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Row over SSPS Reemerges Between Govt, President
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Feb.'13 / 21:42

Row between government and the President over the Special State Protection Service (SSPS), which seemed settled in January after both Georgian Dream and UNM supported the bill on setting up separate presidential security service, reemerged again on February 26 after President Saakashvili announced about “saying no to the use of protection service.”

Under the January legislative amendments the Special State Protection Service (SSPS), which is in charge of providing security to high-ranking officials, as well as security of various state facilities and buildings, was transferred from President’s subordination to the government. But in exchange, Georgian Dream (GD) agreed on setting up of a separate, new security service specifically for the incumbent president and his family members under the direct subordination of President Saakashvili. 

The new law, which went into effect on January 28, envisaged setting up of a special commission made up of representatives from government and president’s office, as well as GD and UNM lawmakers, for the purpose of reorganizing the SSPS in line with new law. According to the law, based on a decision of this special commission, the government should submit to Parliament amendment to the 2013 state budget for the purpose of funding the presidential security service. Before setting up of a presidential security service, SSPS remains in charge of providing security measures for the President, according to the law.

According to President’s spokesperson, Manana Manjgaladze, it was not possible to achieve an agreement on funding of the presidential security service.

“After the law was passed [by the Parliament], they [referring to the government] started horse-trading on what amount of resources should this [new] agency receive,” Manjgaladze said, claiming that “in exchange of the security service” for the President, the government was “demanding” UNM’s support for the GD-proposed constitutional amendment on presidential powers.

She said that linking constitutional issues to presidential security was completely unacceptable and for that reason the President was “completely” giving up use of the security guard.

“Special measures for protection of the President are no longer being implemented starting from this morning,” President’s spokesperson said.

The announcement came after PM Bidzina Ivanishvili appointed his chief bodyguard Anzor Chubinidze as new head of SSPS; Chubinidze replaced Temur Janashia, who was President Saakashvili’s chief bodyguard and then served as head of President’s administration before becoming head of SSPS in 2010. The announcement by President’s spokesperson also came several hours after in an open letter PM Ivanishvili called on President Saakashvili to give his “clear-cut” response on GD-proposed constitutional amendment on presidential powers in next two or three days.

Government’s spokesperson responded that President had a personal security service of 350 personnel with GEL 7 million funding and it was unclear what the President was refusing to use.

Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary speaker, who was involved in failed talks with UNM on constitutional and other issues, has strongly denied President’s claims about GD linking presidential security service with the issue of constitutional amendment. He said that the issue presidential security service was part of negotiations on replacing number of Georgian ambassadors abroad.

He also said that a new presidential security service had staff of 350-400 with GEL 7 million funding for next seven or eight months remaining before the expiration of Saakashvili’s presidential term. Usupashvili also said that announcement by the President that he was not going to use security guard was “supper irresponsible.”

GD MP Irine Imerlishvili, who was one of the members of the commission, which was established to arrange separate of presidential security service from SSPS, says that the government was offering to staff the presidential security service with 350 personnel with the funding of GEL 7 million for the period of Saakashvili’s remaining presidential term till elections in October, 2013. MP Imerlishvili told Imedi TV that the president’s representatives in the commission were saying that this amount of money was not enough.

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