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NGOs Call on Sarkozy to Support the People, Not the State

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, October 10
NGOs and oppositional parties sent a message to French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the day of his visit to Georgia last Friday. Expressing their gratitude for his proactive stance in the Georgian-Russian war in 2008 the “peaceful protesters” called the French president to support the Georgian people, not the Georgian authorities. “We address Sarkozy on behalf of all grateful people to continue supporting them and not the government which failed in keeping its promises and lost 20% of Georgia's territory,” a representative of the Georgian Academy, Nineli Chankvetadze, stated.

Standing in front of the State Concert Hall with thorny twigs the participants of the rally denounced the consequences of the 2003 Rose Revolution which, according to them, has brought “elite” corruption, a biased judiciary system and violated of the freedom of speech of citizens.

Three kilometers away from Freedom Square, where the French and Georgian presidents addressed the Georgian people with encouraging speeches, the NGOs and oppositionists shared their address to the French president to make him realize that everything is not as ideal in Georgia as his Georgian hosts would tell him. Worried about the number of political prisoners and repressed citizens, the Leader of the Public Movement for Solidarity with Illegal Prisoners, Eka Beselia, wondered how democracy can exist in Georgia under such circumstances.

“The government PR campaign tries to prove that democracy exists in Georgia when it doesn’t actually exist. Today I personally express my protest towards violence and imprisonment. Let everyone know that our children have been killed in the streets,” Iuri Vazagashvili head of the NGO Protect the Life stated, speaking personally after his son, Zurab, died during a special police operation on May 2, 2006.

Victor Dolidze from Our Georgia–Free Democrats also stood with civil society sector but emphasized the “diplomatic and global” importance of Sarkozy’s visit for the country. Gubaz Sanikidze from the National Forum was skeptical about the real reason for Sarkozy's visit and recollected that France sold a Mistral amphibious assault warship to Russia which became a serious point of confrontation between Georgia and France in recent months. “Sarkozy has his own problems in France that’s why he needed to arrive in Georgia – that’s the modern policy,” Sanikidze said on October 7.

The civil protest was a symbolic rally but the organizers sent their special address to the French Embassy in Georgia confident that Sarkozy would personally familiarize himself with the statement.