the fact foreign “boots” are still trampling down the best part of our land the world has seen that Georgia is still a symbol of independence. Our soldiers resisted the [Russian] army, which has defeated those of so many bigger countries, and I will be in their debt until I die,” Saakashvili said, encouraging the people to be ready to take up arms at decisive moments. He added that the names of those who die for their country in future will be inscribed on the empty parts of the monument and remain as the genetic code and historical experience of the Georgian nation and the main guarantee of its future.