A grab from video footage showing Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava leaving government’s meeting room after verbal exchange with PM Ivanishvili.
Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava got involved in a verbal exchange with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili when he turned up at a meeting of government, but was told he was there uninvited and was asked to leave.
Mayor Gigi Ugulava, who is President Saakashvili’s ally, arrived at the government building before the start of cabinet meeting on November 9, as he said, to raise the issue how to resolve a dispute between the capital city municipality and the government on who should fund number of social benefits for hundreds of thousands of Tbilisites – these are the programs, funding of which was originally an obligation of the mayor’s office but just six days before the new government was confirmed, the previous one transferred duties to fund these programs to the central government.
After Ugulava left the meeting of the government, he told journalists that what had happened was “beyond all limits”, adding that he was told that he was not even entitled to attend the government meeting. “We are gradually receiving a close-door government which does not care about people’s fate,” Ugulava said.
The government responded that the Tbilisi Mayor was not invited to attend the meeting, hence was not entitled to be there. Tbilisi Mayor’s Office called on the government to release a video of the meeting, recorded by government’s press office.
The government released the video and said Ugulava tried to stage the show with a purpose of scoring political points.
Five-minute video footage shows that before arrival of PM Ivanishvili at the cabinet meeting, government’s parliamentary secretary Shalva Tadumadze was trying in vain to convince Ugulava to leave a meeting room as he was not invited to participate in the meeting. Tadumadze was telling Ugulava that the law did not envisage mayor’s presence at a government session without having an invitation. Tadumadze was also telling him that the issue he wanted to raise was not in the agenda of the meeting at all.
After PM Ivanishvili arrived and took his seat he told Mayor Ugulava that the government would invite him at a meeting “when we deem it necessary.”
“Sorry?” the Mayor asked in a sense of asking PM to repeat what he has said; Ivanishvili repeated, but Ugulava again asked him to repeat. “When we decide to discuss this issue [of funding social programs], we will invite you if we deem it necessary,” Ivanishvili responded.
They then continued exchange with the Mayor saying that the issue of funding of social programs was “urgent” and PM telling Ugulava that he should not be “dictating” to the government what to discuss at its meeting.
“I wanted to hear whether the government is going to discuss this issue which concerns 600,000 people in Tbilisi; if the answer is no, then of course I am not going to stay here and if it plans to discuss it, then…” Ugulava said, but was interrupted by Ivanishvili who told him: “Gigi, you behave incorrectly.”
“It’s not a proper subordination,” the PM continued. “It’s not you who should be dictating here; it’s a government meeting; you are not a member of the government. It’s not up to you to determine agenda of government’s [meeting].”
“There was no such practice of not allowing local self-governance to attend government meeting even during Shevardnadze’s [presidency],” Ugulava responded.
“You are violating subordination, please leave [the room]; we will call you when needed,” Ivanishvili told the Mayor.
“There is no subordination whatsoever between the PM and local-self governance,” Ugulava told the PM.
“You were acting like this previously and getting away with it, but now we want to put everything in order and please comply with the rules,” Ivanishvili told Ugulava, who responded: “It’s very good that you are going establish order, but I want to ask you once again: is the government going to discuss this issue of [funding social programs]?”
“I have already responded you for three times on that question; how many more times should I repeat it? Or shall we continue our polemics throughout the entire government meeting?” Ivanishvili asked.
“Then please tell us when do you plan to discuss it?” Ugulava asked Ivanishvili, who again repeated to Ugulava for several times that the government would invite the Mayor when it decides to discuss the issue.
“No need to get nervous about it,” Ugulava told Ivanishvili.
“I told you for five times already,” Ivanishvili told him. “But you are kicking up a fuss here and staging demarche. I am telling you: you can’t dictate here; we will call you when needed.”
“OK, I see now; you are not going to discuss this issue, but say it without getting nervous,” Ugulava said and stood up, but before leaving the room he told Ivanishvili: “On the issue of subordination you should know that local self-governance is not subordinated to the central government. As I understood, unfortunately you are not going to discuss this issue [of social programs’ funding].”
“I will teach you too to get used to order in this country,” Ivanishvili told Ugulava.
“Preach those who need it; thanks a lot and goodbye; we could have done it without insults,” Ugulava said while leaving the room as Ivanishvili was telling him: “Accustom yourself to order”.
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