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Temporary black-out of TV tower lights creates a stir among Tbilisi City Council

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 22
The Prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation regarding the sudden black-out of Tbilisi’s TV tower that stands high above the city in Mtatsminda. The Prosecutor’s office states that along with the tower’s decorative lights, the navigational beacon was also turned-off, which endangers the safety of overhead flights in the area. Within the aforesaid investigation, the director of the Tbilisi Municipal City of Lights Ltd., Nika Togonidze, was summoned for interrogation.

The Tbilisi Mayor’s office and members of the United National Movement claim that the navigation beacon is not controlled by the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office. Following the events, the Tbilisi City Council majority demanded the dismissal of the Tbilisi government and requested the appointment of a new staff.

The mayor’s office decided to switch-off the light on January 20 because of the City Council’s failure to pass a 2014 budget on December 29 of last year. A majority of the council did not support the draft, as according to them, the draft was obscure and did not provide detailed information on expenses. The council demanded that the mayor’s office present a draft with detailed financial information. The mayor’s office has since presented another draft that needs to be discussed. The mayor’s office claims that if the draft fails, Tbilisi residents will be left without various services due to a short-fall of funds. Deputy Head of the City Council Jaba Samushia responded to this statement saying that the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office has GEL 60 million for January 2014, and the money is enough to finance all the important projects until the current budget problem is solved. The lights on the TV tower were switched back on the same day.

“The Tbilisi Mayor’s office was planning a series of provocations and sabotage. The office made the decision to switch off the lights when the lights had no connection with the budget,” Council majority member Zaza Gabunia said.

Tamaz Shoshiashvili, a UNM member of the City Council, calls the majority’s statement “irresponsible.” According to him, the council has no right to demand the dissolution of a very effective government.

According to the statement made by Georgian Air Navigation, the switching off of the lights created problems anyway, as the tower and its lights are used during flights. According to them, flights were lengthened due to the tower’s black-out.

Acting Mayor Sevdia Ugrekhelidze and her deputy Irakli Abesadze appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office to summon her and not Togonidze for interrogation, as he just fulfilled the orders of the acting Mayor.

“I am sure that there was nothing illegal in my order…” Ugarekhelidze said, noting that there are no serious changes to the draft.

Abesadze stated that the navigation beacon is operated from a different line and is not controlled by the mayor’s office.