President Saakashvili has convened a session of the National Security Council (NSC) for the first time since Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition came into government in October, 2012.
“The President has decided to hold a session of the National Security Council [on June 5] at 4pm; let the PM and his team arrive to discuss number of very important issues,” Giga Bokeria, President Saakashvili’s national security adviser and secretary of NSC, said on June 4.
Announcement came after GD has publicly called on the President last month to convene the NSC session and after PM Ivanishvili said in an interview with Palitra TV on June 4 that NSC had not gathered for almost eight months already and criticized NSC staff and its secretary Giga Bokeria.
“What are they getting salaries for?.. What does the National Security Council do? Is visiting the United States for lobbying [efforts] the only [job] they do?” Ivanishvili said and suggested that a recent critical editorial in the Washington Post was a result of Bokeria’s lobbying efforts. He said that Bokeria’s recent visit to the U.S. “coincided” with the Washington Post’s editorial criticizing the Georgian PM over the arrest of secretary general of UNM party and former PM Vano Merabishvili.
Ivanishvili alleged that office of NSC was possibly misspending public funds. He said that GEL 16 million was spent by NSC from the state budget on lobbying efforts abroad only in 2012 and this spending was classified as secrete. “Now it is referred to the prosecution’s office and the investigation is ongoing,” Ivanishvili said and alleged that some payments were also made in cash. Ivanishvili said that this spending was done through the NSC and “of course questions exist in his [Bokeria’s] address… and he will have to answer to these questions both to the investigation, if the latter has any such questions, and to the society as well.”
Bokeria denied misspending allegations as “utterly absurd” and said that all the spending was legal and the prosecutor’s office was already studying all the documents related to lobbying contracts. He said it was “dangerous” for the country when its PM “is openly preaching use of criminal proceedings against political opponents when he gets irritated.”
“We are facing a profound problem of PM’s complete intolerance of existence of opponents; he often says that he likes opponents, but they should speak the truth, or what he thinks is true – this is the most dangerous, even a psychological problem,” Bokeria said in an interview with the Rustavi 2 TV on June 4.
Bokeria said that the NSC session was not convened for months because there was no readiness from the PM to participate in it. But Ivanishvili said that convening of NSC session was discretion of the President and he should have acted without “waiting for my instructions”. NSC “is not under my subordination,” he said.
Apart of the President and NSC secretary, permanent members of the council are PM, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister and Finance Minister; parliament speaker also participates in the meetings. Bokeria said that State Minister for Reintegration, Paata Zakareishvili, was also invited to participate in the NSC session as one of the issue planned to be discussed would be the so called ‘borderisation’ process ongoing across the South Ossetian administrative boundary line.
PM Ivanishvili has yet to announce whether he will be attending or not the session on June 5.
Defense Minister Irakli Alasania and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze are paying visits to Brussels and the U.S., respectively. Panjikidze welcomed that NSC session was convened, but expressed regret that she would not be able to participate and offered to reschedule it for Monday.