After facing for more than two hours questioning from the UNM parliamentary minority group on July 25, PM Irakli Garibashvili slammed opposition lawmakers as “unconstructive” and “unhealthy”.
“We have seen once again that there is no constructive opposition in the Parliament. We had to respond to absurd, unheard of groundless questions, because we response the Parliament and its members,” he told journalists after the hearing. “I think the people have seen once again how unconstructive and unhealthy force we are dealing with – the force made up of unhealthy people.”
Meeting of reshuffled cabinet members and the PM with the opposition lawmakers was part of confirmation hearings in the Parliament in Kutaisi on July 25, which also involved separate parliamentary committee hearings – procedures which will continue on July 26 with parliament session and a confidence vote later on the same day.
The meeting with UNM MPs was reminiscent of a hearing before the same lawmakers eight months ago ahead of Garibashvili’s confirmation as Prime Minister. Garibashvili was often fending off questions and allegations by denouncing them as “absurd” and part of UNM’s “demagogy”.
His opening remarks were criticized by the UNM lawmakers as “self-complacent”. “Listening to your report one may think you are speaking about some other country,” UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili told the PM.
Some of the questions were addressed to other cabinet members also present at the hearing, among them government’s youngest member Interior Minister Alexander Tchikaidze, whom the PM praised in his speech for achieving a “17% crime rate decline” and for the biggest ever drug hauls in Georgia.
29-year-old Tchikaidze was one of the most discussed on social networking sites in Georgia, inviting ridicule with his gaffes during the parliamentary hearings. When he wanted to say in response to opposition’s allegations about “deteriorated crime situation” that although the crime rate increased in early 2013, the situation was now under control, Tchikaidze instead said: “crime is in wonderful situation.”
When he was asked about allegations that the Georgian authorities assisted one of the Georgian “thieves-in-law”, a criminal authority, in leaving the country without arrest after being deported by Ukraine, Tchikaidze responded that it was “ruled out”; when pressed on the same issue, he said he had already responded it “comprehensively”; Tchikaidze also said that he was personally a “guarantor” that fight against “thieves-in-law” would continue. Responding to the same question PM Garibashvili said that 70 people were arrested in 2013 on charges of being members of “thieves’ underworld”, while only 10 arrests on the same charges were made in 2011. When UNM MP Givi Targamadze again raised the issue and accused the authorities of trying to keep order in prisons with the help of “thieves-in-law”, PM Garibashvili responded that such allegations are not even worth commenting on and added that MP Targamadze himself had and still has ties with “thieves-in-law”.
Asked why ministers with economic portfolios were retaining their posts while there was a slowdown in growth and shortfall in budgetary revenues in 2013, PM Garibashvili responded, after Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili laid out positive economic figures of recent months, that UNM’s allegations about economic woes was yet another “demagogic” rhetoric.
“Of course people do not believe this demagogy,” he said and added that last year’s economic slowdown was cause by political cohabitation and UNM’s “rhetoric”, which, he said, was affecting negatively on attracting foreign direct investments.
When UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili read out a long list of cases, which she said, were demonstrating existence of “selective justice” and “politicization” of law enforcement agencies, PM Garibashvili responded: “I want to remind you crimes committed when you were in government – tortured and raped inmates, destroyed economy and agriculture, lost territories.”
“This is the legacy we inherited from you,” Garibashvili said. “Your list is ludicrous and we are not going to respond on it. It is your method – requesting for our comment on absurd things; you won’t get it any more. So I advise you to discuss real things.”
Garibashvili left unanswered when MP Goga Khachidze asked him in response: “What is not real? Is it not real that this man [referring to UNM MP Nugzar Tsiklauri] was beaten?”
Asked about high bonuses received by senior officials, which UNM MP Levan Bezhashvili said was misspending of public funds, Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri responded that GEL 11.6 million less was spent on officials’ bonuses in 2013 compared to 2012, when UNM was in government.
UNM MP Bezhashvili said that bonuses for previous government officials were “morally” justifiable because there was no shortfall in budgetary revenues when UNM was in power.
Recalling MP Bezhashvili previous tenure as head of the state audit agency, PM Garibashvili told the UNM MP that he was turning a blind eye on misspending of public funds and not auditing properly state institutions when the UNM was in power.
“Do you believe that you really were chairman of the state audit agency?” PM Garibashvili asked sarcastically MP Bezhashvili.
“And do you really think that you are a prime minister?” MP Bezhashvili shot back with an obvious reference to allegations that ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili remains in charge of government from behind the scene.
“This meeting will become even more fruitless with your demagogy and speculation. We respect the Parliament and that’s why we speak to you in a way that this institution deserves and not in a way as you [referring to UNM] deserve it,” Garibashvili responded.