State radiobroadcasting company “1st channel”
Interviewer Dodo Shonava
Dodo Shonava (DS): First argument against the bill On Expropriation and Return of Illegal Property, which the opponents name, is that the document is very “Bolshevik” style.
Mikheil Saakashvili (MS): Professor Otar Gamkrelidze, who has participated in creation of this document, replied very well to these arguments. He said that each Georgian citizen, who is being robbed daily by high-level governmental officials are under repressions. We demand use of force of the law against them and they call it repressions. People realize, that the law would concern only issue of personal prosperity of 100-150 governmental official and not the whole population of the country.
The bill allows the court only to try the cases of high-level officials, such as ministers, deputy ministers, police chiefs etc.
The opponents have one more argument. They believe that the bill would facilitate to tattling within the population. By the way, tattling is probably most effective political tool in Georgia. Everyone blurts out to President, Parliament, and State Chancellery. But appealing to the court is not the same. I know that there will be people who would do tattling, but I am also sure that there will be non-governmental organizations, which would do the right business.
Financial Times newspaper published an article in support to the bill. This is a newspaper that never had supported Bolshevism even in times of Lenin. The article clearly expressed support to us.
Real crusade has started against corruption. I was watching program “What People Think” on the First Channel. I never saw ‘people’ there. I saw very same governmental people with huge stomachs there. When you invite director of State Institute of Law Gia Khubua, who has participated in elaboration of the bill, but do not give him a word, letting Sulkhan Molashvili, graduator of Saratov Police School to talk about it. With all due respect to Mr. Molashvili, I would like to say that this is not quite right. They tried to make the program look like live talk show, but many words of parliamentarian Vano Merabishvili and Givi Targamadze (member of Anticorruption Council and Liberty Institute) have been definitely cut out. I doubt that they would fool people in such way any more. Same things happen in many newspapers as well.
DS: Our law enforcers often talk about arresting of illegal shipments of tobacco and other kinds of economic crime cases and call it a fight against corruption. What do you think, how this fight is being fought in Georgia?
MS: First of all I’d say that nobody is fighting against economic crime or corruption in Georgia. Lado Chanturia (Chairman of the Supreme Court) has said that there were mere 3 bribery cases in the courts and none of the bribes were more that 100-150 Laris. There is a system of racketeering. For instance, in women colony there are being detained only those drug smuggler women, who have been trading drugs without police’s ‘permission’. This means, that when woman starts trading drugs together with sunflower seeds on the streets and she is foolish enough to not take ‘license’ from the police, she would be brought to the jail. Such people are being captured, but drugs are being distributed freely throughout the country. I know who is supplying penitential institutions with drugs, but it is hard to prove their guilt. When you need to prove someone’s guilt, you have to submit evidences to certain authorities, but actually these authorities are to be captured.
They say ‘let the Police and Prosecutor General fight against corruption’ when they oppose the bill. In such case we suggest to establish an institute of independent prosecutor, who would not be subordinated to the Prosecutor General.
I would be happy if the oil pipeline would be given to businessmen. Businessman knows the ‘price’ of money and knows how to use the money. He or she would employ people, e.g. distribute the money and always wants competitive environment. Corrupted person does not know how to use the money and invests it to real estate, huge houses etc. Then, when he or she takes another bribe and does not know what to do with it again, decides to build saunas, golden plated bathrooms on each floor of the house. This is a demonstration of ‘feudal’ mentality and a person with such mentality is not fit to rebuild the country.
DS: Don’t you think, that President does not possess realistic information about how people live in the country, where he is a president for so many years already?
MS: I really think, that real information is not reaching the President, because there are people in his surrounding who has built their carriers on disinformation. Mostly these are people from law enforcing structures. The same people, who were attending plenary sessions of the Communist Party in the past, now are present at the Government’s Meetings. These people together are much richer then the rest of the population. And these people call me “Bolshevik”. There are people in the country, which can turn Georgia into a ‘successful’ state, but ‘governmental clans’ do not let them do it. While I was called “Bolshevik”, representative of the Council of Europe cam to Justice Ministry and gave me letter of support from the parliamentarians of 20 European States.
DS: Your opponents say that fight against the corruption is necessary. However they ask about the ways of confiscation of illegal property, its realization and return of the funds to the budget. Who can buy their huge houses in Georgia?
MS: We are not talking about the houses only. There is a point of social justice. Economic sectors that have been took over by these governmental officials for few nickels should be returned to the state. When there would be such a precedent, then others would be way too careful, e.g. people would keep much more wealth.
DS: I was really amazed, when during the Government’s Meeting President suggested you cooperation with those ministers, who have been named as “corrupted” by the Anticorruption Council.
MS: I was most amazed when he stated, that hi would not fire any of the ministers.
Georgia is gradually becoming an important point of drug transit. It is very easy to make a country an ideal point of drug transit if this country has weak border guard, does not control its whole territory, has a police which is very easy to bribe, there are local leaders with own clans and weak government. I am afraid that Georgia is on such way now. But we still can stop this from happening.
Many Opposition members say to us: “where were you before? Why were you silent?” I started talking about this in 1998 when became Chairman of Legal Committee of the Parliament, but do not quite remember that the Opposition had supported anticorruption campaign. The Opposition in Georgia is as unpopular as the Government is. This means, that people get farer from the politics, assuming that all politicians are corrupted, even though there are certain people who could save the country.
I had very interesting meetings in Zugdidi, Akhaltsikhe. In Akhaltsikhe, policemen in civilian clothing brought two boxes of eggs but could not throw even one to us. But “Akhali Taoba” (New Generation) newspaper, which is being controlled [from the centre] to certain extent, wrote that people were throwing eggs to Saakashvili. In Kakheti [they] called governors and instructed them to “collect eggs, Saakashvili is coming”. Nobody would believe in Georgia today that there is someone except the Government who could throw an egg. What kind of comment should one make on a government, which uses such way of proving its propriety. Some of the newspapers were made to write that Saakashvili would not be let into Zugdidi, but people greeted us with flowers in their hands there. No matter how much they hex TV, they are not able anymore to fool people. Citizens are not afraid of them anymore.
DS: Thank you very much.