Saturday, November 08, 2008

Georgians demand to know the reasons why

WHILE we were asking questions about the war in Georgia, and how much the British government knew, in this column yesterday, columns of Georgians were marching through their capital Tbilisi, demanding answers from their government.

As many as 20,000 people took part in the demonstration, according to today's Morning Star. They rallied outside parliament before marching to the presidential residence a mile away. Besides explanations for the war last Summer, they called for greater press freedom, and early parliamentary elections.

A report in the New York Times yesterday said independent monitors working for the OSCE had reported that
Georgian government forces started the escalation into all-out conflict in August , breaking a ceasefire with South Ossetian rebels by launching indiscriminate rocket fire on the South Ossetian's capital. Russian forces supporting the Ossetians responded with an invasion, easily pushing back the Georgian army in both Ossetia and Abkhazia, its other rebel province. Many civilians on both sides were killed or saw their homes destroyed, and refugees fled in both directions.

British ad US governments have praised Georgia's President Saskashvili as a democrat, and promised to bring Georgia into NATO. But it seems many Georgians are questioning their government's path.

Speaking for the United Opposition which organised yesterday's demonstration in Tbiisi, Eka Beselia said: "We are demanding early presidential and parliamentary elections in the Spring, election legislation reforms, media feredom and the freeing of political prisoners". (Morning Star, November 8, 2008).

Reluctant as I was to take the Star's report as last word, I checked what the Guardian and Independent had to say, but they don't seem to have covered the Georgian protest. However it was reported in the New York Times, which found some of the protesters not as patient as the opposition leaders:

'Some of the demonstrators were disappointed in calls to wait, saying they would like Mr. Saakashvili and his team to be removed from power immediately, lest they provoke renewed fighting with Russia.

“Saakashvili should go right now,” said Eka Jipashvili, a protester. “We need a new government that will be able to negotiate with Russia and will not worry us with ideas of new war.”

Hopefully as well as our politicians letting us in on what they know, we will hear more about this side of things, and what ordinary Georgians have to say, from our mainstream media. Or is that too much to expect?

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