Today’s detention of United National Movement Chair Nika Melia in a police raid on the party’s headquarters stirred mixed assessments from the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition.
Below is a compilation of some of the remarks by the ruling party and the opposition politicians:
Ruling Party Reactions
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili: “Today we witnessed the fact that we are a law-abiding, strong state. We have strong police and a very effective Interior Minister. I want to publicly, honestly, thank Mr. Gomelauri [Interior Minister] and the entire police [force] for safeguarding our state’s dignity and stability. Nika Melia is a criminal; he was convicted in another case, … the Cartu Bank bankruptcy case. This second case, for which he was detained this morning by police … is connected to organizing a storm [on the Parliament building] … We are building a state governed by [upholding] the rule of law; all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation or taste, are obliged to obey the law. We will protect the right of all citizens to express their opinion, but with the understanding that it must fall within the framework of the Constitution and the law.”
Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze: “When you declare yourself an outlaw, when you say that a violent attack on the country’s legal order and constitutional institutions is normal, and you sell this as freedom of expression, the response in any democratic state is what happened in this case. This was the enforcement of a lawful court decision. The state was as compromising as possible within the boundaries of the law, and Nika Melia was offered bail. Otherwise, he knew in advance that he was going to face imprisonment. It is clear that he deliberately chose the most provocative approach. Today we saw that the law enforcement bodies fulfilled their duty without using excessive force. Nika Melia will appear before a fair trial and will have the opportunity to present his arguments there. The political responsibility, for what happened [today] and the preceding escalation, lies with Nika Melia’s teammates from the radical opposition. As the Parliament Speaker, I once again appeal to all opposition parties that claim to be a healthy political force – the next step towards de-escalating the process is to participate in the parliamentary activities.”
Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, Georgian Dream General Secretary: “Fortunately, nobody was harmed during the operation to detain [Melia], which is very important. Unfortunately, it must be noted that today showed us that even 100 years after the [Soviet] occupation, we still have not agreed on basic principles of the state. Unfortunately, we still have not embraced a respect for the law, which automatically leads to disrespect for each other and the state. …Dialogue and normal civilized relations do not have an alternative. Radicalism and radicalization must end in this country. The main task, the goal of our team is for [Georgia] to become a member of that large family called Europe, as fast as possible. It is incorrect [to think] that we have diverged from this path.”
Khatia Dekanoidze, United National Movement: “Today, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s regime and … Garibashvili decided to finally turn [the Government] into a Bolshevik regime, on the birthday of the Soviet Army. Today, the whole world saw that a storm was carried out on the main opposition power’s [headquarters] to arrest our party’s Chairperson Nika Melia. However, I want to promise everyone that [both] Nika and our homeland will be free very soon.
Davit Bakradze, European Georgia: “This government is not a threat to Nika Melia, to Dato Bakradze, to the opposition; this government is a threat to each citizen of this country. This is not [only] the opposition’s fight. Those who want our children to live in a normal country, regardless of [their] political views, must protect the value that Georgia shall not be a country that is talked about alongside Putin’s Russia and Lukashenko’s Belarus. Hundred of special forces’ members rushing into the opposition’s office – these are scenes we see from Putin’s Russia and Lukashenko’s Belarus. For this reason, Georgia shall be neither Putin’s Russia, nor Lukashenko’s Belarus. Georgia shall be a European democracy, and whether it will be or not depends on each person sitting in front of their TV screens right now.”
Mamuka Khazaradze, Lelo for Georgia: “I call on everyone, our country’s friends, foreign diplomats, the civil sector, that today like never; this not an emotional statement; this concerns the tomorrow of our country; There will either be democracy in this country, freedom for our children, or our country will become a Russian province. There are specific demands: Nika Melia must be released, the ‘political prisoners’ must be released, and snap elections must be called.”
Nino Burjanadze, United Georgia – Democratic Movement: “I could not have imagined such shortsightedness from this government, that they would celebrate today, February 23, by storming an opposition party’s office. Everyone must understand very clearly what happened today at the [UNM’s] office – where there was neither weaponry, nor armed people, nor a clash that threatened the country and [its] stability, and the special forces [still] came in by force. This is simply the establishment of a dictatorship. I cannot imagine the Georgian population complying with the dictatorship of Ivanishvili, Kobakhidze, and Garibashvili.