President Saakashvili at a news conference in the presidential palace in Tbilisi, January 17. Photo: President’s press office.
President Saakashvili said on January 17 that he would initiate three bills in the Parliament one on tax amnesty and decriminalization of economic offenses; second one on tightening privacy protection laws and the third one on social benefits for military personnel.
Speaking at a news conference on January 17 in Tbilisi, President Saakashvili said that he wanted the new government to follow suit of his government when it came into power after the Rose Revolution and to also make tax amnesty. In addition, he said, the new government should decriminalize economic offenses.
“In the view of existing economic situation, I offer the government to declare complete amnesty for all the tax arrears,” Saakashvili said. “In parallel, [the government] should decriminalize economic offenses and not to apply prison terms for such [offenses].”
He said that such move would be important against the background of, as he said, slowed down economic growth and declining foreign direct investments.
Earlier this week secretary general of President Saakashvili’s UNM party, ex-PM Vano Merabishvili, said that the country was entering into “budgetary crisis”. The Finance Ministry dismissed allegation as “irresponsible and anti-state”.
“We need extraordinary measures in the existing situation in order to get investments back and to stimulate economic activity in Georgia,” said Saakashvili.
President Saakashvili said that he was also planning to initiate a bill that would tighten privacy protection laws, which, he said, should completely ban gathering of information about individuals’ private life and the law enforcement agencies will have to immediately destroy such materials if they obtain it.
Prosecutor’s Office said on January 14 that the previous leadership of the Military Police, which is under the Defense Ministry’s subordination, made dozens of secret video recordings of “publicly well-known” men having gay sex and used those videotapes to blackmail them.
Prosecutor’s office also released several of these recordings in which bodies of persons on the footages were blurred to conceal their identities; the recordings were aired by several television stations. Human rights groups, as well as Public Defender’s Office, have criticized the Prosecutor’s Office for releasing these videos, saying that although footage was blurred, this measure did not provide persons on the videos with “complete protection” from being identified.
Citing release of these footages by the Prosecutor’s Office, President Saakashvili said that tightening of privacy protection laws in order to prevent reoccurrence of such case was needed. He also said that there was a case after the new government came into power when a female assistant of one of the judges in Tbilisi was secretly filmed having sex with her boyfriend and then blackmailed to cooperate with the security services otherwise threatened to make the recording public.
Asked during the press conference about the allegation of Prosecutor’s Office that gay ‘honey trap’ was practiced when his government was in power, Saakashvili responded: “Can you recall at least one case” of making public videos containing private life of individuals?
“We were in government for [more than] eight years and can you recall at least one such case? You tell me at least one case and in that case I will accept this allegation,” Saakashvili said.
“When special services make such [videos] then it always appears somewhere [publicly] – you should know it well. It was strictly under my personal control in order not to make such things,” he added.
“If someone gathers such information then it is for dissemination, otherwise gathering [of such information] has no sense; that’s how it works,” Saakashvili said.
“Any kind of gathering [of such information about private life] is a crime and its distribution is also a crime,” he said. “There are some laws, which regulate this issue to certain extent, but I want to make it tighter now.”
Saakashvili also said that by releasing video recordings, the Prosecutor’s Office “broke record in being uncivilized and committed criminal act, which is completely immoral.”
“That’s exactly what Russian oligarchs and people grown up as Russian oligarchs learned in Russia of 90s. I have to say it directly – they are now doing in Georgia what they have learnt [in Russia],” Saakashvili said.
Social Benefits for Military
The third bill, President Saakashvili said he was planning to initiate in the Parliament, was about “social guarantees” of military personnel.
He said that the bill would envisage pension for the families of fallen soldiers in addition to existing one-time compensation.
Saakashvili also said that the bill would envisage “doubling of pensions” for military and in addition minimal pension for retired military should be twice as many as minimal pension for non-military retired citizens.
Saakashvili also said that those who in 1990s preferred to receive ordinary state pension instead of pensions for retired military because this latter was very low at the time, should have the right to again be registered as retired militaries to become eligible to increased military pensions.
On top of that, Saakashvili said, according to the proposal if a retired military starts working in any state institution after the retirement, he or she should still receive military pension.
President Saakashvili said that he would submit to the Parliament and government calculations about how much funds the proposal would require.
He also added that unlike previous years, the state now had financial resources to fund this proposal.
Saakashvili first announced about his intention to propose a bill about social benefits for military personnel while visiting Georgian troops in Afghanistan on the New Year Eve.
His announcement was made just few days after the Defense Ministry announced about pay raise for the Georgian soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania also said in his New Year address to soldiers that 2013 would become the year of improving conditions for families of fallen soldiers and veterans.