Dispatch | May 22-23: Rest/Wicked

Just as the discussion was launched about instituting yet another day off in Georgia, the netizens were quick to point out that the country has more holidays (17) than any other country in Europe. But as we well know, there is no rest for the wicked. Georgia is no exception. This is the Dispatch, with series of wicked and vile things which made headlines.

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FEMICIDE Yet another brutal conjugal murder – in broad daylight and in public transport – has shaken Tbilisi, and as sensationalist media rushed to cover the story – another attack was attempted. The CSOs that try to assist victims in such cases, say the sensationalist coverage only triggers copycat attacks. They also point out to the persistent patriarchal and machismo culture, in the context of long economic transition where women are the breadwinners and have been gaining more financial independence. What has been absent, is the clear official statements and awareness-building about such crimes, and the police awareness- and capacity-building efforts, which have started several years ago, have fallen short of targets. Could it be that pseudo-patriotism sells better than saving lives?!

BRUTALITY At least two cases of police brutality have come to fore in recent days. A man in a southern town of Marneuli committed suicide after being allegedly pressured by the police. The police inspection has launched an inquest. To show that the rotten apples are not only in provinces, one of the heads of the youth protest movement underwent a humiliating experience in one of Tbilisi police stations (Gldani-Nadzaladevi district), where he came to collect a fine notice. The cops reportedly picked up on him for wearing shorts (disrespectful, of course) and proceeded to verbal and physical abuse, including the threats of rape. His knowledge of the laws and regulations, and repeated referral to them apparently did not help. Once again, the inspection is inquiring, but one is led to believe that the administration which came into power on the wave of public outcry against abuses has done little to curb the rot.

BLAME-GAME The ruling party leaders continued to hedge against a potentially critical assessment of the Georgian candidacy request by the European Commission. They, obviously, blamed the opposition – a.k.a party of war, party of traitors – for touring the Brussels and badmouthing the parliament. A paper from respected CEPS, a Brussels think-tank, which argued against granting Georgia the candidacy triggered the government’s particular ire. PM Garibashvili said it was a mere “scribble” and – outlandishly, given that the paper is signed by two senior CEPS researchers and veteran Georgia-watchers – accused opposition politician Helen Khoshtaria of co-drafting it. “I was told this is so,” said Garibashvili – an iron-clad argument, you must agree (we have our little idea of whose word Mr. Garibashvili would be trusting against his own best judgement. Surely, you do too…) Chairman Kobakhidze’s riposte was sounding more realistic – he accused CEPS researcher from Georgia, Tina Akhvlediani of sabotage. Akhvlediani distanced herself both from the accusation, and from her colleagues’ position.

SECRECY All the while the ruling party keeps accusing the opposition as well as the Western powers and the U.S. in particular, of wishing to drag Georgia into war, it seems the military cooperation is proceeding apace. Apparently, the Chief of Defense Forces Maj-Gen. Giorgi Matiashvili also presented his long-term vision of the armed forces to the closed meeting of the Parliamentary defense and security committee. Georgians are visibly and understandably stressed by the brutal war in Ukraine, so perhaps, instead of the ruling party’s incessant scaremongering, the men- (and women-) in uniform could provide some professional reassurances? They have been conspicuous by their absence since Ukraine was invaded. Unfortunately, the much touted Strategic Communications departments are more often chasing the opposition on politically charged topics, than actually doing, ahem, strategic communication.

MONEY MOVING Not everything is grim: the chief economist of the leading TBC Bank says the balance-of-payments is improving faster than expected. How so, you may ask? You may find this little graph helpful:

Apparently, the money transfers have spiked, especially to those Russians who decided to flee to Georgia following their country’s “little military adventure”. Remains to be seen where these growing remittances would end up: savings, property investment, consumption, gambling?! Still, some are apparently worried that the GEL exchange rate against EUR and USD might appreciate at faster-than-healthy rate.

And talking of holidays – Georgia will be celebrating its Independence Day on May 26, and the Dispatch will also take its break, but we will be in your mailboxes on Friday, May 27. Until then, stay safe, and stay sane!