Founders of GRASS respond to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s derogatory remarks

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Photo: mfa.gov.ge

In a joint statement, co-founders of the non-governmental organization, Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS), Sergi Kapanadze and Helen Khoshtaria, have responded to derogatory statements made by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili in his exclusive interview to the Georgian Public Broadcaster aired on 14 October.

The statement released by GRASS on 15 October reads:

"Yesterday, on October 14, 2013 Georgia's Prime Minister appeared on Public broadcaster and engaged in yet another series of derogatory remarks regarding our personalities. We still do not intend to engage in an exchange of words with the PM in a "rhetoric style" that characterizes his interventions, however we are willing to accentuate few important issues, that we believe are need to be addressed.

"The issues, on which we comment critically, or issue our recommendations, whether they concern economy, or relations with Russia, are among those topics that are widely discussed and debated in the country. Our questions regarding the economic situation in Georgia derive from the assessments of international financial organizations, influential publishing houses and official statistical data published by the state institutions. It is alarming that these numbers, facts and assessments are not analyzed and responded to adequately by the Prime Minister. It is also very unfortunate that a number of facts that he has been consistently referring to (for instance the ranking of Georgia in the region per GDP per capita) in his speeches are simply inaccurate. Therefore, we believe that it is our duty, as representatives of a public policy think tank, to point out when the country's leadership's analysis is based on the wrong evidence and facts.

"It is also very unfortunate that our criticism and recommendations are not followed up through analysis and constructive discussion. Instead we see political labeling and public insults. We want to make it very clear that despite such attitude from the Prime Minister we do not intend to either become quiet on the issues, which we consider important and necessary to speak out on, or criticize the Government groundlessly on the issues, where the Government does not merit the criticism.

"We want to remind the Prime Minister that the best way to judge our attitude towards the facts and evidence based impartial criticism is through the web site, that we created (http://factcheck.ge/), precisely with the purpose of analyzing the factual accuracies of the statements made across the political spectrum by all political actors and informing public about their truthfulness.

"Yesterday's statement left us with an impression that our criticism touched the Prime Minister so much that it led to our background check and inspection, whether we had committed crimes while working as civil servants. We consider such an approach as extremely alarming. Selecting the representatives of the civil society organizations based on their critical approach and checking them on criminal activities shows the worrying attitude towards the criticism, which is not consistent with the democratic values.

"Last, but not the least, we want to reserve the hope that Prime Minister will continue interaction with us, as well as the non governmental sector in general in a working atmosphere, instead of insulting us on air. We hereby also expresses the readiness to meet with the Prime Minister in a working format in order to discuss with him through the facts and evidence based arguments, all important issues that our country faces."

In his interview on 14 October, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said: "For example, I am very surprised and cannot understand what Sergi Kapanadze or Helen Khoshtaria wants. It looks like they are acting as a sort of sect; these people are not such people who have had gross violations [when serving as senior officials in the former government] or have committed crimes before the homeland. They are intelligent enough to be aware of the reality, but they still remain there [siding with the former government]. More than 200 enterprises have been financed but they still maintain: 'where are these enterprises?' They act like Giorgi Gviniashvili [MP from the United National Movement]. They themselves ridiculed Gviniashvili when the latter put a stupid question. Is Sergi [Kapanadze] a person of Gviniashvili type? We may no longer call him Sergi Kapanadze, but call him Gviniashvili," Ivanishvili said.

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