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Fund Withdraws Free Dental Service Project for Oni Kids, Citing Agents’ Law

On May 29, the Fair Trees Fund announced that it was withdrawing a project aimed at establishing a free dental clinic for children in the western Georgian town of Oni, citing the Foreign Agents Law. The news was met with public outcry and as an ominous sign of the Foreign Agents Law’s harmful impact on foreign aid and multitude of projects funded by Georgia’s international partners.

“This law creates serious challenges for our organization because it requires us to register as a carrier of foreign interests. Since the day of its foundation our organization has been implementing social and educational projects which are directed at [serving] the best interests of the population of Racha [a Georgian region where Oni is located]. Therefore, we do not think that our organization should be in the registry of the carriers of foreign interests,” the NGO explained in its letter to the Oni City Hall.

Fair Trees Fund adds that fines and financial challenges are expected, leaving no room for cooperation with state institutions. The NGO also says that it cannot take on additional financial responsibilities while even the active projects are at risk because of the law.

The Oni City Hall reacted to the NGO’s letter, saying it is a “lie and a cheap speculation.” The municipality authorities say that the only obligation of the NGO was to provide the professional service, and the refusal to do so “is nothing but a politically motivated decision.” The municipality pledges to carry out the project entirely on its own.

Meanwhile, on May 30 the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze blamed Lelo opposition party and one of its leaders Badri Japaridze for the fund’s decision, calling it “shameful.” He added that this fund is not an independent NGO, and its board is chaired by Badri Japaridze.

Meanwhile, the Fund itself denied the information about Japaridze’s chairmanship, which was spread by the pro-government TV channel Imedi. The fund referred to the list of board members on its website, where Japaridze cannot be found.

Badri Japaridze himself wrote that he headed the fund years ago, and after entering politics he had to end business relations with the fund. “This is the result of the Russian law that harms the citizens of our country. I want to tell you with certainty that with the elections on October 26, this Russian regime and this law will definitely change. The financing and development of all projects that serve the well-being of our fellow citizens will definitely continue,” Japaridze added.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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