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Tbilisi: disputes over Holy Mountain07.04.2009 | 13:10
Long before April 9 Georgian opposition and authorities don't miss a chance to quarrel in spite of numerous appeals of international organizations and Patriarch Ilia II. Last weekend the conflict was caused by the opening of Mtatsminda Park. In a fit of emotions the opposing parties apparently forgot that the park was a holy place with Mtatsminda translated as "Holy Mountain".
Mtatsminda Park was a favorite recreation area of Tbilisians and travelers. Children useв to be brought here to ride swings and roundabouts. Adults used to enjoy the view of the city from the balcony of a legendary restaurant frequented by Great Russian poets who celebrated Georgia in their verses. There was a cableway constructed as early as in 1905 up the mountain. But the "epoch of changes" deprived Tbilisians of the beauties of Holy Mountain. In 1991 it was the real battle field. For quite a long period of time only park ruins reminded of Mtatsminda's bygone splendor.
The famous park was reopened last weekend. My Tbilisian acquaintances that were there say it is beautiful. Children greatly enjoyed the amusements. It would seem the revival of Holy Mountain Park in a tricky political situation should add extra points in favor of the authorities. But by Georgian tradition there was an expressive "but" in this case...
Mtatsminda restoration was initiated by now late oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2006. It would have gone smoothly but the businessman fell out with the authorities and turned to the opposition. In 2007 Tbilisi Mayor's office seized the park from Linx Company owned by Patarkatsishvili.
A formal reason for seizure was Linx's alleged default on stipulated amount of investments as municipal officials state. However the Mayor's Office promised to refund the company's expenses. Naturally no one did that. In the meantime the park was handed over to RAK Georgia Holding (the UAE) for 49 years. This company also owns Imedi TV that used to be the voice of opposition. There are top officials of Georgia behind Rak Georgia Holding as the opposition believes. The businessman's family failed to get back the property of Patarkatsishvili who had died in unclear circumstances in London.
In the run-up to April protests Mtatsminda Park was another cause for sorting out relations between authorities and opposition. Before the opening ceremony a group of young oppositionists declared: "Saakashvili has no right to open this park, - Georgian media reported, - as it was illegally confiscated from Badri Patarkatsishvili's family that did the restoration". Public members too were against the park opening by authorities. On April 4 they held a rally in Svoboda Square at the building of Tbilisi's old town hall. According to them only Badri Patarkatsishvili's family can be the park owner as the park restoration is Badri's merit, and once he already opened this park.
On the night of April 4 a few dozen police patrol officers beat up a group of young oppositionists who tried to paint "Shame!" in red on asphalt in front of the cableway, Interfax reports. Dachi Tsaguria, who was among the injured, told the journalists that the policemen had beaten him and his friends up, pouring the paint over them and taking their cars they had arrived at the action by.
Well, this seems to be clear: a few hours later this road up to the cableway should have welcomed Mikheil Saakashvili to open Mtatsminda recreation park. But he did not come. Why? This question could be added to the list of similar ones painted on the buildings on the initiative of Why? new opposition movement: why do crimes remain undisclosed? Why did we lose the war? Instead of Saakashvili it was Mayor Gigi Ugulava who came to open the park and who according to some Georgian newspaper, is being prepared to become president by National movement team.
At the Mtatsminda Park opening ceremony Ugulava had to carry the can for both - himself and the president. The Mayor acknowledged that a lot of things in the park had been done at the time when all restoration work had been managed by Patarkatsishvili's companies emphasizing: following the death of the businessman the park restoration was taken up by municipal authorities who did their best for the park to start operating as soon as possible. He thanked Rak Georgia Holding specifying that it was not the owner but a just tenant and that the park remained the property of Tbilisi Mayor's Office. No incidents were reported during the presentation.
Meanwhile before the presentation Inna Gudavadze, Patarkatsishvili's widow, made a public statement: "What reaction do Tbilisians expect from us, the family of Badri Patarkatsishvili? Sure we'll share the joy of the kids who will be able to amuse themselves, we'll share the pleasure of adults who will appreciate the restoration works in nostalgia for the past. But we would like the adults to explain to the children that illegal seizure of the other's property is called robbery and is subject to legal prosecution - whoever the robber might be". Inna Gudavadze also expressed confidence that "sooner or later justice will triumph in Georgia".