Ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili has criticized Republican Party, a member of the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition, for, as he put it, “supporting” ex-defense minister and former GD coalition partner Irakli Alasania, and for what appears to be for voting in favor of a parliamentary probe into Sakdrisi gold mine.
In a lengthy interview, published by the Kviris Palitra weekly newspaper on February 16, he mentioned only briefly the Republican Party and said: “Republicans, who support Alasania without hiding it, are setting up commissions on artificially stirred up issues.”
Ivanishvili was apparently referring to Parliament’s decision when in late December it voted in favor of setting up of an investigative commission to look into circumstances surrounding issuing of a permit to a gold and copper mining company, RMG, allowing it to carry out mining activities at Sakdrisi, which some archeologists believe is the world’s oldest gold mine.
The decision in favor of parliamentary probe was endorsed with 58 votes to 14. Unlike many of their colleagues from GD ruling coalition, Republican Party lawmakers voted in favor together with opposition MPs from UNM and Free Democrats parties.
While 58 votes were enough to endorse the parliamentary probe in principle, composition of the actual commission needs a separate vote and higher threshold of support – at least 76 MPs of 150-seat Parliament. It means that although it was decided to launch parliamentary probe, those GD lawmakers who are against can still block the process by not voting in favor of composition of the group.
After a meeting of MPs from Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG), the largest faction in the Parliament, late on February 16, GDDG MP Nukri Kantaria said that many of the lawmakers from the faction would not support endorsing of commission members.
In the newspaper interview Ivanishvili also criticized Alasania, whose Free Democrats party quit GD ruling coalition in November, and said that the ex-defense minister’s rhetoric is similar to the one of the formerly ruling UNM party. On UNM he again said that ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party “wants Georgia to burn in flames”, but they will fail to achieve this, adding that UNM “has no chance” to return back into power.
In the same newspaper interview Ivanishvili was asked about his remarks that his organization, 2030, will prepare an “interesting research” on head of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) Nino Lomjaria; head of the Transparency International Georgia Eka Gigauri, and former head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) Kakha Kozhoridze, who is now President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s human rights adviser. In a joint statement dozens of non-governmental organizations condemned these remarks by, as they put it, “informal ruler” as “threatening”.
“I said that we have questions in address of heads of several non-governmental organizations and look what a stir has been caused about it,” Ivanishvili responded. “I repeat that whether it is an expert, non-governmental organization or a politician – their positions will be verified to see whether they lie or not, how objective they are. If there is a suspicion that heads of some non-governmental organizations lie and are part of [United] National Movement’s agitation, we will ask questions. A head of a non-governmental organization of course has a right to be a member of the United National Movement and participate in agitation for the party, but let them say it publicly. If a head of any non-governmental organization is in lockstep with National Movement and Rustavi 2 TV’s lies, we will ask questions. Then it is up to them to respond or not. I named heads of three non-governmental organizations and we have nothing but appreciation for those who fund their organizations – be it Sida [Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency] or the U.S. government. But when questions arise that a position of head of a non-governmental organization does not coincide with the one of its donor and [he or she] is in lockstep with the United National Movement, let them respond or not respond and at least listen to the criticism… I said something about Gigauri and Kozhoridze and they [NGOs] referred it to the entire non-governmental sector – how dare I. I did dare and will dare in the future too. I will ask the same questions in address of politicians and parties as well.”