December 21-29, 2002
It is an illusion; all of it - corrupt officials, economic difficulties and uncertain future. A hidden truth was revealed in the words of Mr. David Kobahidze, chief transport policemen, who responded with a resolute "NO" and a bit more resolute "IMPOSSIBLE" to the following questions: a) "Are traffic policemen extorting bribes from the drivers?" b) "Are traffic policemen extorting illegal fees from the mini-bus drivers?" c) "Are traffic police posts a source of corruption?" d) "Can one buy the driving license?" when speaking to the "24 Hours" daily on December 24. Yes, I hoped too that these were the Christmas-eve resolutions. On the other hand, the wise book says "You Shalt Not Lie" but they do not seem to be reading it in a police academy. And not only there. The last week of 2002 was full by the truth barely concealed.
OK, a bit of a guessing game here: "we need stricter laws; strictness of the laws is not felt." So, who is the author? No, no, not one of the Roman patricians, although the quote can be from the Ben Hur epic, easily. Neither that familiar face with a moustache and a cordial smile on a black-and-white photo... Right, it was Shevardnadze, Eduard Ambrosievich, President of Georgia, recalling his police-general ego when speaking about the crime and security on December 21. Present top-brass of the police and security claimed their subjects (including above-noted Mr. Kobahidze) "are fighting bare-handedly the criminals armed to their teeth and nobody even thanks them."
It is indeed sad, when heroic contributions go unrecognized. At the same time, Mr. Giga Gelashvili, one of those criminals "armed to their teeth" a suspect in a terrorist attack on Shevardnadze, who was pardoned by Mr. Shevardnadze, apparently to correct for the "insufficiently strict" laws, was appointed to guard the Borjomi section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. Yes, to apparently protect it from the fellow terrorists. Speaker of the Parliament Mrs. Nino Burjanadze said she felt the appointment was "strange." Bingo, Mrs. Speaker, it indeed is. But there could be a hidden logic there, because a competition has been announced.
So, in a heroic match-up of the coming decade we are here to introduce Mr. Giga Gelashvili, member of "Mkhedrioni", once charged with an attempted regicide (on Mr. Shevardnadze), pardoned, VS. Mr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri , member of the "Muslim Brothers" and "Al Jihaad", charged with a successful assassination of Egypt's Sadat in 1981, author of successful murder of Egypt's Interior Minister, Assistant to the Terrorist No. 1 Mr. Bin-Laden in all of his latest "heroic" deeds. Mr. Zawahiri threatened all US partners and interests, including Georgia, with the new acts of terror, Mr. Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation reported last week.
Terrorism was en vogue last week, as it was during the most of 2002. Russia failed to put its teeth into three more Chechens, charged with terrorism there, as the Georgian Supreme Court decided to return their extradition case to the district court. Russia did not like it. Indeed, President Shevardnadze has promised, several times, to extradite all of them. No, he did not mention that the courts decide, and Russia, indeed, did not think it would be an obstacle. We share so many sentiments with our brethren to the North, it is indeed heartwarming sometimes.
But Russia has kept the word and extradited two "Zviadists" charged with a failed attack on Shevardnadze. Sure we need them, the BTC route is long and there still are some open vacancies.
While pondering over the strange relationship between the law and anti-terrorism this week, we came to face yet another question: how to distinguish the terrorism from anti-terrorism. Abkhaz de facto government has decided to make some "anti-criminal" effort in Gali district and, reportedly cleansed the area, arresting according to the Abkhaz sources 16 and to the Georgian ones 70 civilians. Head of the administration of Gali Mr. Kishmaria said some of these people can be deported, charged with "illegal crossing" of the Abkhaz-Georgian border.
The response of the deputy-chief of the Georgian administration, David Shengelia, officially known guerrilla, appointed by the Abkhaz-government-in-exile is unknown. He may have had some of his stock to take care of, as Georgia's Security Minister openly accused him of smuggling .
Other things in Abkhazia also seemed peachy, as Russia has opened its railway communication with a breakaway republic. Georgia is left without a serious bargaining chip and is confused to the extent that nobody was found by Civil Georgia to comment on the issue from the Government. Special Affairs Minister Mr. Kakabadze said, it is not his business; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not there to comment. Nice going, guys.
Otherwise Georgian politics were rocked and rolled by Zhvania's 115. Very similar to "Catch-22", Zhvania's 115 is a unique tool to confuse just about anybody and leave them speechless. Bravo to the public relations team of the United Democrats.
For those who can not understand the code-language of the Georgian politics: Zurab Zhvania of United Democrats proposed to increase the minimal salary to the level of the subsistence minimum - 115 Laris (something like 60 USD). He did it just before the review of the budget, and claimed it is possible, basing their arguments on the calculus of the Finance Ministry. The Finance Ministry was shy to say they were kidding when promised to increase next year's revenues by 210,5 million Laris.
As a result, Mr. Zhvania is in black, with his popularity sky-high on the leftist scales and his face all over the place in the media; Mr. Saakashvili of the Nationalists and Mr. Natelashvili of the Labor are in red, losing grips at their usual role of the people's tribune. Mr. Jorbenadze is red himself of rage as the budget fails to be approved on a special Parliamentary session.
Do not panic there, Jorbenadze and his government have yet another try two weeks later. If they fail, then we would have a new government, or no parliament. Lots of fun for the coming Spring. Approach of the Georgian MPs is best summed up by the remark of Mr. Jemal Gogitidze of the Revival Union, which would put Miln's Eeyore to a shame. Gogitidze said: "let us not approve the 2003 budget and see what happens." Indeed, "let us fire the fuse and see what happens," with this approach to the country affairs, the government of Georgia wishes you a Happy New Year.