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Saakashvili Slams Former Allies-Turned-Foes
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 5 Jun.'09 / 22:04

President Saakashvili spoke on June 5 about some of his former close allies, who are now in the opposition, and said that he had distanced from them because they “betrayed” principle of “being in the service of the people.”

“It is often asked why so many allies defected from Saakashvili – there are not so many of them by the way,” he said while speaking in a live televised meeting with workers of tea factory in Martvili, a town in the region of Samegrelo.

He said that the unity of his government and his team were based not on personal loyalty and personal friendship, but on “several principles” like “being in service of the people, not of our own families”; hard-working; “not being afraid of any type of challenges” and on non-corruption.

“I have not changed my principles,” Saakashvili continued. “And we have said farewell to them who have betrayed our common principles and we’ll do the same in the future.”

When speaking about former PM Zurab Nogaideli, who now leads his opposition party Movement for Fair Georgia, Saakashvili said that he had earned “much money” while serving as the Prime Minister.

“There was one Georgian Prime Minister – Zurab Nogaideli,” Saakashvili said. “When I decided to sack Zurab Nogaideli, I did it because at that moment I had some doubts about his efficiency and honesty. It was my mistake that I failed to notice it earlier; but it is difficult when a person comes and looks into your eyes and says that this is so, it is difficult to recheck him constantly, especially when he holds such a high-level position. Of course, it was my mistake. But when I discovered that there were some problems I dismissed him.”

“Unfortunately, he [Nogaideli] has much money today,” Saakashvili said.

“Unfortunately, I want to admit that this money has probably been earned including during my presidency. Unfortunately, while we all were trying to develop our country, it was just a secondary interest for someone, and the primary interest for someone was to put their hands in your pockets and to obtain wealth in order to then finance political parties and to blackmail us.”

He also said that being in the opposition would not be immunity for former government members if their wrongdoings were revealed.

“I want him [referring to Nogaideli] and also others to know – nobody should hope and no one should have an illusion that the Georgian state will step back if it is revealed – if the law reveals, I am not neither prosecutor nor policeman - that they have snatched something while being in the government in the past, just because they call themselves the opposition,” Saakashvili said.

He then said that one of the former ministers – whom he did not specify with name, but said that he “was my close friend” – immediately resigned from the post as soon as “noticed that we knew” about his involvement in the corruption. “He thought that he would have been untouchable in case of going into the opposition,” he said, apparently referring to ex-defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, who established his opposition party in September, 2007 - about a year after quitting the government and two days before he was arrested. Okruashvili is now in France, where he has been granted with political asylum.

Then he spoke about Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker and leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia opposition party. Burjanadze quitted the ruling party a month before the May 21 parliamentary elections citing disagreement over the list of MP candidates.

“At that time she had enough conscience to acknowledge that we failed to agree about the list,” Saakashvili said.

He said that before the last year’s parliamentary elections, Burjanadze approached him and presented with the list of her allies she wanted to be included in the ruling party’s list of MP candidates.

“[The list] included mainly unfamiliar faces for the public, linked with [Burjanadze] through family and friendship. That is not the principle on which people should be selected. Not a single relative of mine works on any serious position in Georgia,” Saakashvili said and added that one of those pushed by Burjanadze was Shalva Ogbaidze, who briefly held post of head of traffic police after the Rose Revolution. Saakashvili said that he could not have accepted that person in the list, because, as he put it, Ogbaidze was against of reforming traffic police.

“That disagreement was not about the names, it was about the principles – on what principle do we compose the Georgian [Parliament]? Based on clannish, family and corrupt principles, or based on the principles of the Georgian interests?” Saakashvili continued. “We remained committed to our principles – only based on the Georgian interests… Of course I have created a problem for myself by doing that; of course now it is life-and-death struggle for them, because they think that they have been deprived of privileges unfairly. But I believe that there is only one privilege – to be in service of your people, instead of being in service of clan and corrupt interests.”

Saakashvili also spoke about the opposition in general and said that it was not a surprise that he, after five years in office had the opposition. “Of course the opposition is a normal part of any democracy,” he said.

While speaking about the opposition, he mentioned a short video, which has been regularly aired by the Tbilisi-based Maestro TV recently. It features photos of men with presenter announcing their names; then the presenter asks ‘do you know who they are?’ and then he replies – Members of Parliament from the ruling party. A reference is made that those mentioned in the video, who although are lawmakers, are not familiar faces for the public.

“A video is being aired on one of the Tbilisi’s television stations with a demand to dissolve the sitting parliament and to re-elect the new one; so that amounts to saying that the sitting parliament means nothing, that [voters] made efforts in vain last year by standing in queue [at the polling stations]… just because some persons, who have been elected in the parliament, simply tore their MP credentials [a reference to a group of eleven opposition politicians, who refused to take a seat in the parliament because of protest against what they called rigged elections of May 21, 2008],” Saakashvili said.

He then said that MP Nauli Janashia of the ruling party, elected from the Martvili single-mandate constituency was also featuring in the video. “You, locals from Martvili, tell that one group of politicians, who are now nested in Tbilisi, on the Rustaveli Avenue, who is Nauli Janashia… who promised to create jobs here and he did create 2,000 jobs in his district,” Saakashvili said. “No one should divide lawmakers into first and second rate MPs, because I do not think that Eka Beselia [from the opposition Movement for United Georgia party] has done even one hundredth of what Nauli Janashia did.”

Saakashvili also said that Tarial Oniani, Bondo Shalikiani and Alexander Ebralidze were financing “disorders” in Georgia. “We know that for sure,” he added.

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