The Dispatch

The Dispatch – May 31/June 1: Water Guns

Ex-PM Prefers bygones to be bygones – The Games We Play: MPs Toying with Water Guns and Children’s Rights – – Rioni Valley Still Tense – Police Day is (not) for the Faint-Hearted

Georgia went through a long weekend, with ex-PM presenting his new party, and the largest opposition party announcing ending the boycott. On Monday, the country marked the Professional Day of Policemen, bringing to light diverse issues involving law enforcers. Here is Nini, your operator, with usual updates from Georgia.

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NOBODY’S ENEMY On Monday, ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia inaugurated his new party “United for Georgia.” Dodging the questions on whether he is “Ivanishvili’s project” Gakharia positioned himself as someone who does not wish to unite Georgians against anyone, but sees himself as an alternative force in the exhausting political polarization. Read more.

SHOCKED, SHOCKED! On Monday Gakharia sat down with the leading TV anchors only to discover that the pro-governmental TV anchors – who not so long ago were so merrily singing hosanna to their charismatic PM – were absent. Possibly as a tribute to another charismatic police chief, Louis from Casablanca, who famously remarked “I am shocked, shocked that gambling is going on here!” while pocketing a pile of cash won in roulette, Gakharia said TV Imedi was “politically motivated and managed” by the Georgian Dream.

EVADING MANEUVERS Gakharia ducked and dodged all the pressing questions (not that the journalists were too pressing): he took the responsibility for June 20-21, 2019 but said he did not give the order – but there was none to give, anyway. He said he “won’t speak neither bad nor good things” about Ivanishvili; he said the Anaklia deep sea port project was not undone by the government, but by “bad quality investors”; he said corruption is an obvious problem, the governance is doing badly, and “informal leadership” is a generalized problem, but avoided explaining what he – as ex-PM – did about it. But he promised to end polarization, bring about competent civil servants, and generally set things right.

DEAL-BREAKERS, NOT DEAL-MAKERS On Sunday, the United National Movement, Georgia’s largest opposition party, announced it would end the boycott and enter the Parliament, not give the “oligarch” Bidzina Ivanishvili the pleasure of having his biggest opponents outside the chambers. But UNM refused to sign the EU-brokered April 19 deal, citing the controversial amnesty clause the party disagrees with. The move angered the West, and, as expected, brought much sarcasm from the ruling Georgian Dream party. But that was, possibly, the only way to keep the party’s radicalized fringe on board, after the party leaders spending much effort on whipping rage against those who entered the Parliament before them… Read more.

TOY BOYS Of all political reactions, however, one particularly stood out: the three MPs from the right-libertarian New Political Center – Girchi party were playing around with water toy guns in the Parliament halls today, spraying UNM MPs… Well, those of us who remember cannons on Rustaveli would perhaps take this particular instance of history replaying itself as a farce with a wry smile. But Girchi has some cringe-worthy antics over the past few days. MP Vakhtang Megrelishvili, probably the most scandalously aloof of the three, suggested during his appearance at one of the talk shows on Formula TV that there is no such thing as children’s rights… He claimed instead, that there are only parents’ rights – including the right to corporate punishment – citing relativist didactic practices and recalling his own childhood trauma when his grandfather used to chase him with lashes. But he turned out fine, you see?!

FAIR COMPENSATION MP Megrelishvil’s remarks attracted some well-deserved wrath from the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, which called for the review of his comments under the MP’s Ethics Code.  Still, even such outlandish remarks are mild coming from a party that split over the question of whether the right to consume pedophilic pornography should be protected (make no mistake, MP Megrelishvili thinks they should be). After all, who needs a happy childhood, when one can play with water guns as an adult. Right?!

BANG BANG (HE SHOT ME DOWN?) For days now, Rioni valley protesters have been banging their hands against the metal wall erected in Gumati by the police. After four days of noise in Tbilisi, the activists protesting the construction of the Namakhvani HPP project are back to the territory around Gumati HPP, 10 minutes drive from Kutaisi. Protesters had to move there after police dismantled their tents near the HPP construction site in the Namakhvani village and blocked the highway in Gumati, located kilometers away, leading to weeks-long harsh restrictions on the freedom of movement for locals. Locals have also blocked other passages to prevent the construction company to access the site. Amid growing discontent, police regularly detain activists and have even opened an investigation into “damaging” the fence. The police images of forensic officers seriously marking the dents in the metal wall went around as senseless memes. Rioni Valley activists now suspect that police pickup trucks frequently driving around help the construction company ferry in the workers and deliver necessary fuel to the heavy machines on the site. As tensions rise, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said he does not rule out the use of water cannons and tear gas, should things escalate.

WATER SHORTAGE Neither water guns, nor water cannons were available where it was most necessary – despite large-scale police presence. The Ministry of Interior marked Professional Day of Police Officers on May 31. Celebrations did not go as planned: at least three law enforcers, dressed in warm ceremonial clothes and with obligatory facemasks, felt faint in the summer afternoon heat. They were helped out of the scene as Georgian leaders attending the ceremony watched in astonishment. Policemen, too, are workers, after all, with labor health issues common to so many professions in Georgia. Will we see them banging at the wall soon?! Solidarity comes around.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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