Friday, September 26, 2008

Ombudsman Speaks Out

From (not translated by me):

Ombudsman Speaks Out
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Sep.'08 / 12:10

Georgia is not "ruled correctly" and it is necessary to replace the existing "authoritarianism" with real democracy in order to save the country, Georgian Public Defender Sozar Subari said in a statement issued on September 25.

"We reiterate our readiness for cooperation and open dialogue in order to change the existing authoritarian system with democratic governance, as well as to establish the rule of law in the country," Subari said. "To achieve this, we should employ all forms of peaceful protest to persuade the government."

The public defender also speaks about the August events and the human rights situation.

"Despite the president's promise to dedicate his presidency to the re-unification of Georgia, now the Ksani Gorge – now known as Akhalgori district – the Kodori Gorge, Didi and Patara Liakhvi Gorges and Prone Gorge have been added to the list of lost territories," the statement reads.

Subari blamed authoritarian governance for this development.

"New disasters are to be expected in the event of a continuation of authoritarianism," the public defender said. "The Russian model of authoritarian governance in Georgia, which envisages a unilateral and forceful settlement of problems inside and outside the country, is a fifth column responsible for Georgia's failure."

“The government that is locked within it, which listens only to itself and respects only its own judgment, has lost the capacity for proper decision-making; Russia took advantage of this and has executed its long plotted perfidious plan of conquering our territories. Our country and its people have fallen prey to these processes,” the statement reads.

It also said that the authorities, who lost the August war, are only thinking about the PR side of things.

“Even if there had been the smallest ground for optimism for the government - as if human casualties, loss of more territories, burned villages and a new wave of IDPs counted as a victory for the authorities - accelerating the process of unifiying the country and its prosperity, wisdom and common sense require that shouts of “we won”, concerts and celebrations should be postponed until at least even the contours of this victory are visible,” the public defender said.

He said that under current conditions the only way out is “to face the truth“ and to analyze what has happened in reality.

“Intolerance of different opinions, a tunnel vision, the side-lining of the law and permanent complacency have become the rule of life of the current system of governance. The culture of listening to different opinions, discussions, disputes and dialogue has been lost even among the authorities themselves,” Subari said. “The authorities are not interested in understanding what people think about them; they want that people constantly listen to their speeches about what the authorities think about themselves.”

“Georgia is not the property of the government; it belongs to each citizen,” he said. “At this time, silence and inactivity is equal to a crime.”

“Root” Democratic Reforms

The public defender said that under current conditions the only way out of the situation was to carry out “root [and branch]” democratic reforms, instead of making “pseudo-democratic” changes. Subari also said that a new wave of democratic reforms announced by President Saakashvili aims “at painting facades.”

He stressed that the democratic freedoms and human rights situation had worsened in the country; there are no courts, different opinions are persecuted, no fair elections are held, property rights are violated, so-called “elite corruption” is in place; no freedom of assembly or freedom to demonstrate is provided for; TV stations are completely controlled by the authorities; “all power is concentrated in the hands of the president and several leaders;” intimidation of citizens has become a lever in the hands of the authorities.

“It is especially cynical that all this happens under the banner and on behalf of democracy,” he said.

Subari also said that the authorities had “silence[d] the information space” and replaced it with “propaganda.”

“As a result, instead of receiving actual information, from dawn to dusk we are doomed to listen to the propaganda that “Misha is cool”, everything is fine, that we won and that Georgia will soon blossom,” he said.

In order to achieve “irreversible democracy," the public defender urged the authorities:

• To immediately stop persecution of people with different opinions;
• To set up fair and independent courts;
• To establish the rule of law;
• To provide freedom of speech and expression; to abolish state control over TV stations; to prevent state interference in media activities;
• To develop a fair elections code; to create the environment necessary for holding free and fair elections;
• To create a free and competitive political environment;
• To de-politicize law enforcement agencies and the Prosecutor’s Office;
• To provide checks and balances between various governmental branches; to distribute presidential power;
• To grant real functions to local self-governance bodies;
• To introduce the principle of government responsibility and accountability to society; freedom and accessibility of public information for each citizen;
• To ensure the inviolability of property rights;
• To create a stable, free, competitive business environment;
• To ensure freedom of assembly and association, and the right to protest;

Simultaneously, in a message to friendly countries and international community, the Georgian public defender noted that “Georgian people do not deserve an authoritarian regime… Georgia is ready for democracy.”

“Help us in [developing] democracy! Help us in persuading the authorities that declarations of the attributes and principles of democracy only on paper, while [at the same time] establishing an authoritarian system in reality, will lead the country towards catastrophe,” Subari said.

[See the Opposition reaction here]