President Saakashvili unveils Zhani Kalandadze auditorium at the Technical University

Good evening. I am very pleased to see you all here. It is a great honour for me to unveil the Zhani Kalandadze auditorium at the Georgian Technical University this evening.

Zhani Kalandadze was governor of Guria [who was killed in a road accident in May]. He was one of the most brilliant representatives of Georgia's new generation. Just as Zurab Zhvania [late Georgian prime minister] in the past opened the way for many politicians, including myself, into Georgian politics, I am proud that I created an opportunity for Zhani and many of his friends - we created this opportunity and we are still creating such opportunities every day because these doors are open to everyone - to realize their potential.

Zhani was a symbol of what a new Georgia's real statesman should look like. He was a determined, decent person. Zhani was a part of the generation distinguished with his patriotism and idealism. Besides saying that Zhani was a brilliant MP I can also remember some other things as well.

Before he died I quite by chance found out that Zhani was giving the salary he received in the Parliament to the children's asylum in Ortachala thus taking care of these children resulting in his family being more or less hard up. With the death of Zhani Kalandadze the children in the asylum lost a kind of father, older brother and a devoted friend.

I remember when I offered Zhani to become a governor of Guria, one of the members of the National Movement party told me that if Zhani remained the MP for two of three months he could receive the MP's monthly pension which is high enough to live on. I told him about it but the answer he gave was - I am not going to become a pensioner. Unfortunately it turned out to be so.

There are completely new people in the state apparatus.

You know about Misha Kutateladze, a respectable member of the armed forces who was injured in Iraq. When being in the hospital the US President George Bush was standing at his bedside talking about Georgia.

Misha's father Beso Kutateladze died during the events in Tskhinvali. Former Soviet soldiers murdered him unmercifully. He was a hero fighting for the independence of Georgia and whose son followed his path.

We have people like Misha Kutateladze who when being mutilated, having lost the limb and an eye is able to honorably and proudly highlight his own country to the superstate President.

I will never forget the public agitation when President Bush visited Georgia. Everybody was feeling nervous, especially me since I was the main host of the US President. The whole world was watching Georgia and it was the most important event for us. It was the very day when I learned about Zhani's death. At this time my wife was in the first few weeks of pregnancy and was feeling unwell. Of course this agitation moved me.

All these things were coupled with the fact that the sound equipment that the Americans brought with them failed to play the Georgian anthem. This was the most important moment since everybody was waiting what would happen. Right at this moment the whole square where about 150 thousand people was gathered started singing the Georgian anthem themselves. Then, I was finally convinced that our country has proved to become a State.

There have always been two kinds of mentality in Georgia. Political struggle is a normal phenomenon. When people quarrel or even swear at each other because of their political convictions, this is part of a normal democratic process. However, when people are ready to stoop to anything, even harm their own country, just because they do not like Saakashvili, [Education Minister Kakha] Lomaia or someone else, this smacks of something completely different. This is about us not having a tradition of statehood.

We know that we are facing a fierce battle. We are not going to go back on our promises. Since we said that we would fight corruption, we will fight to the death in order finally to defeat it. This fight will not cease even for a minute. Since we said that we would eradicate organized crime, we will eradicate it. The past few days have shown us that, despite several brilliant operations by Georgian police, organized crime in Georgia has deep roots. It has spread to all spheres of life without exception. It has sufficient power to influence public opinion. It has spread to politics. When I saw the politicians who took to the street to defend bandits, I was not surprised to see some of them, but there were several whose presence there shocked me personally. I could not believe it was possible.

I am saying this because we are not going to put up with this. Later this week I will be sending a bill to parliament. I am using the president's right to initiate legislation. It is a Georgian bill on the fight against organized crime that will punish criminals not only individually - all countries punish killers - but the way it is done in America, Italy and other countries that have faced similar problems. Membership of an organized crime gang will be punishable.

You know that that there are kingpins in some areas. Some young people who, unfortunately, are involved in this because of social problems look up to them as an example to follow. Anyone found guilty of being an area kingpin will go to prison. Crime bosses will automatically find themselves in prison, irrespective of whether or not they are personally involved in theft and extortion. We will starve organized crime of oxygen. We will adopt a law that our country needs. You want to be a so-called tough guy and member of an organized crime gang, you can do it, but only in a Georgian prison, not as a free person in any part of Georgia.

That is one initiative we will propose. Second, we must understand that there are very important issues we need to address. That is what we discussed today with the defence minister. Russian troops will soon withdraw from Georgia, so this is the other plan we have drawn up. You know that the population of Javakheti - in Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki - has always been wary of it [Russian troop withdrawal] because they are the military base's suppliers. This is their livelihood. Two thousand Russian military personnel buy Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki potatoes, milk, cheese and other produce, helping local people to make ends meet. Naturally, they always had fears that they could face problems once the Russian base went.

Today, together with the Georgian defence minister, we have decided that all 20,000 military personnel of the Georgian armed forces - catering standards in our army are now better than they are at this military base - will be fully supplied with agricultural produce by residents of Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda. We will buy this produce in Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki, so that none of our citizens of Armenian origin or any person living there has any concerns about the loss of income because the Georgian state is growing stronger in the area and foreign influence is weakening.

Naturally, there are many problems in Georgia. What I have mentioned are just some of our problems. Almost half of Georgia's population lives below the poverty line set in accordance with European standards. That is a catastrophic problem. You know that there are people who are still unable not only to go to university but even go to school. However, there are two ways of looking at things.

[George] Bernard Shaw used to say: There are people who see things and say, why? But there are also people who dream things and say, why not?

Zhani Kalandadze and all of us belong in the group of people who say, why not? You know that we have been answering this question all the time. When last year masked gunmen prevented the Georgian president from crossing the Choloki [river] and entering Ajaria, it all looked like an impossible dream. At the time, many politicians and political pundits who are active today were saying that it was impossible, that the situation was terrible, that there was no hope for the future and that it was impossible to solve this problem quickly. All attempts to solve it were described as deliberate acts of provocation and excesses of revolutionary zeal by the Georgian government. What Georgia witnessed in Batumi on 5 May when we arrived there on the first anniversary of the Ajarian revolution, when the whole of Batumi was celebrating in the streets, was indeed a dream come true.

Is it not a dream come true, for example, that at the end of this week in Batumi, in rooms where they for years discussed future plans for Georgia's disintegration, we will be holding a conference, together with our citizens of Ossetian origin, on a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Tskhinvali region? I promise you, as president of Georgia, that this conflict will also be resolved very quickly.

When all this was happening in Ajaria last year, people in the first group kept complaining, whereas we were saying, why not, everything would be fine. That is how it worked out in the end.

As you know even last year it was inconceivable that the public would ever love the police. It was inconceivable because some of the Georgian politicians have different mentality, thinking that the government is bad if it detains a person for taking a bribe and annihilates Pankisi criminals. The reason for thinking so is that this type of government is alien to such politicians. You were a tough guy if you could steal something from the occupant government.

This is a Georgian state and this money is stolen from the Georgian people. Last year being a policeman, shaking a hand with the policemen and showing up with the policemen in the districts was a big shame.

Now people love the police. Go out in the streets of Tbilisi and you will see in what relationship people are with the police force.

These days at this University and at many others entrance exams will be held.

You are the best part of our students and you know how difficult it was to enter the University because of the widespread corruption.

We said that everything can happen in Georgia in a right way and we would manage it.

One and a half year ago when I was the chairman of the City Council I was permanently saying that emergency service would be free in Georgia.

Then 80 per cent of the so-called pundits called us demagogues and populists but we said why don't we do it and we did. Now the emergency service is free in Georgia.

Hundreds of people thank us saying how good the new emergency service doctors are and how hard they work without taking extra money.

Georgia is currently facing energy problems. You know that all our power facilities were run down for many years. Yet, every family in Georgia needs electricity. Until recently, the majority of analysts thought this would be impossible. I say to you that this is possible. Why not? We need to work on it and we will achieve it.

Or, for example, last year people were saying that we should accept that Russian troops would not leave. They kept telling us that we should understand that such issues could not be decided in Georgia, that Georgian diplomats could not deal with them and that such issues were decided somewhere else, I don't know where. We said, why not, this would be decided in Georgia and we would stand together and achieve this. We have done it: an agreement has been signed and the process has begun.

Or take, for example, people who do not believe in their own country and say that reclaiming Abkhazia is impossible. I recently attended a conference in Monaco where I received a prestigious award. I can tell you, without any false modesty - you know that we, Georgians, are fond of saying that we are the best, which is good - that Bichvinta [Georgian name for Pitsunda, a sea resort in Abkhazia] and Gagra [in Abkhazia] as well as, by the way, Kvariati and Gonio [Ajarian sea resorts] are certainly nicer places [than Monaco], providing they are well looked after. When I said this to one or two of my compatriots who accompanied me there, they said, come on, Bichvinta and Gagra may well be better, but when will Bichvinta and Gagra be under Georgian control again? This is not possible.

Why not? Most definitely, yes. Most definitely, we will achieve this. I saw a roadside poster today saying that Abkhazia is causing us pain. Of course it is, but we should not just be writing that it is causing us pain. Forget about pain, let's take down these posters, get ready and get strong instead of constantly grieving over our pain and distress and the tragedy that has befallen us. All that could have befallen us has done so. It is now time to get back on our feet and improve.

I would particularly like to say this today: can Georgia ever be a developed European country? Together with Zhani Kalandadze and each of you, who are the best part of Georgian society and its best young representatives - I would like to say on Zhani's behalf and on your behalf, why not, it certainly will.

Thank you very much.

Major part of this translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading, UK

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia

Send link to the email
Captcha* Verification Code
2013 (30)
2012 (42)
2011 (49)
2010 (32)
2009 (26)
2008 (27)
2007 (31)
2006 (25)
2005 (32)
2004 (4)