Speaking in front of 5,000-strong police force, parading in a central square of the town of Gori on May 6 to mark the Police Day, President Saakashvili praised powerful Minister for Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili, awarded him with one of the highest state orders, but also warned against over-praising him, saying that the interior minister still had a lot of “tests” to pass.
In his address, made after the police forces from various units under the Interior Ministry’s subordination ranging from patrol police and security forces to coast guard, as well as armored vehicles filled the main square of Gori, Saakashvili spoke about the country’s transformation since the Rose Revolution, police reform and turning Georgia into “a model” state for the entire region and beyond.
He said that as a result of reforms the Georgian police turned from “the hated” institution, which before the Rose Revolution was “perceived as the source of threat”, to the one which now enjoys with 90% of confidence rating in the public on a par with the Georgian Orthodox Church and the army.
“The Georgian police’s historic services before [the country] for recent years are countless, but the major thing that we have managed is to change mentality, attitude, perception and stance unimaginably [of] the society… which was regarded extremely criminalized and non-law-abiding,” he said.
“We have managed to create a modern statehood. This is the historic merit of current generation, which will live on for next ten centuries, like it has remained in our history that [Georgian King in 1089-1125] David the Builder managed to do the same ten centuries ago. Ten centuries before David the Builder and next ten centuries after David the Builder, Georgia has not seen a consolidated, modern state; we have all together managed to do that in a record, shortest period of time. That is the most amazing thing,” Saakashvili said.
He said that because of that Georgia had turned into an example for the peoples of North Caucasus. He said that people of the North Caucasus were “poisoned” by the Soviet and the Russian empire propaganda and they perceived Georgia as “an enemy.” “But now it has changed drastically and it of course causes a huge concern of the Georgia’s invader,” Saakashvili said.
“The Caucasus – both the South and [the North] – has found its guide, it has found its development model and we have created this,” he said. “Not only the Caucasus, but Ukrainians, Moldovans, Central Asian states and large part of the Russian society consider Georgia as a driving force of progressive reforms.”
He also said that not only for the Caucasus and the post-Soviet space, but for the Europe too Georgia had turned into an exemplary country and in this respect he cited Georgia’s low crime rate.
“If previously the EU was criticizing us sometimes in 2004, 2005 [saying] that some reforms were incomprehensible, now they held several seminars in Tbilisi, where representatives from the most developed European nations are coming to learn about our reforms; that’s the reality,” he said.
In a reference to allegations about the police being politicized, Saakashvili said: “Everyone should understand, that the police do not belong to any particular party and that this is not a personal guard for any president or a minister. It belongs to the people and our people know it very well and politicians should also realize it very well.”
“We should understand that this is the police of a democratic country; the police are neutral in respect of any political processes in the country and the police treat everyone equally; the police are disposed to protect the constitutional order and not separate politicians. But protecting of order also means that any attempt to turn this order upside down – like it has already been attempted in recent years – will be responded by the police and by the entire Georgian society; that’s yet another lesson that we’ve learnt in recent years,” he said.
In the end of his speech he praised Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and awarded him with St. George's Victory Order. This order is awarded for showing “heroism and courage in protection of the motherland and its unity”, as well as for a contribution “to building independent Georgian statehood”.
“I want to thank Interior Minister Ivane Merabishvili, who together with us has played a decisive role in forming the Georgian police as it is now. He has a long away ahead and we do not want to give him extra praise. There are many tests ahead of us and each of us has yet to prove that we deserve public respect, but it does not mean that we should not thank him [Merabishvili] for genuinely huge state service,” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili also said that Gori, town in central Georgia close to the breakaway South Ossetia, was a good venue for holding police parade “to spite the enemy.”
In his speech Saakashvili also mentioned 2004 events in Adjara, when then defiant leader of Adjara, Aslan Abashidze, was forced to resign on this day eight years ago. Saakashvili said that the May 6 “marks eighth anniversary of ouster of one of the most dangerous separatists in Georgia’s history, a local feudal, Aslan Abashidze from Adjara and return of Adjara back to Georgia’s constitutional space.”